how can I recover from being embarrassingly drunk at a work event?

A reader writes:

I’m seeking advice on how to apologize to several senior leaders in my company for my irresponsible and offensive drunken behavior at a recent work event. I had attended this event twice prior and had no such issues. This year, I put myself in a situation in which I should have stopped drinking at a certain point and did not. In turn, I do not remember numerous inappropriate things I said, displayed questionable behavior in front of people I should not have, and am currently facing an HR write-up.

I made some very insecure comments about my job performance and how I’d never measure up to another in the office. And I was too close for comfort to some of my coworkers, which made others feel uncomfortable (put my arm around someone or playfully pushed them), and unfortunately also engaged in inappropriate behavior with a coworker in a bar in the company of other coworkers and brokers.

Another manager in my office sat me down and explained all of the concerns that were voiced to her. I have yet to discuss with my own boss and have a job that rests on my reputation. Is there a way to rebound from a situation like this?

Ugh. Drinking with coworkers is one of those things that can seem fine right up until the point that suddenly it’s not fine, at which point it’s too late.

Abject mortification is your best bet here. Don’t wait for your boss to approach you about it; go to her now, proactively, and say something like this: “I’m mortified about my behavior the other night. I didn’t realize that I’d had one too many, but clearly I did. I’m so sorry, and I’m not going to be drinking at any company events in the future.” Say this in a serious tone, not a ha-ha-silly-me tone.

If there’s anyone else who you think you might have particularly offended or annoyed, it wouldn’t hurt to say something similar to them too.

And then you really do need to not drink at company events for a long while. And I’d look for opportunities in the near future to be particularly impressive, polished, and professional.

If you do all of the above, then there’s no need to beat yourself up over it. And if all goes well, you’ll hopefully laugh about this in a few years (especially the making out in the bar, which I’m assuming is what you did).

{ 234 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura*

    Good for you, OP. There are a lot of people who would fall into justifying and responsibility-abdicating behaviour when faced with an issue like this, but you’re addressing it humbly and head on. I think people will respect you quite a lot after you make your apologies – I know I would!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. Don’t underestimate the power of a true apology absent of qualifiers and justification.

    2. en pointe*


      Also, I bet more people than you think sympathise. Most of us have probably done stuff we regret while drunk and, while it’s obviously inexcusable in a work setting, you’ve probably got at least some coworkers who are just glad it wasn’t them (even if that’s a thought they keep to themselves).

      I definitely agree that showing you are mortified, apologising proactively, and focusing on professionalism going forward is the best thing you can do now and, hopefully, you can recover. Good luck!

      1. Journalist (AKA Katie)*

        Definitely. I worked for an publication that held a bar crawl one Halloween. I was fresh out of college, drank more than I should have and spent the weekend dreading going into work on Monday.

        But Monday rolled around and everyone just teased another coworker who had been drunker. (I’m still mortified about it, though.)

        1. Lamington*

          That happened at my work too, however after the pub crawls some managers decided to let loose at a strip club including my boss. I could never look at him the same. i didn’t go to the strip club.

      2. Kelly L.*

        And don’t do what one old co-worker of mine did. He got embarrassingly drunk at a work party, then never showed up at work again. (And yes, he was physically OK.)

      3. Laura2*

        while it’s obviously inexcusable in a work setting, you’ve probably got at least some coworkers who are just glad it wasn’t them

        Yep. Someone is probably happy they were the second drunkest person in the room that night.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this, especially if you carry this attitude into your HR meeting. Taking full responsibility, understanding why you made the mistake, and making amends will get you a LONG way. Good on you, OP.

    1. Mallory*

      Oh, tequila! I remember waking up in my boyfriend’s dorm room the morning after my first (and almost-last) tequila-shot binge, and thinking, “Hey, I’m not even hung over! Hell, I don’t even feel bad at all!”

      And then I sat up.

      And no, once you’ve already sat up, the room does not quit spinning and the need to vomit does not go away if you immediately lie back down.

      1. Ethyl*

        UGH I actually started feeling hungover the instant I read the word “tequila.”

        Glad to hear the LW is taking real responsibility! And you may want to consider being gracious if they recommend you contact EAP. When we had to let someone go for less egregious but still alcohol-related issues, we offered EAP resources and they get all indignant and huffy and angry and were very “I DON’T NEED THAT ONLY WEAK CRAZY PEOPLE NEED THERAPY” about it, which to be frank just reinforced that we were making the right decision. Nod, take the information, say you will contact them, than them for their concern about your wellbeing.

        Suggesting someone get professional help when something like this happens isn’t (usually) saying “you’re broken and a failure,” it’s saying “you seem like you need some help right now, here are some resources.”

      2. en pointe*

        the gold digger, I laughed heaps at that, thanks for sharing.

        Mallory, at least you (presumably?) made it to the bathroom. If we’re sharing stories, my first/worst tequila-shot binge, I vomited in my boyfriend’s bed… and then his mum cleaned it up… yeah. I think I’m going to be working on my embarrassing moment to top that one for a while.

        1. Mallory*

          Yeah, I made it. I was in there for the rest of the morning, but at least I made it, even though I lost precious moments in trying to lie back down in the hope that I could return to that pre-sitting-up feeling of calm well-being.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My tequila story: In my early twenties, I worked nights at a factory in my hometown, and my coworkers and I were in the habit of going out for breakfast and then hitting a local bar that opened early to accommodate the night owls. Well I had a full breakfast and one beer, which normally did nothing to me, but then I also had ONE shot of tequila.

          I was drunk. Couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, could barely walk a straight line drunk.

          My friend dropped me off at my parents’ place of business and then I was going to walk home from there. So I had to go in and talk to my parents as though nothing was happening and then walk home. At 10 am. Wasted.

          They never said anything, but I wonder sometimes if they didn’t guess.

          Never touched tequila again.

          1. fifi*

            Another tequila story. Some friends of mine went out for some drinks at uni. One of my friends ordered a shot of tequila. It was his first drink. My friends sat in some chairs around a table. He commented that tequila affected some people, but he’d never had a problem. Then he drank it. Then he vomited all over the table.


      3. Sarahnova*

        Ahhhhh, the so-drunk-you-don’t-even-know-you’re-still-drunk “Hey, this hangover isn’t as bad as I expected!” thing.

        Boy, am I glad I haven’t been there since I was 19.

        1. Sally*

          I once went to an Italian wedding and woke up the next day dancing, yep still drunk.

      4. Nodumbunny*

        The last time (as in, the last time it happened and the last time it will ever happen because holy moley that sucks) I had a hangover it was after going out drinking in Chicago with my boss (female – best boss ever) who wanted to party. We were both really old enough to know better. The next morning I had to attend the conference. All day. It hurt to blink. Never again.

        1. A Non*

          My personal worst was indulging heavily on a Friday night, having forgotten that I had an orchestra performance at noon the next day. I play the bass drum.

          That’s never happening again.

      5. Xay*

        Truest words ever spoken by a college friend of mine: “Tequila is not your friend. Tequila is no one’s friend.”

        1. Rebecca*

          Tequila is that ex-boyfriend that you hook up with occasionally and then swear never to speak to again.

          1. the gold digger*

            I realized upon reading your comment, Grace, that the only time I have had tequila since that night over 20 years ago was at a cooking class two months ago where we made Tequila Lime Chicken. It’s the first time I have been able to think about tequila without feeling queasy.

