QMy job includes a lot of socializing with clients, especially this time of year. The complication is that I am in recovery and have been sober for just under a year. I don't want to make a big deal out of it at the parties that I'll be attending, but I do want to stay the course. How should I handle it?
A: Stay focused on your goal and get lots of support. And remember, most people will be hoping for your success.
Consider the reasons that socializing is part of your job. Building relationships, understanding client needs, becoming attuned to individual styles — all of these remain in scope for you and are, if anything, enhanced by your sobriety. So if you have a lingering feeling that a drink is necessary to be successful in your role, set it aside.
Also consider the reasons that you stopped drinking. Anchor yourself in the positives that this choice is giving you. Remind yourself of the negatives that go with alcohol, including the possible consequences if you should choose to drink at your work events.
List all the sources of support you have. Family members and friends, meetings if you attend them, perhaps a sponsor. Don't forget internal supports, too, such as spiritual practices and exercise to maintain your health.
Know the triggers that could challenge your resolve. Certain kinds of stress, certain environments or specific individuals may make it hard. Be aware of these so you can plan for how you'll manage these situations.
Be prepared minute by minute, if necessary, making plans for a variety of settings and circumstances.
Prior to an event, set aside a few quiet minutes to reflect on your commitment to yourself and visualize your successful participation in the party as a sober person. Envision your social self — well-spoken, humorous and engaged with others — building a strong focus on a positive outcome.
Once you're there, get a beverage in your hand right away. A good host will worry if you're empty-handed, so take control of your options by getting a soda, juice or other drink.
If you're uncomfortable with openly discussing your sobriety or it is inappropriate for the particular event, manage conversation accordingly, remembering that you're in charge of how much personal information you divulge. The question, "What are you drinking?" — which is usually just intended to start a conversation — does not have to cause discomfort. It can just be answered straightforwardly, along with a lead-in to a new topic: "Sprite. Great appetizers, aren't they!"
You may, unfortunately, run into a boor who makes a big deal out of your beverage choice. In that case, you might play the "designated driver" card; say something like, "Tastes good to me"; or just conveniently spot someone across the room whom you've been looking forward to seeing.
Despite your preparations, you may have difficult moments. Give serious consideration to having a person or two at the event who will help you maintain your resolve, or have someone available if you need to call for some reinforcement.
Bravo to you for making a positive choice. Your success to date positions you to succeed through the holiday season.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.