There’s so much stigma about drinking too much. We tend to label people who drink too much as down and out. They’re the old man on a park bench, clothes tied together with string, smelling bad, drinking from a paper bag and shouting abuse at people passing by. This stigma of “being an alcoholic” stops people admitting they have a problem with alcohol and need to drink less.
The secret entrepreneur
That’s why I was so pleased to read a recent series of columns by the Secret Entrepreneur, in the Sunday Business Post. This was written by a young man, who set up his own business – a start up, here in Ireland. He raised substantial funding and for a while it looked like the sky was the limit. The company was in over 100 cities. We’ll call the Secret Entrepreneur, Alan.
Alan had a family history of drinking too much. His Grandfather died from alcohol and it contributed to the early death of his Father at just 49.
At 24, a year or so into his start up, Alan realised he had a problem with drink. He lasted about a month without drinking. then his relationship broke up. Several times he tried to control his drinking- without success.
Work did not help
The start up culture has a heavy alcohol influence. Many start up’s see providing a fridge of beers with a gumball machine as normal. At the end of a a long day, it’s a way to relax and socialise together. A reward for employees going above the call of duty. Or to celebrate big events like the first major customer. Not taking part in drinking isolates people from the team and feeling connected.(more details here)
Friends did not help
Alan found people “did not get it”. When he complained of hangovers, they said stuff like
“Ah, sure, have another one, hair of the dog. It’s the only way”.
People often don’t know what to say when you admit to hangovers or drinking too much. There’s just so much stigma about drinking too much.
The Americans think we’re a nation of drunks
When Alan relocated to the States, he found his American colleagues only had 2 or 3 drinks a night. To them that was a “mad night out”. Alan felt the pressure to be the life and soul of the party. Visitors loved meeting him for a few drinks- a good night out. But while that was one night for them, it became three of four nights for him. Whenever he made a fool of himself the Americans would say,
“Oh you’re Irish, its okay”
Beanyneamy tells a similar story about the Irish being seen as drunks here.
Despite the drinking, success continued
Despite all the drinking, 10 years later, Alan succeeded in selling his company to a major multinational, who also gave him a job. However it turned out to be a dead end. His drinking got worse and he ended up in a really humiliating position after another drunken night.
He quit alcohol
So Alan quit the booze. He put his energies elsewhere. Into writing a book about his Father. He took up playing football again. Each week he made small tweaks to his lifestyle. The most important thing he did was tell himself giving up alcohol was the best decision he had ever made. It was a positive decision rather than a negative decision.An important tip for anyone trying to manage their drinking, as we describe here.
What’s in the future?
Alan’s no longer with his start up his start up. He got made redundant a few months after giving up the booze. But because he was mentally prepared to deal with it, he was ok. He does not miss drinking at the moment and he’s not saying he’ll never drink again. He’s just living for each day as it comes and enjoying life.
Alan’s story is well worth reading here. (A subscription to the Sunday Business Post is required)
Let’s reduce the stigma about drinking too much
I admire Alan for telling his story so honestly. Even though, he’s not disclosed his name publicly, in the start-up community he will be known. The more people like him Francis, Alison, Aoife and Valerie come forward and tell their stories the more we reduce the stigma about drinking too much. Instead of labelling and blaming people as “bad” or “alcoholics” we start seeing real decent people with feelings and emotions just like you and me. People who need help not judgement. We’ll also start challenging our culture which encourages people to drink too much and stigmatises them when they do.
What’s your story?
Everyone’s story is unique. Does n’t matter whether you’re a cleaner, a top Entrepreneur like Alan or a Mother who works in the home. You are not alone in being someone who struggles with drinking too much. Don’t let the stigma about drinking too much get to you. Just like Alan, you too can have a brighter future, no matter how dark it appears at the moment.
If you”re starting to control your drinking, you might find this post here useful.
If you’d like to quickly check if you have an alcohol problem you might find this post here useful. (No names or email address needed)