    2. BOMA*

      I only recently discovered your blog (after you linked to it in a previous post). It’s my favorite discovery of the year so far.

      1. the gold digger*

        Thanks, BOMA! I actually wish that I didn’t have a story that related to this letter, but stupid things like getting drunk and making out in public do make for great copy later. Much, much later.

      1. Blue Anne*

        One drink’s my limit, two at the most, three I’m under the table, four I’m under the host.

        Which is a problem if the host is my boss.

    3. TrainerGirl*

      The one time I had just ONE shot of tequila, I promised God that if he stopped the room from spinning, I would never take a shot of tequila again. That was in 1996, and I kept that promise. I was always a lightweight. I’ve never been properly drunk and I’m too old to do it now.

    4. ZoeUK*

      This really made me laugh! (Off topic, but I’m sad you don’t see Sly and Doris any more. Those stories are amazing. But on the other hand I’m glad for you and your mental health that you don’t see them!)

      1. the gold digger*

        Yeah, Sly and Doris. I have a few posts about them coming up, but it’s all second-hand drama. It is probably time for them to again complain about me and threaten to disinherit Primo if he doesn’t get me in line – it’s been over a year since the last blowup.

  2. Katie the Fed*

    Oooof yeah. That’s rough. I’m cringing right along with you as I read this.

    Alison’s advice, as usual, is spot-on. You have to get out ahead of this, own it, and be mortified and swear it won’t happen again. The gossip mill will take a while to simmer down as well, so the best you can do is be as professional as possible.

    You might also ask your own boss, if she’s cool, for any assistance she can offer on reputation repair. I once had a new employee who screwed up majorly in his first few weeks, and my own leadership was of the “one strike and you’re ruined” ilk, so I took it on as a project to help him fix his reputation because he had so much potential otherwise. So I sang his praises every chance I got, put him in high-profile situations where I knew he’d shine, etc. I will say it took about a year before my higher-ups saw him as something other than a doofus, but it worked eventually. So try to get your boss on your side on this.

    1. Denise*

      Exactly. In time it’ll simmer down but in the meantime 100% professional behavior will help. Good idea on the asking a boss to help with reputation repair.

    2. Us, Too*

      +1 to AAM’s advice, but I’ll add one thing:

      OP: There are some corporate cultures in which it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to advance beyond this incident. You may want to re-evaluate in a year or so and see if this is the case for you. If “The Incident” is still the talk of the town and shows no signs of letting up, it would be worth considering moving on to a new position.

      1. MR*

        While I agree with your statement, if it’s still the talk of the town a year from now, then you should have begun looking to move on six months from now.

        It’s one thing to be the occasional butt of jokes, but if management is still hanging this over their head, then there are likely other issues going on.

        Afterall, if he is without sin, let him cast the first stone…

        1. neverjaunty*

          I doubt it would be so much ‘hanging over their head’ as deciding this is someone with poor judgment.

  3. Anoners*

    My bestie got so drunk at work she was sick all over the bathroom floor. She was mortified, and luckily a friend helped her clean up and cover her tracks.

    Obviously this is not good behaviour, but she is otherwise a stellar, smart employee. Sometimes people just make these kinds of mistakes. Live and learn!

    1. Anon for this*

      I once threw up in the conference room. Fortunately, I made it to the trash can, it was my last day anyway, and I was in a pretty casual work environment. But I still cringe when I think about it.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        Oh man, I could go on forever on Public Places I’ve Puked (not even alcohol-related.) Trash cans are the best friend of every weak-stomached individual.

        1. Vancouver Reader*

          Only if you can hold on long enough to find a trash can. I threw up in the Tuileries and used sand to cover it up.

        2. Ethyl*

          Since finding out that scopalamine patches are basically magic, my incidence of puking along the roadside or in a trash can at a rest area have really decreased! Until… family went to Amalfi. Ugh. Barf city.

  4. Bend & Snap*

    Apologize, apologize, apologize. An apology really does go a long way and so does great work and a lot of professionalism.

    1. fposte*

      I’d temper that a little by saying “Apologize but don’t go grovelingly on,” just in case your triple “apologize” wasn’t just for emphasis.

        1. Ethyl*

          Right, what you want to avoid is a situation where now the other person feels obliged to reassure you that you’re not a terrible person, they don’t hate you, etc.

  5. Celeste*

    Great advice. While the rumor mill will have its fun with you, somebody else will come along to take your place in time. The other thing you have going for you is, most people have overdone it in their lives, too.

    I totally agree with not drinking at these things for the forseeable, though. I’m sorry about the write-up, but those usually get expunged after a period of time with no more happening to you. Be on your best behavior in every way to make sure that nothing else goes in your file.

    1. De Minimis*

      If the booze flows that freely at their events, it won’t be long before someone else does the same sort of thing and everyone will forget all about the OP’s incident, especially if the OP follows the advice here.

  6. Kelly O*

    And this is why I have a “one mixed drink or two beers/glasses of wine” in public rule. Seriously, you think it’s going to be okay and you’ll be fine and the next thing you are waking up wondering what the holy hell you did.

    Did it once, with a group of friends, and it will NEVER happen again. At least you’re learning this now. Expressing remorse and proving it’s not a problem in the future are your top priorities. I mean, you know this.

    (And I really think sometimes people understand a solitary mistake. It’s just the time it takes to show it’s not a pattern of behavior that can get a little hard to handle. But you’ll get there.)

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, not making it a pattern and showing you’re an otherwise reputable employee who can course correct their judgment based on past lessons is key. There wasn’t that much talk about one girl in my office who got really, really drunk at a company party…but there was definitely talk after the second and third times she did it.

    2. KrisL*

      This is also why some employers are careful to hire a bartender who won’t give people too many drinks and to only pay for a couple of the drinks.

      I have never felt so fortunate to hate the taste of alcohol.

    3. Melissa*

      I make a point to not drink mixed drinks when in the presence of co-workers. Just wine or cider.

  7. Diet Coke Addict*

    By being humble and clearly (and vocally) recognizing that you screwed up, you’re already halfway to reputation rehabilitation. Really, it’s much easier to respect someone who says “I can’t believe how much I screwed up–what a dupiosh I was” than someone who says “Haha! I was hammered!”

    Is there a project in the future you can volunteer to take on that can help you demonstrate your skills and polish?

    (My own boss got wildly drunk at a trade show a few weeks ago, was yelling and cursing at other vendors and attendees, and generally behaved like a fool. It’s very difficult to respect someone like that.)

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I once saw a VP’s junk when he got hammered at a company outing and climbed into the luggage rack of a charter bus.

      He never acted mortified or sorry about his drunken shenanigans at all and was pushed out a year later.

      1. Dan*

        The higher you go, the harder you fall.

        The intern who gets drunk gets forgotten (or at least his name gets forgotten). The VP who gets drunk, doesn’t.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Yes, a hungover intern vomited all over the reception desk the next day and nobody could remember her name after she left!

    2. fposte*

      Never encountered “dupiosh” before, and I really like it–looks like it’s Polish origin, and I guess I run more to the Yiddishkeit.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        It is a Polish word in anglicized spelling–it’s a vulgar word for “rear end,” from the same word as “dupa.”

        You frequently encounter dupioshes in traffic, for example!

        1. Dan*

          I worked with some Poles for a couple of summers when I was in high school, I know the work to which you refer. Unfortunately, my spelling is crap, or I’d try and impress you with the full sentence that I know.

