You work your ass off all year round. You go in when you are sick. When you can't be bothered. When the person sat next to you insists on talking at you, even though you'd rather swallow your own face than hear another anecdote about their children. You put the hours in dammit. Don't you deserve to let your hair down and get wasted on the company's money?
Yeah, maybe. But don't you deserve to have a job to go back to when the party is over?
Alcohol is no joke when it puts your job at risk. The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) surveyed over 1000 UK managers and employees and produced some pretty worrying statistics:
28% of employees have overheard peers revealing secrets about their colleagues at the Christmas party
48% return to work after the office Christmas party hungover and unable to perform
87% have experienced fellow workers drinking too much at the party
51% of managers are willing to reprimand an employee for their behaviour at the company party
But none of this is new. People have been offering advice on how to avoid screwing up at the work Christmas party for years. Very well meaning advice - well meaning, but totally useless. Almost laughable guidance. These are some of my favorites:
Try to limit your drinks to less than five. Of course! Why didn't I think of that! Just count my drinks! Maybe my problem isn't that I can't control my drinking. It's just that I have a problem with counting. No bother, I'll just enroll in a basic math's course. That'll sort me right out...
Use this as an opportunity to network instead of drinking heavily. Absolutely. My totally intimidating Line Manager for whom I cannot summon the courage to talk to at work, the place they are actually paid to talk to me? OK, I'll go and mosey on up, shoot the breeze with them now instead. Sober. Because I never use alcohol to give me courage, so I definitely won't be tempted to get wasted then chat to all these influential people. I'm sure this can only end really well...
Dress Appropriately. Because costumes always help people feel brave who are over the age of ten. Maybe I won't dress like Batman, which would be extreme (although the mask would help protect my identity). I'll dress like a sober, sedate person. That way, when I'm trying to perform an impromptu pole dance around the photocopier, I will look down at my sedate outfit, remember myself, and stop mid lunge. No. Even better. I'll dress as a nun. Bet they are awesome at this non-drinking malarkey...
So yes. Essentially most tips I've seen out there are rubbish. If limiting drinks worked? We'd do it. If dressing sedately had an effect? We'd all turn up in a Morning Suit and behave ourselves. These things don't make a difference. If they did, I would never have embarrassed myself at work parties. Never got in trouble. But sadly I did. Frequently. Because I could not control my own drinking or my behaviour when I drank. No matter how hard I tried.
If you are indifferent to alcohol, can let a drink go warm because you put it down and forgot it was there? Then no. This will be of no interest to you.
But if you drink so much you lose physical control of your body and are embarrassed by this the next day; if you say horrible things you don't mean to people; if you blackout and can't remember where you were, what you did, or how you got home? Then, yes, read on...
Because it's bad enough doing all of these things in front of friends and family, but to do them in front of the people who are responsible for your financial wellbeing? That's something everyone wants to avoid if they can.
If you get a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach when office Christmas celebrations start to be discussed, when the Christmas trees go up in shops. If you are expending all of your thinking time trying to protect yourself from your own behaviour, instead of being free to enjoy the present moment? Then it's maybe time for a re-think...
The Christmas season was never supposed to be about spending days locked in an internal battle, wrestling with a constant loop of contradictory thoughts such as:
Can I get away with not drinking at all?
Will people notice if I don't drink?
But if I don't drink over Christmas, does that mean I'm an alcoholic?
Am I just making a big fuss over nothing?
Couldn't I maybe just try my best to have one or two drinks at the most?
Is my drinking really that bad after all?
Of course, there will be fleeting moments that aren't spent locked in that struggle, the points at which determination to do our best not to drink wins out. That we know it will cause more trouble than is worth. And at those times, a whole new set of ceaseless questions emerge:
Ok so I won't drink. HOW do I explain it?
How do I have that conversation with my colleagues?
How can I AVOID having that conversation about alcohol?
Can I really not drink and get away with it?
Should I just avoid the party altogether?
Is there honestly an easy way to get away with not drinking at the party?
I've been there. Had those relentless cycle of thoughts. Tried to control my drinking in front of colleagues-and failed every time. And now I don't. Because I taught myself a set of tools to ensure I didn't have to.
I receive so many panicked emails from folk saying how much they are dreading trying to control their drinking in front of colleagues. Asking for help. It makes me feel so sad. Brings back terrible memories for me.
Except this year I decided to get over myself and actually do something constructive instead of getting sad. I called my pal Lucy, co-founder of a site called Soberistas, and asked her to write an eBook with me. A free one. Something that did nothing more than give folk a set of practical tools to utilise in their quest to not drink at their work Christmas Party. Proactive non-drinking for one very specific occasion. No more than that. No less.
Lucy and I strongly believe that you shouldn't have to feel as uncomfortable in your choice to not drink as we did, that you shouldn't have to do it on your own. And now that you have this guide, you don't ever have to.
And no, we don't want to analyse whether or not you have a drinking problem, or what label you should put on yourself. We just want to assist you in your quest to not make a total fool of yourself in front of your colleagues this holiday season. Of not having to start the New Year with a hunt for a new job because of actions you have no recollection of undertaking. It's just not necessary to mess life up like that. Not when there is an easy alternative. It's just a case of learning the components and practising them until you feel confident in their execution.
It's here. It's free. Use it if you wish. Leave it be if you'd rather not. But it's our Christmas present to you. It's one I dearly wish someone had given me all those years ago when I needed it.
Have a wonderful Christmas, because you really do deserve it,
(ps before you kick off at me for not writing a version for folk who absolutely need to stop drinking for all occasions and do so every day? We wrote a version separate version for them too...)
Love Carrie x