Attending a business conference after you’ve stopped drinking

by Michael Walsh

“Attending a business conference after you’ve stopped drinking” - article by Michael Walsh

Stock photo – not the actual conference in question.

One of my clients is a high-achieving 41 year old female entrepreneur who recently stopped drinking. Life must go on, and amongst competing obligations between family and business she is about to attend a large industry conference which in the past included a lot of alcohol.

My client has been very open to the process of changing her behaviour and relationship to alcohol. There have been tests, triggers, and ups and downs already, but this next hurdle is a big one.

My client is headed to a large industry-conference that is notorious for networking dinners, bars, clubs and late nights. This will be the first time going to an industry-event sober and she does not know what to expect. But, like with all of my clients we plan and strategize to mitigate challenging situations and always have exit strategies in-hand.

I asked my client “who do you want to be at this conference?” Her reply:

“I want to be professional, polished, pure, dynamic and laser-focused.”

She said that she has not been to this conference in a while and it will be an opportunity to network and re-engage with past clients, new prospects and colleagues from former business interests – all while being sober!

I asked my client “in your field of work what do you suppose people appreciate about you the most?” She said:

“I am well known in the industry as someone who is creative, results-driven, a great collaborator and someone who gets the job done. But, I have also been known as someone who likes to consume alcohol.”

The partying obviously has its downside. Most apparent is the lack of focus, clarity and energy she feels the next day and whether she did or said anything embarrassing that she doesn’t recall. As well there will likely have have been missed business opportunities because of drinking.

She described how her trip will likely play out in terms of structure. She flies in, goes to the hotel, drops luggage off and then straight out to dinner the first day. The following days will be filled with convention activities, evening dinners and likely hotel lounges and bars for further networking.

The plane ride she admitted in the past that she would have a glass or two of wine, but feels comfortable not consuming alcohol on the plane. Once at the hotel she stated that she had been known to have a drink upon arrival, but of course will forfeit this time.

Potential triggers on this trip (her words):

  • glamorization of the settings she will be in that lures her toward consumption or the need to “feel a part of”
  • someone asking “what are you drinking?” or “you don’t drink?” or “just have one” or “why don’t you drink?”
  • someone offering to buy me a drink
  • being around people who are drinking
  • feeling the need for alcohol to fuel the energy to engage and socialize

Coping Strategies on this trip (her words):

  • find out ahead of time someone that is also attending that does not drink
  • purchasing my own beverages
  • think of one sentence I will always use when someone asks why I don’t drink 
  • have an exit strategy before each night out if needed 
  • plan on going back to hotel for 11pm each night
  • take a time-out if triggered. Go to lobby or go outside.
  • play-the-tape back to the repercussions of where alcohol takes me
  • communication with my Sober Coach
  • journalling

The end-game of her going to the conference is to update people on what she is doing now with her business and ultimately make contacts so she can be hired on contract. She wants to make a good impression and wants to do it sober!

I know from personal experience these kinds of things got easier the longer I maintained my sobriety and learned by trial and sometimes error.

Michael Walsh

About the Author

Michael Walsh

When I say I’ve been there, I mean it. I am a different person now, and I am fired up about helping other people get to the place where they, too, are living better, healthier, and bigger lives.

Contact Michael