      2. majigail*

        I’ve never found others outside of my family that use it! I never new the spelling though!

  8. RegularAnon*

    I consider the OP lucky. The most similar incident in my office resulted in multiple firings. Multiple young employees were drunk at a client offsite event, and the behavior carried over into affecting the next day at the client site (absentees, vomit). It was a huge embarrassment for our company, and ended with the top dog at a GE manufacturing plant calling our division president to express his displeasure, which led to the firings.

    I was not at all involved in this, but a coworker who I had been friends with was. He was ~30 at the time, while the others were 21-22, so I thought he should have known better.

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      I once had a job where the office Christmas party began at 11am and went on (with after- and after-after parties where the bar was more or less open) until the small hours of the morning.

      On a Tuesday.

      Wednesday mornings after the Christmas party were always enlightening. I did make some injudicious connections one year, but experienced no consequences beyond a little (deserved) teasing. The score to beat, when I was working there, was the (no older than mid-twenties) guy who was being really ugly right in the face of a very effeminate manager of a different department. A name-on-the-wall partner’s assistant told him to knock it off, because We Don’t Do That Here, and he pushed her away from him – pushed her down.

      That kid came to work on the Wednesday and was surprised to find he no longer had a job, because he didn’t remember a thing.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Right? And you should have seen people’s faces hearing the story. “He did what? Wait, he did WHAT?!”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        One thing to keep in mind, OP, there is always someone who screwed up WORSE. Always. This thought can help in a tight spot.
        As you are saying you’re sorry for the hundredth time, think of this guy here. People will tend to accept and forget what happened with you.

    2. AVP*

      Oh gosh if it happens in front of clients and results in missing work or being sick during a project the next day – that is a much bigger deal!

  9. Elizabeth West*

    What Alison and everyone else said. We all make mistakes; it’s possible to recover from them with true apologetic sincerity. You will probably get crap from other employees for a while–“Going out drinking tonight, Bob? Hyuck hyuck!”–but do your best to take it with good grace. It will pass.

    I just started watching the UK version of The Office. Flashing on the Season 1 bar thing and the birthday party–lots of drinking right there in the office (!) and lots of opportunities to mess up. Even if it’s not on the physical premises, a work party is still work. A lot of people forget that, so you’re not alone.

    1. Befuddled Squirrel*

      We have beer in the office at least once a week. It’s a lot of fun. Most people only have one or two.

  10. CanadianWriter*

    You screwed up majorly, but unless you puked on your boss, got naked, or swung from the chandeliers, it could be worse!

  11. Ruffingit*

    One thing I think is important too is letting go of this in your own mind too. Make your apologies, mitigate as much as possible and then mentally move on. The embarrassment will linger for a bit, but don’t become your own worst enemy by letting it have center stage in your head. It was a mistake. Own it, deal with it and move on. If others bring it up in future months it’s OK to say I was mortified, but I’m moving past it. IOW, you don’t have to be and act horrified forever so don’t let others or yourself convince you that you do.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      This is excellent advice. I’m my biggest critic, and I will replay embarrassing incidents again and again. Even ones from years ago that nobody even remembers.

      1. The Other Katie*

        I’m still mortified about something that I did when I was five. I’m not so great at letting things go.

    2. Kai*

      Yes, this is important. You must act mortified and give your apologies at first, but don’t keep it up to the point where everyone just feels MORE embarrassed for you. If you simply treat it as a mistake that you’re trying to work past, most people will forget about it.

    3. some1*

      +1. Forgive yourself for this mistake. Anyone who hasn’t made a drunk blunder at work at some point (including having to call in sick or not operating at 100% due to being hung over) either has never been drunk the night before a work day or never had a job.

      1. JoJo*

        I’ve been in the workforce for over 30 years and I’ve never “made a drunk blunder”.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Ruffingit, has a really good point, OP. Be careful of the tapes you replay in your head. Replay the commitment tapes where you are committing to rising above that stuff.
      I have a friend that was a hellion in his younger years. He will say “back when I was an ass…” I listen to his stories and yeah, he was an ass back then. That stuff is over and it isn’t ever coming back.
      Where you are telling one story he could tell dozens and dozens. He now has many friends from all walks of life and his work is well-respected. See, people actually want to forgive and forget. People want to move on. Good people at any rate. Gossips and such– uhhhh, maybe not. Watch for the good people, let them be of help to you. The process starts slow- there are one or two early adapters that will see good stuff in you. Follow their lead. Then more good people will come along.

  12. Mallory*

    You can recover and 20 years later, you will laugh.

    — The Gold Digger

    I got drunk at a work meeting, and yes, <20 years later I can laugh. I was 26 and the team had its departmental meetings outside office hours because it was a customer service department. So a couple times a month the meetings were at a local diner for breakfast, and once in a while they would be at a local TexMex eatery/bar.

    I thought I knew my drinking limits, having made a whole lot of my drinking binge mistakes in college. However, being in the company of new coworkers, I wanted to "keep up" with them on the margarita-drinking. I don't know why keeping up was a motivation for me at the time — it just seemed like the sociable, be-one-of-them thing to do at the time.

    Anyway, I drank so much that my new coworkers would not let me drive home. My good-looking male coworker took my car keys and drove me home. My new husband was not happy to see his new wife being driven home drunk in hubby's brand-new red Camaro by her handsome male co-worker. He also was not happy that he had to leave his drunk wife at home while he drove handsome coworker back to his car. He got over it by the time he got back home, though. I guess he drove it off on the way back.

    I was pretty embarrassed with my coworkers the next workday, but they were all pretty nice about it. They teased me and that broke the ice.

  13. Us, Too*

    Alison – it may be interesting (perhaps on an open thread?) to bring up the subject of the most humiliating/awful thing you did in a professional context and if/how you recovered. :)

    1. en pointe*

      Didn’t we just have cringe-worthy career mistakes? That’s kind of the same thing, and look it up if you missed it; they were great!

    2. anonnypants*

      Ha, I was actually just thinking that. I wasn’t around for those original threads, and I certainly have some things to add…

  14. JW*

    AAM is absolutely right here. And I want to reiterate not to beat yourself up about it! Do the right thing and be professional and polished in every opportunity. You will be fine.

  15. BOMA*

    I’m with everyone else on this. It’s good that you’re taking responsibility and I think Alison’s advice is spot on – make sure you avoid drinking at work events in the future. It will blow over in time and if people can see you putting forth an extra effort to be professional and polished, they’ll know that YOU know you made a mistake and are trying to make up for it.

  16. C Average*

    I am adding “abject mortification is your best bet here” to the list of career advice I hope to never have to receive.

    I have never consumed more than two drinks in any 24-hour span. I don’t remember why I adopted this policy, but it’s proven to be a good one.

      1. C Average*

        I’m a buck fifteen soaking wet. One drink gets me a decent buzz! And I don’t agree with your assertion that not drinking at work events causes weirdness, unless you make a big statement of it somehow. I’ve carried around a cup of water at many work functions, and nobody ever questioned me about what I was or wasn’t drinking. If they had, I would’ve told them the truth: I’m avoiding empty calories.

        1. Joey*

          If you need drink at work events that’s way less awkward- you’re not a drinker. But if you get wasted then suddenly stop? That’s a pretty big spectacle of your drinking, no?

          A buck fifteen and you’re worried about empty calories? To each his own I guess.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s a spectacle if you loudly proclaim what you’re doing, but if you’re quietly sipping on a beverage the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic is not spectacular at all.

