It’s that time of year again. Companies across the nation schedule holiday get-togethers where you’re expected to socialize with everyone from the big boss to the people from the branch office who you never see otherwise. Beyond just the standard problems of remembering everyone’s names and coming up with clever conversation topics, alcohol looms large as a potential pitfall at this seasonal celebration.
Company party drinking can cause unanticipated problems, but avoiding alcohol during this work-sponsored event sometimes poses a challenge for those who are concerned with sober living. Fortunately, we have some tips to help keep you safe and sober throughout the party.
Potential Pitfalls of Company Party Drinking
Even for people who aren’t in recovery, alcohol at the company party can be problematic. An employee drunk at a company function becomes an embarrassment to everyone in the department. Alcohol can lead people to say things they might otherwise not voice, which can be a problem when you find yourself telling your boss all the things you hate about them or confessing your undying love to a colleague at 2 a.m. Passing out on the copier or spending the whole night kneeling in front of the office toilet isn’t fun — or productive — ways to handle the holiday work party either.
Getting drunk at a work event can lead to trouble after you leave the party too. Nobody wants to end up with a DUI after the company party, and drinking too much can lead to impaired driving, especially when you haven’t prepared in advance and set up a ride beforehand. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, death rates for alcohol-related crashes are two to three times higher in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to similar periods of time the rest of the year.
You also don’t want to wake up the next morning after a work event with a hangover, which can be a problem for those who drink too much at the holiday party.
Tips for Staying Sober at a Work Holiday Event
1. Enlist Help Beforehand
You know to avoid alcohol at company party open bars, but sometimes it’s harder to avoid when your coworker or supervisor tries to hand you a drink or pour a little something into your glass of soda. One way to circumvent this is by talking to your boss and people who work closely with you before the party to let them know you are in recovery. Most people won’t try foisting drinks on you if they’re aware you have a reason for not drinking.
If you’re close friends with someone in the office, or if your company holiday party lets you bring along a “Plus 1,” enlist your friend or companion to help back you up. This person can help distract anyone who tries to hand you a drink or might take drinks for you and discreetly dispose of them.
Some people volunteer as the designated driver for a group, which provides an easy reason for refusing alcohol and makes the rest of the group eager to help you stay sober because it means they don’t have to worry about driving home drunk.
2. Keep Your Hands Busy
Preempt any attempts by coworkers to give you drinks by getting yourself a glass of water or some other nonalcoholic beverage as soon as you walk into the party. Choosing something that looks like an alcoholic drink, such as soda water with lime, might make it easier to avoid any awkward drink offers.
3. Segue Drink Offers into Socialization
If someone does offer you a drink, keep the refusal simple and thank the person, then segue the conversation into something else about the party. Point out a particularly silly piece of seasonal decor or rave about the chocolate fondue fountain. Essentially, shift the focus from the awkwardness of a direct refusal to a conversation.
4. Make Yourself Part of the Planning
Another strategy for attending work parties without getting drunk is to volunteer to be part of the planning and running of the party. This lets you include nonalcoholic drinks on the menu and plan activities that sober partygoers can enjoy.
Being part of the party committee also gives you something to do during the party instead of drinking and lets you turn down drinks because you’re responsible for running the music player or keeping the buffet stocked. Socializing as a volunteer is also easier because you can start conversations by asking what colleagues think about the event.
5. Have an Exit Strategy
When it’s time to go, some people at your company party might try to get you to have one last drink, unaware that you haven’t been drinking at all. You might have won the party raffle and find yourself burdened with a bottle of champagne that everyone is encouraging you to open. No matter what alcohol-related situation you find yourself in at the end of the party, escaping drink-free is still a possibility.
Plan your exit by setting a specific schedule for your departure. Let everyone know early in the party, or even a few days beforehand, that you need to leave at a designated time to relieve the babysitter or go to another appointment. Having a specific reason to leave at a set time makes it less likely that you get pressured to stay and drink.
If you’ve managed to make it through the party without any alcohol and find yourself with a bottle as a prize or gift, offer it to someone you know at work so you don’t bring it home with you.
Socializing While Sober at the Company Party
Socializing doesn’t have to include drinking, and you can have a perfectly good time at the company party even without alcohol. While your colleagues might not be your first choice of people to hang out with, the holiday party gives you a chance to get to know them better and possibly discover whether you have something in common other than shared access to the fax machine.
Thinking about your plan to avoid alcohol before you walk in the door is the best way to avoid getting drunk at a work event. With some forethought, you can find ways to stay sober and even enjoy yourself at the holiday party.
If you’re struggling to achieve sobriety and want to start a program to break free of alcohol, contact us today at (833) 596-3502. Our caring, trained counselors are available 24/7 to help you begin your recovery journey.