            1. Bend & Snap*

              Right. I carried a lot of soda water with lime around work functions when I was secretly pregnant. Nobody ever noticed.

              1. fposte*

                I’m willing to believe there are industries where this would matter to people and they’d listen to what you ordered, but there certainly also are ones where it wouldn’t.

              2. neverjaunty*

                If you’re working at a place where everybody feels they have a right to complain if your drink isn’t sufficiently alcoholic, you need a new job. Sheesh.

          2. C Average*

            I’m a buck fifteen BECAUSE I pay attention to empty calories. Cause and effect, my friend.

            And yeah, I get what you’re saying about it potentially being awkward for someone to go straight from Drunken Super Fun Night Guy to teetotaler in one go.

              1. LBK*

                “Get me a vodka rocks.”
                “Mom, it’s breakfast.”
                “And a piece of toast.”

                Mallory Archer (also played by Jessica Walter) follows a similar diet.

  17. Joey*

    I don’t think you should stop drinking at work events- that may cause more awkwardness. Let’s face it, people would probably assume you’re not drinking because you can’t control yourself when you do. What I think might be better is to talk about how you realize your behavior was way over the line. An as a result you realize the purpose of drinking with co-workers and clients and how is critical that you remain, sharp, in control and represent yourself and the company professionally. Two drinks max is what Id commit to.

    1. Joey*

      I I’m not being clear the purpose of drinking with coworkers clients is to build professional relationships that help the business, not to just have a good time. Its work, not play.

      1. Artemesia*

        Sometimes I drink and sometimes I don’t. I don’t drink a lot in any case. But i have never noticed it matters to anyone else what I do. In a social setting I am drinking something — often it is just not alcohol. No one cares. I think saying ‘you have to drink to be sociable with clients’ or whatever thing is just an excuse people use to drink.

        I am sure there are macho rituals where pounding down shots is expected — participate in those and you are likely to make a drunken fool of yourself. Everywhere else, there is such a variety of approaches to drinking that doing what you are comfortable with will probably work just fine.

        1. KrisL*

          Once or twice I’ve been teased a little about avoiding alcohol, but I never make a big deal about it, and people usually don’t make a big deal about it either. Maybe it’s the people I’m around though.

    2. Jayhawker*

      I can’t decide if I like the 2 drink max or no drinks rule. On the one hand: not drinking at all shows that you’re taking responsibility and absolutely ensuring it doesn’t happen again. But two drinks and then water/soda from there on out is almost a better indicator that it can be controlled and it was a one time mistake. But you run the risk of appearing irresponsible for drinking at all. Either way you need to set the rule and stick to it.

      1. Joey*

        Think about though as if you were a co worker or boss. Jim gets crazy wasted at a function then suddenly won’t drink. Lots of people will think drinking problems. And that’s typically an elephant in the room that can be avoided.

        I think you only need to completely stop when you find that you can’t control yourself. But a one time deal? Most people understand that if you’re fairly inexperienced at workplace drinking its not that uncommon to make that mistake.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          My trick from law school networking events is to go to the bar when nobody else is nearby, then order a club soda with lime and ask for it in the same glass they use for cocktails. Carry it around for the rest of the evening.

          1. BRR*

            My brother used to not drink and so when he started college he would get one beer and pretend to sip out of it all night.

          2. Artemesia*

            tonic water with lime is my go to faux cocktail. Sometimes I have that with vodka and it is a vodka/tonic; or sometimes I have one vodka/tonic and then switch to plain tonic and lime. No one notices or cares.

            1. Vanilla Bean*

              I’m not really a drinker, so when I go to work events where drinking is happening, tonic water w/lime is my go-to drink.

              Without fail, EVERY TIME, someone will come up to me and ask what I’m drinking. When I tell them, they give me a weird look. It’s the strangest thing.

    3. ella*

      Maybe take one glass so that people don’t wonder why you’re not drinking anything but then only drink half of it and carry your half-empty cup around as a prop for several hours? I used to do that at parties so that people would stop offering me drinks.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        That’s what I do, in contexts where having nothing or water would stand out. Get one drink and carry it around all evening.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think this is a “know your industry / know your office” thing. In some places, not drinking for a good long while would be the way to go. In others, sticking religiously to one/two drinks might be.

      1. Bwmn*

        I completely agree.

        I used to work in a field where there were lots of embassy parties to attend, often held in an ambassador or consul general’s home. One of these houses had a small fountain in the entry way – and at every function that was ever held there (that I attended) someone tripped/fell in (and most often it was later in the evening when people were well past their second drink).

        While being embarrassed about such an incident was standard (especially depending on who you were with at the time), to then stop drinking entirely at all future events would draw far more attention and also serve to remind people of the incident.

      2. Anonsie*

        Agreed, though I also think the nurse-a-single-drink suggestion from ella is going to be the best bet most of the time. If drinking at work events is standard in your group, not drinking at all may send the signal that you are incapable of drinking responsibly so you’ve just had to go cold turkey. I would be worried it would look like you had a capital-p Problem with alcohol, which makes it look like more of a pattern than a fluke.

        In groups where drinking isn’t so common, not drinking at all is probably the way to go.

    5. Omne*

      I would disagree for a lot of workplaces. I never drink, never have. I simply can’t stand the taste of alcohol in anything. I have always ordered a soft drink and there has never been any awkwardness. Every once in a while someone will ask me about it and when I tell them why they move along to something else.

      I think feeling that you have to drink to fit in can be moderately dangerous.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Unfortunately some people stereotype those that don’t like the taste of alcohol as having “kid tastes” or unrefined. So, still, know your audience.

      2. CC*

        I’m another who can’t stand the taste of alcohol. I’ve learned to be careful about desserts too: Grand Marnier on ice cream is common. And if a waiter assures you that the alcohol in a dish “cooks off”, don’t believe them.

        Interestingly, a lifelong strong dislike for the taste of alcohol (one which is not induced by a bad drinking experience) is a genetic variant along the lines of the supertasters who can’t stand food like broccoli or kale:

        At work functions that include drinking, I have a tasty non-alcoholic drink in a drink glass, that way nobody pushes me to get something from the bar. Fruit juice mixed with sparkling water is a good fallback.

        1. Felicia*

          I also can’t stand the taste of alcohol. I’ve never liked it and decided life is too short to drink things i think taste bad. I also happen to be a super taster in general. Broccoli like you mentioned I also can’t do. Another one is coffee. It’s anything that has a bitter flavour really, but i seem to taste everything more strongly than the average person. Whenever people say “you can’t even taste the alcohol in it” i always can. Beer is the worst tasting alcohol to me, and most people around me seem to really like it, so it can be hard.

          1. CC*

            I also don’t like coffee, for the same reason: bitter taste that no amount of cream and sugar can mask. And I’m with you on people claiming you can’t taste the alcohol — I can too. Just because they can’t, doesn’t mean nobody can…

            Coffee and beer are two things that people were constantly telling me “oh, you’ll start!” in university, upon finding out I didn’t drink either. But really… why would I drink something that tastes awful to me?

        2. KrisL*

          CC, that’s interesting. I strongly dislike the taste of alcohol, and other than sipping on a beer when I was in college, and we were all sharing a pitcher (I could make half a beer last the evening because it’s not all that easy trying not to cringe at what to me tastes awful), I tend to avoid alcohol. It’s never been a real problem.

          My mom doesn’t like the taste either.

          1. CC*

            Yeah, I’ll do toasts at a wedding with wine and try to mask my grimace at the taste, but other than that, I stopped bothering trying to find a type of alcohol I could stand years ago.

      3. Ruffingit*

        I can’t stand the taste of alcohol either. Just not my thing, never has been.

    6. Keri*

      I have to agree. If you stop altogether, it’s making a bigger deal out of it than it is. I think demonstrating that you can drink responsibly is the way to go here.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      My husband and I agreed to a drinking rule for our wedding reception that I now use for work functions as well. Neither one of us wanted to get sloppy drunk, so we agreed that we would alternate our drinks: one cocktail, one soda. It worked like a charm. We both had a great time, got just a little loopy, and nothing regrettable happened.

      Now I do this for work events (whether it’s something formal or just happy hour with work friends) and it works really well. And if anyone asks, most times you can just say that you have to drive home so you can’t drink too much.

      Another tip — eat something before you go to one of these things, even if there will be food there. Drinking on an empty stomach just accelerates things. And whatever you do, don’t do any shots!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      My two cents: I don’t drink. I used to drink. A LOT. I stopped when I needed money for other things. As the years went on I just quit entirely. It tastes a like cough syrup and reminds me of my years being sick as a kid. That, and I truly do not feel well if I have a drink.
      I have gone to a place in my head where I do not care what others think. I don’t care if others drink, but don’t try to make me.
      I think consistency is helpful, whatever route you decide to go, OP. You can be the teetotaler, or the two drink limit guy. As long as you are consistent people will just get used to it.
      The DWI laws have been very helpful for me. I find I can just say “I am driving” and people accept that. (I never did drink and drive- too scared, but the laws are a handy reason, now.) I have also said that I have to get up early tomorrow. That works, too.

    9. neverjaunty*

      Or, people might see you with a beer in your hand and think “Uh oh, Mr. I Will Never Ever Do That Again is falling right back off the wagon.”

      Two drinks or a “buzz on occasion” might be doable and even fun for you. It isn’t for everybody, and yes, there are people who really have trouble staying sober enough to say “okay, I’m at my limit” once they’ve had a drink. As long as you’re being social and not making a big deal about it, nobody cares whether it’s club soda or a gin and tonic. (And if they do, they’ve probably got major issues with their OWN drinking.)

  18. Marquis*

    Don’t feel too bad. I once threw up at a work event. And not in the bathroom, either.

  19. holly*

    this is sort of why i hate company events :-/ i’m fairly awkward with people i don’t know well (i.e., most work people) without a little alcohol, but i also don’t want to tip over the cliff of appropriateness. i worked one place (law firm) where the attorneys were always inviting the support staff to go out after work, and i was the biggest stick in the mud cuz.. no. i just can’t do that with work people.

    1. Joey*

      It’s not that hard really. Just realize its basically a work task- forced socialization. Ask people what they do for fun? Ask where they’re from? Talk about the weather. It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re engaged in conversation.

      1. holly*

        well.. the issue there was also that they would be like, “why are you not having a drink? drink this!! and also this! more!” and i do like alcohol but i’d rather not be quite that carefree with coworkers.

        1. Joey*

          I bet if you open up socially you won’t get so much pressure to drink. That’s usually the reason for the pressure.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I think for a lot of people not drinking is code for “not having a good time,” so the more uncomfortable you look, the more people are going to try to “fix” it by encouraging you to get a drink.

          2. Lora*

            Hmm. Depends on industry, company culture, and the male : female ratio. I’m often the lone woman in the group, or one of two women with 15+ men, and some of the not-so-nice colleagues like to foist drinks on women in the hopes that we will do something inappropriate.

            Fortunately (I guess?), I have frequent get-togethers with friends involving multiple bottles of white wine followed by cosmopolitans and chocolate martinis, so my tolerance is usually higher than theirs.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. I have no patience for people like that. None.
          “Alcohol will interact with my medication in such a manner that you will need to call 911. I don’t think you mean for that to happen.”
          Shut them down.
          To me, that pushiness is a boundaries issue. And they are over the line.

  20. Keri*

    Oh man. I can totally sympathize with this, having been there myself more than once. I agree that you should apologize once and then just move on without dwelling. Also, try not to do that post-drinking shame spiral– it’s almost never as bad as you imagine it to be the morning after. Besides, it sounds like other people were drinking at this event this too and this is something that most people can relate to. Take responsibility, move on, and it will blow over eventually.

  21. Lily in NYC*

    I am having awful flashbacks of the time I got drunk at our holiday party and tripped in my new high heels. I fell backwards into a glass coffee table that had about 12 cocktails on it. Both the table and glasses shattered everywhere and I got cut. Then I made out with a coworker. Next idiot move: dropped my beer and it smashed onto our top boss’ shoes. I didn’t want to show up in the office the next day – we always had a morning meeting to discuss what was going in the magazine so I knew I couldn’t hide. I got there and they made me wear a feather boa during the meeting because I was “Party Foul Queen” That actually made me feel a lot better because I realized people thought it was funny. But we had a heavy drinking culture in that office – keg parties every Friday as we waited for the fact checkers to finish. I apologized to the big boss and he said he was so drunk that he had no memory of my dropping my beer on him.

    I have never had more than one drink at a work event since. I’m only writing this long story so OP realizes it has happened to so many of us and just apologize once and let it go. I’m sorry, I know how mortified you are!!! Just be thankful you didn’t poop all over a white sofa in front of everyone like a law firm intern who became notorious in NY – that story made the rounds all over. I would have moved to Greenland!

    1. Bend & Snap*

      This is the most epic drunk work story I have ever heard. Thank goodness you were okay!!! And I love the way they handled that.

      My old company (heavy drinking culture also) once threw a holiday party with an open martini bar and no food. It was a DISASTER but because everyone was so drunk, nobody stood out as that one person with the lampshade.

      At the next year’s party they started giving out limited drink tickets and serving dinner. That was less rowdy but much more comfortable for everyone.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        LOL, that was why I got so drunk! I forgot to eat. My current office is pretty stodgy but we had a party where people got wasted because there was an open bar and barely any food. Our president was dancing on the tables! This was years after my humiliating experience so I was dead sober and had fun laughing at everyone else.

        1. Chinook*

          As much as I can’t understand our liquor laws around here (i.e. serving liquor to the public before 11 a.m. requires a special license and a darn good reason like a FIFA event or a Stampede Breakfast), I do like the fact that you are always required to provide food, for free, even if it is just chips and pretzels. Nothign good comes from drinking anything on an empty stomach.

    2. Joey*

      Yep. I once got wasted with new co workers in my twenties, went to a bar that had karaoke. I would never in a million years do karaoke, but somehow I did and pretended I was LL Cool Jay doing the video for Going Back to Cali. From then on my co workers teased me with “her bikini small, heels tall. She said she liked the ocean”hand gestures and all.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      oh man, that is one hell of a story! If you’re going to do it, do it right! Ha!
      I love the way they handled it too – the boa is hilarious.
      I’m super paranoid about these things so I rarely drink much at office events, but I did once have too much at an event where the waiters kept refilling glasses so it was hard to keep track. I’d lost a bunch of weight and hadn’t been drinking much for the last year, and it hit me hard. Luckily a friend saw that I was swaying as I stood and ushered me out of there before I did anything stupid. Thank goodness for good friends in the office.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I hate it when people (waiters or other attendees) refill non-empty glasses – I find it difficult to accurately judge whether or not I’ve passed my “no more than two drinks in front of management” rule. I refuse to go in on pitchers of beer any more, even just with friends, for the same reason.

    4. Amy B.*

      I love how you fell through a glass coffee table THEN made out with a coworker THEN dropped beer on boss. Alcohol brain says, “I got this all under control.”

      1. Mints*

        Lol that really is the best part!
        “Psh these glass cuts aren’t going to stop me from making out with that hottie”

          1. LBK*

            Knowing this epilogue now, I’m pretty sure this is officially my favorite story I’ve read on AAM.

    5. Chloe Silverado*

      Add me to the Got Drunk and Made Out With A Co-worker Club – I decided I could go tequila-shot for tequila-shot with a bunch of guys, and let’s just say that night ended with me nearly falling asleep at the bar and a co-worker putting me in a taxi. I was absolutely mortified to come in to work in the next day!

      Luckily I also work in a place with a heavy drinking culture, so nobody batted an eyelash at my embarrassing spectacle. I’ve definitely opted to tone it down since then though – even though no one cared in a professional capacity, I still felt terrible about it. I try to stick to 1 glass of wine, and then carry around a club soda with lime to blend in with the heavy-drinking crowd.

    6. Traveler*

      I think it can also be hard when you’re used to a heavy drinking culture, and being around people who just shrug incidents like that off (maybe with an occasional joke), and then are faced with the exact opposite culture in a different situation. I think this happens a lot when you transition from college to work place (hence why interns tend to have these problems, and they are “forgotten” as someone pointed out).

    7. DLB*

      I’m not really a fan of drinking + work. That story is epic. Reminds me of my husband’s work.
      They have an all-hands meeting every year and they fly everyone to HQ. They have meetings all day on the first day, then a raging party! Everyone is sloshed, even the CEO. I was able to attend the party portion this year and was mortified. Fast forward a few hours into the party, which had moved next-door to a bar. Two of the co-workers, each well over 6 ft tall and over 300lbs each, decided they needed to wrestle. Long story short, we ended up taking one of his co-workers at the hospital at midnight with a large gash in his hand, 7 stitches that night AND surgery a week later…

      Then they all get up the next morning and have more meetings and work on special projects all day (with half of them severely hung-over). One guy, they had to have me ask the hotel to do a wellness check because he didn’t show up to the meetings the next day, wasn’t answering his hotel phone, or his cell phone. Turns out he was so hung-over (or possibly still drunk) he couldn’t move without puking. People were telling stories – “oh you should have seen so-and-so last year” etc. and laugh about it.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It’s bizarre that they would schedule the party after the first day when they know people get so drunk. Then they expect them to come in and work on projects? That’s weird. I’d think they’d schedule it for the end of the trip.

  22. Coelura*

    I worked at a Fortune 100 company where all the company events had an open bar. Until one year a SVP got so drunk that he assaulted a maid in the hotel – in the women’s restroom. Fortunately, other employees heard her screaming & stopped the assault. The SVP lost his job and was taken to jail by the police. And that company banned open bars at company events! And I decided that I was no longer going to drink at any company events in the future! That scared me to death.

  23. KarenT*

    I will always, always be grateful to my colleague who grabbed me by the arm, dragged me out of the bar, and pointed at a cab and yelled, “GET INSIDE.”

    It was a Christmas party with colleagues (not an office party, but a social gathering at a local bar organized by one girl in our department). I was in the middle of a bad break up. I drank too much. It was bad.

  24. Sunflower*

    Just a general comment- drinking around coworkers/outside the office is really dependent on company culture. My company doesn’t mind if you have glass of wine or two but a person in my position years before me got drunk at a company dinner and the president had the idea that she was a terrible worker so first chance to get rid of her they did- OP not trying to scare you, my company is terrible and it sounds like your company is not at all trying to do this!

    However, my ex boyfriend works at a very buttoned-up firm and they let loose a lot and it’s expected. At happy hours, they tell people to keep drinking more and he took his clients to a strip club at noon once after being at an all MORNING drinking event. Oh and clients made fun of him because he wasn’t drinking a lot- he would have but he had to drive to another city that night so he opted out. In fact, one time he got so drunk at a company happy hour, he slept overnight at the restaurant and when he told everyone what happened the next day at work, they all laughed and thought it was hilarious.

    I’m just shocked how many places I’ve seen this become the norm at- I’m also sure the industry has something to do with it

    1. C Average*

      One of my colleagues went drinking with a group from work at a pub across from our office building. Too drunk to drive home, he stumbled across the street and slept on the floor of our open-plan office. Of course, people took pictures. We still give him a hard time about it.

      1. Jonny be good*

        I can’t believe so many people are so shocked or boring! It’s a Christmas do, after all your hard work it’s your chance to celebrate, people who want to use it as a weapon against you need to get a life, let your hair down, life’s too short!

        And yes this is coming from someone who ended up in a brothel on a company credit card, had a scuffle with someone after he spat ice down my top, got off with a girl in the office next door very, very passionately on the dance floor infront of my bosses and told an old boss that I wasn’t keen on his type of accent. (All on separate works do’s) This year I think, if I remember rightly, I ended up crying on a co workers shoulder (who wasn’t drinking) so honestly I don’t think most people have anything to worry about on this thread. If this post makes you feel better about yourself then my good deed is done for today & the sins of my Christmas party fiascos will be dismissed. Obviously I write this with a pseudonym as whilst my current colleagues no doubt know what I did this time, they don’t know what I’ve done in the past! When I’m old, sat having a whiskey with my fellow retirement home companions, we won’t be swapping stories of how well behaved we were when we drove home after 1 drink, we’ll be laughing and comparing our life experiences & the stupid things that we did when we were young, loved up, drunk or intoxicated in some way or other and that will be a good day!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My cousin was in a health related field. She would go several states away for training. It was one long binge drinking session. People were drinking in class and some were pretty bombed while still attending class.

      My cousin could toss back the drinks herself but she said this way way over the top. How anyone learned the material, she could not figure out. Finally, she got out of the field entirely because she felt that the heavy, heavy drinking culture embarrassed her. This coming from a person who was not bashful about drinking herself. I cannot imagine what that environment was like. Yeah, health care related field. yikes.

  25. tango*

    “Just be thankful you didn’t poop all over a white sofa in front of everyone like a law firm intern who became notorious in NY – that story made the rounds all over.”

    Oh I think he moved to potted plants later while job searching!!!!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Wait, I feel like I missed an amazing story about pooping in potted plants! Do tell.
      The law firm intern was female and wearing a miniskirt. She passed out on the sofa and you can picture the rest. She came to work the next day like nothing happened. I don’t know if I could have done it myself. I probably would change my name and go into hiding for the rest of my life.

      1. Joey*

        Weird how that happens, right? My married boss a long time ago got wasted at a subordinates house and we all sat around the living room joking about it while they spent far too long in the bedroom. We all thought Monday was super awkward, but they both pretended like they were so wasted they couldn’t remember what happened. Yeah right

        1. Valar M.*

          I used to think that “so wasted you couldn’t remember” was a huge lie until it happened to me. It really can happen.

          1. Joey*

            Oh absolutely, but its a little suspect when they both have the same story and neither remembered anything about it.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Unfortunately, I always remembered what happened when I was drunk, except for the one and only time I passed out. Knowing that still didn’t stop me from getting far too jolly while liquored up. And I hate the way I feel the next day, so I barely drink anything at all anymore.

          3. Pennalynn Lott*

            My next-door neighbor (who is one of my best girlfriends) forgets *everything* that happens after she has had just 2-3 beers (and she’s a relatively heavy drinker). Whole conversations, purchase decisions, movies watched, you name it. Every day she drinks anything is like Groundhog Day. :-)

            I’m about to help her protest the tax assessment on her house, and I’ve insisted that she not have any alcohol in her system when I talk to her about it this weekend.

  26. Mike B.*

    I think I escaped notice after my two epic binges (my first two major office parties) some years ago because my company/industry is known for such indulgences–some of the most embarrassing stories to come out of our company events have involved top management. I made a point of pacing myself better in later years, and I seldom partake at all anymore now that I’m management myself. But I still cringe when I recall making a sloppy pass at a fresh-out-of-college project manager of incompatible sexual orientation.

    A mortified apology and conspicuous efforts to avoid a repeat performance (I’d say nothing to drink at all at the next event, a strict limit at the one following) will probably cause whatever you did to recede into ancient history faster than you fear. It doesn’t sound like you did anything truly catastrophic and irrevocable.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      I love the phrase “incompatible sexual orientation.” I might have to borrow that in the future.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Ah yes, the wedge that came between me and the guy I thought was my soul mate in high school. :D

  27. Sam*

    I drank too much at a conference once. It was the “open bar/networking” part of the evening, and people kept handing me drinks. Luckily I kept my composure and made it back to my room before vomiting (cajan buffalo macaroni salad is forever ruined for me). But I was still mortified and missed the session the next morning.

    It was my first conference and I did confess to my boss. Her response: she laughed, and said “puking from drinking at (insert business field here) conferences is a right of passage. I did it too. You’ll learn”.

  28. NavyLT*

    I think my “company” is pretty well-known for its drinking. As long as the drinking doesn’t lead to actual crime, and if you’re otherwise good at your job, it’s tolerated/forgotten/nothing more than a funny story.

  29. Traveler*

    OP, I can’t add anymore useful advice but I wanted to chime in and agree with the sentiment: definitely forgive yourself for this!! It happens to all of us, and its unfortunate when you’re in a situation where instead of laughing it off you face harsh consequences. It really sounds like you’ve learned your lesson, don’t let yourself relive this too long – particularly after you’ve done what you can to make amends.

  30. John*

    I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this has been brought up already. You might give some thought to whether you have a drinking problem. Not necessarily saying you do, but think about it. One of the hallmarks of this is when your drinking negatively affects things like your professional life. Is this a very, very isolated case, or is there a history here? Maybe not at this job, but at other jobs, in school, in relationships, with the law? Have you been late or called in sick because you were hung over? Have you been negligent in your duties because you were still feeling the effects from the night before? You say that you attended two prior events without any issues, but there’s something in how you say it that makes me think getting through those times relatively sober and without incident might have been an accomplishment for you, rather than what happens 99.99 percent of the time. And you say that “I put myself in a situation” in which you drank too much, which implies that the situation was the problem or cause of the problem, rather than you. Sometimes the ways that drunks excuse their behavior even when it seems like they are taking responsibility for it can be illuminating. I very well might be reading into this too much, and I’m really not hanging the “alcoholic” tag on you just on the basis of one incident. And I certainly don’t mean to spoil the cascade of funny “I was so drunk that I…” stories, but it might be something to give a little bit of thought to, since it is undeniable that it is now negatively affecting your professional life.

      1. John*

        Note that I didn’t say that one drunk night equals a drinking problem. As a matter of fact, I carefully qualified my comments to specifically avoid saying anything of the sort. I recommended self-reflection, particularly since drinking excessively is causing work-related problems for the OP. Sure, the OP can apologize, and most good people will forgive/forget, but that doesn’t change the underlying behavior, and it doesn’t change whether or not (note that I said “not”) it might be an issue that should be addressed somehow.

          1. John*

            Joey, when you are corrected for imagining that I said that one bad night equaled a drinking problem, you turn to yet another fantasy? I said nothing whatsoever about the OP’s health, which I have no interest in. Why are you saying that I said things that simply aren’t anywhere in my comment? Maybe more importantly, why are you so eager to discredit the notion that getting blackout drunk and acting so poorly that HR and management needs to get involved could potentially, maybe, mean that the OP should examine his or her actions rather than just asking for forgiveness? Asking for forgiveness is just fine, but there might be another step here. If you disagree, that’s fine. Just read what I say before attributing ideas to me that aren’t mine.

            1. LBK*

              I believe his point is that you seem to be suggesting a diagnosis here – you didn’t just say “Hey OP, you might want to take a moment to think about if this is a sign of a bigger problem,” you wrote a pretty lengthy examination of the wording OP uses and how it can be a signal of other things. It’s unfounded and really helpful in addressing the question the OP wrote in about.

              I agree with Joey, this is something that particularly bugs me and it’s something that’s generally discouraged on this site.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Let’s cut John a little slack. These aren’t terrible questions to ask. We don’t know the OP – maybe it is a problem. If these questions don’t apply, then no need to worry. No harm done.

        1. some1*

          John does admit to not reading all the comments here, though, before he offered his opinion. If he wants to analyze the letter and pick out details to support why he feels this is indicative of a drinking problem, seems to me he could have read all the responses to see whether this was addressed.

        2. Tinker*

          Yeah, I think it’s kind of relevant to what the OP does going forward, if they discern that they have a problematic relationship of some kind with alcohol.

          A lot of folks who otherwise do just fine have That One Story where they learned a Valuable Lesson. Which is fair enough. Some folks don’t handle themselves drinking very well, or have phases of their life where they don’t do so well at it for whatever reason — it doesn’t have to be, like, official you’ve got a disease Alcoholism for a person to get carried away by social interaction compounded with unclear judgment or whatever issue it is. And some people, it must be said, are in fact alcoholics. It’s a thing that happens.

          If the OP’s pattern of drinking is such that they can be comfortable that they can drink at company parties without doing things that end up in HR writeups in future, then that’s all to the good. If not, they would be wise to do whatever’s called for to fix the problem — it seems pretty clear that an encore performance is not to be done.

      3. Steve G*

        John asks a very valid, rhetorical question. Of course, problem drinkers tend to be skilled enough to keep their behavior under control in these situations. If you drink all of the time, drinking with coworkers is not some big special thing, it’s just any other day, and you’d probably be immune to the alcohol to a certain extent.

    1. LBK*

      I think this is a pretty extensive comment based on very, very little information from the OP and generally unwarranted. Qualified or not.

    2. some1*

      I don’t know if the LW has a drinking problem or not, but I didn’t read anything in the letter that led me to infer that s/he does.

      I have family members and had friends with drinking problems and I didn’t read any of the typical excuses here that I’ve heard in the past, “Everyone else was drunk, too!”, “I was just having fun!”, “It’s not like I punched anyone” “I drove home fine so I must not have been that drunk”, “Why didn’t they just tell me to leave if I was so trashed?”

      Even if you feel like you genuinely interpreted this as the LW trying to mask a bad drinking problem, keep in mind s/he was relaying the situation to a career advisor, not a therapist, physician, judge, or addiction counselor.

  31. LCL*

    I’ve never had too much at an after hours bar event filled with coworkers. Because I don’t go, because I know how much trouble I can get in. Some people look more um, appealing after a few drinks.
    I am in a public sector job, we don’t have events during business hours or paid for with public funds.

  32. AnonAcademic*

    In some fields/company cultures this really isn’t a big deal at all. So don’t beat yourself up *too* much. I was at a small academic workshop (~50 people total) where by the end, pretty much everyone had blackmail material on everyone else. I have a (foggy) memory of dancing, erm, “provocatively” in a group with the head of the sponsoring institute to that song “Get Low” – we got so low she fell over on the floor! And that’s one of the tamer anecdotes by far…The next day she literally brought in a Costco-sized bottle of aspirin to pass around the conference room because 70% of the attendees were hungover.

    1. Befuddled Squirrel*

      +1. In entertainment and tech, it’s the norm. Every year, my company throws a wild holiday party at which everyone gets drunk and all kinds of crazy things happen. As my co-worker put it, “Looking around the office, you’d be shocked to know which people have slept together because of the holiday party.” Just going for drinks after work, I’ve been fondled and necked by other women. I guess it seems strange, but in the office everyone acts normal, like nothing ever happened.

  33. Tiffany In Houston*

    As a minority woman who typically works in environments where I am usually either the only person of color or one of a very few people of color at my level (senior level individual contributor) there is no way in hell I’d get sloppy drunk in front of work colleagues. It would be very hard, if not impossible to recover from that professionally.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. I’m a little surprised that nobody has noticed the rules about who gets to be a ‘fun drunk’ and have their behavior brushed off aren’t the same for everybody.

  34. Elsie*

    The only part of this letter that gave me pause is when the OP said he got a little too close to other coworkers for their comfort level. I hope the OP was able to gauge from his conversation with this manager how uncomfortable he made his coworkers or if they all viewed it as “so and so was just drunk.” As someone who had to intervene in a situation that got out of control at a previous job, I would just mention that my experience was that the guy who was drunk and the male leaders in the room didn’t realize just how uncomfortable the women who were put in the awkward situation were. It took several female leaders handling the situation until it came out that the women truly felt harassed and they all filed complaints (for things like grabbing around the waist, etc). Ultimately, there was a large power imbalance in play, so the consequences were severe. I say all this to mention that getting an opinion on how your “uncomfortable” coworkers felt in the situation could be valuable in case that’s a situation you need to manage.

  35. JoJo*

    “And I was too close for comfort to some of my coworkers, which made others feel uncomfortable (put my arm around someone or playfully pushed them), ”

    If someone got drunk at a company event and ‘playfully pushed’ me, they’d be looking at assault charges.

  36. MR*

    In graduate school, I had an internship with a company that at the time, had about 150 people, with about 50 of those at the headquarters (where I was located).

    The company Christmas party was on a Friday, and needless to say, the alcohol was flowing hard and fast. Two guys ended up fighting so hard, there was literally a bloody mess to clean up afterwards. I have no idea what the fight was about, but I (naively) thought that the CEO was going to fire them on the spot.

    I was shocked to see both of them at work on Monday morning, but after I left the company, I realized that given the rampant sexual harassment that went on (by all senior management and a decent amount of the males at the office), that a bit of fisticuffs was nowhere near enough to warrant being fired…

    1. Ruffingit*

      Sexual harassment and bloody fights aren’t enough to be fired. Makes you wonder what is. Not sure I want to know…

  37. V.V.*

    At least you weren’t on company time… I know someone who got soused at every public event she was required to work where alcohol was served. Nobody really said anything because she’s “her manger’s responsibility”, and everyone assumed because he was on hand to see her publicly insult customers, spill drinks on people, and not actually work, that he’d speak to her and it’d never happen again.

    It took a complaint to the company Prez (after three years of this) before anything was said, and for weeks afterwards all she did was complain about how she was being unfairly treated, and how everyone was out to get her, and how as soon as she figured out the right agency to contact she was going to file a harassment complaint against her manager and the company.

    What she did or did not have to drink was none of their business!

    At least you aren’t her.

  38. UK Jo*

    I’ve read both Alison’s response and the comments and there’s lots of fab advice -I have nothing useful to add.
    I do want to say though that this thread is a lovely example of why this blog is so great. For the most part, no piling on, just support, understanding and some rueful identification with the predicament! *enjoys the stories*

  39. Friend of Bill*

    How many times has this happened before to you? Really?

    If this is an one time incident, then fine say you’re sorry a hundred times and move on.

    If this isn’t and I am willing to bet a $100 it isn’t the only time, think about getting treatment.

    1. John*

      Many people got really irrationally upset about what I sais and misconstrued it. This is what I said: “You might give some thought to whether you have a drinking problem. Not necessarily saying you do, but think about it.” Yes, there are things in the posting that suggested to me that there could be a problem, and that’s why I replied in the first place. I’m not apologizing for it.

      People with troubled relationships with alcohol are expert apologizers. They do it all the time. One reason for this is that they keep hurting or offending other people when they drink. But the main reason is to avoid addressing the core issue so they can keep drinking like always. Protecting the habit becomes the priority. People tend to forgive and forget, and then you can go on as before. Apologizing is just fine, as long as it doesn’t become a way of avoiding real responsibility. Just because the OP wants to apologize doesn’t mean that he/she has a problem, but the fact that he/she needs to apologize does imply that he/she might have a problem. Only the OP can answer that question.

      It’s funny. Alcohol is like guns and dogs–just suggest that someone should reconsider (and maybe change) their behavior and people get so defensive. “Please put your pit bull on a leash, there’s no need to carry a handgun on a playground, maybe analyze behavior that leads to getting blackout drunk and that creates real problems at work”–people act like you’re restricting their God-given right to enjoy life. I’m not saying the party for the OP should be over, just that the party might not be that much fun anymore.

  40. dont wanna say*

    How do u recover from getting drink at a staff party an dancing with a manager. It wasn’t so bad the Monday cause everyone was apparently wasted too. But then a week later I saw the manager and he won’t even look or talk to me and gives me dirty looks. Makes me want to quit :( is there any hope? He’s not my manager thank god. But it’s making it uncomfortable to work there. I was gonna apologize but not with his dirty looks. Anyone help?!

  41. Louise*

    I had my office Xmas party on Friday night.. Said a lot of inappropriate things, was extremely flirtatious with everyone… Oh and I slept with one of my managers. Im a receptionist and he’s not my direct manager, but I am a personal assistant to him and he is twice my age. I don’t go back to work until the 5th jan so I am overthinking everything/dreading it :(

    1. kk*

      Omg literally got bombed saturday night at my work party and embarrassed myself too! Im married but acted like a single college girl- totally ridiculous! I feel your pain 😩😫😓

  42. dont wanna say*

    Sorry to hear that Louise. I hate work now, I’m really thinking about quitting. Sucks tho cause I’ve wanted to work in the company so bad. But the misery is just not worth it sometimes :(

  43. Kathy*

    Here goes, I live in a retirement community, I got drunk and took my big dog in the community pool. Now there is a girl who I chose to not associate with awhile ago calling everyone saying I am a alcoholic. I feel embarrassed for what I did but she is not letting this go. I am getting mad now. Should confront her or what? HELP

  44. Hilary*

    Thank you so much for your advice on this. I recently put myself in this situation at a work event and I’ve been dreading the repercussions. This really helps, thank you.

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