my coworkers mercilessly tease me about my drunken holiday party behavior

A reader writes:

I’m hoping you can help me with this humiliating situation I’ve gotten myself into.

Two months ago at the company holiday party, I got blackout drunk and made a fool of myself. Nothing fireable, but I was literally falling-over drunk. I did some embarrassing drunk dancing, inappropriate joking around, and a LOT of cursing (not AT anyone, just in my speech, when I’m usually very buttoned-up at work).

I am so deeply ashamed and horrified at my behavior. I realized that I have a drinking problem and I need help. It’s been painful and difficult for me as I try to grapple with sobriety and confront my inner demons.

Meanwhile at work, no one will let it go. People love to quote the stupid things I said at me, or re-enact some of my stupid jokes. I knew I deserve teasing so I was braced for it, but it’s been two months and it’s not letting up. They do it publicly in our company-wide chat program and in meetings when I’m presenting a project I’ve worked hard on. I guess since I was a happy drunk, they think it’s harmless, but it makes me feel nauseous with shame. I’ve left work crying on multiple occasions. This is just a really hard time for me and I am constantly being reminded of my mistakes. My manager thinks it’s funny, so it’s not directly threatening my job, but how can they take me seriously when they’ve just been reminded how much of a mess I can be?

Before this I loved my job and my company. But now I dread going into work and I’m becoming depressed. I know I made this bed myself and I have to lie in it, but for how long? Do I have to just wait this out or is there a professional, reasonable way I can make this stop?

You can almost certainly make it stop!

I think you’re absolutely right that because you were a happy drunk, your coworkers have no idea how painful this episode has become for you or that it’s led you to realize that you have a drinking problem.

You have two options here: (1) Depending on what your manager is like, you might be able to enlist her in helping you put a stop to it. (2) If you’re willing to be candid with people, you could say something to them in the moment the next time it happens, and probably stamp it out that way.

If you’re willing to confide in your manager, you could say something like this: “I want to ask for your help in getting people to stop joking about what happened at the holiday party. I know people thought it was funny, but it’s become a tremendously painful reminder for me. I’m seeking help for drinking as a result of that incident, and it’s tough to hear it joked about. I know people wouldn’t do it if they realized that.”

This might make your manager see it in a different light and put a stop to it. Or, she might suggest that you tell people that yourself. (Or, if she’s not particular empathetic, she might tell you that this is a natural consequence of what happened and it will die down eventually. It probably really will die down eventually, but ideally as an advocate for people on her team, she’d help make that happen.)

If you choose to instead talk to coworkers about it directly, you could say something like this the next time someone makes a joke about the party: “I know you don’t realize this, but I’m actually working to stay sober and that night has become a painful reminder of why I need to. Can I ask for your help in leaving it behind? I’d really appreciate it.”

There’s potentially some downside to this approach — you’re sharing something personal at work that you might otherwise not share, it might make some people uncomfortable (funny drunk is easier to process than Alcohol Problem), and some people might even think it shows weakness or something gross like that. But if you’re getting nauseous with shame when they joke with you, this is probably the better approach than just letting it continue.

If you’re not comfortable revealing that, you could tackle it from a different angle, by saying something like, “I was braced for some teasing and I certainly brought it on myself, but it’s been two months. I’d really appreciate it if you could let it go.” Depending on your relationship with whoever you’re talking to, you could add, “I’m sure you don’t intend this, but when you joke about this while I’m presenting work, it makes it really hard for me to be taken seriously. I’m concerned that turning this into a long-running joke is doing real damage to me professionally.” (This part is a little tricky, because someone could argue that you brought that damage on yourself more than the jokes have done, but reasonable people should hear this and realize they need to stop.)

Also! I hope you’ll work on the shame element here. Shame can be useful in spurring you to do something about the situation — like seeing that there’s a problem and getting treatment — but it’s not very useful beyond that, and in your case, it sounds like the amount of shame you’re feeling is out of proportion to what happened. You drew the right lesson from the experience, and it would be okay to forgive yourself.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 282 comments… read them below }

  1. 12345678910112 do do do*

    Good on you for figuring out that you needed to address your drinking, and good luck to you on starting your recovery!

    1. Roscoe*

      See, I don’t know that they are insensitive. They think its all in good fun. If they haven’t been told its hurting the persons feelings, I wouldn’t say they are being insensitive.

        1. INFJ*

          Yeah… I cringed when I read that they mock OP’s previous drunken behavior while he/she is giving a presentation. I can’t see how anyone would think that’s OK.

      1. Callie*

        But should adults need to be told everything that could reasonably hurt someone’s feelings? Most adults functioning in the workplace ought to have some degree of self-awareness and awareness of others, at least to the degree to think “I’m teasing this person and they aren’t laughing along, maybe I should cut it out.” I think that needing to have that spelled out for you is the very definition of “insensitive”–you don’t have the sensitivity to the feelings of others around you to be aware, without being told, that two months of this is beating a dead horse and it’s time to let it go.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In theory, absolutely. In reality, I think we all know people who just aren’t good at reading those cues but don’t mean to upset anyone and would be feel bad if they realized that they did (or at least would stop the teasing).

          1. neverjaunty*

            Right, but TWO MONTHS? Do these people have nothing to talk about?

            And frankly, given how humiliated the OP is, I suspect her obvious mortification is exactly why this is continuing.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Right. Sounds like an immature culture in general. I could see one or two specific people keeping it going because they’re insensitive but this sounds like everyone and even the boss doesn’t get it.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think we have worked in very different offices :)

              I notice this whenever teasing/joking/pranking comes up; there’ s a real divide between people who have worked in and enjoyed places where it was truly good-humored and affectionate (even if it occasionally missed its mark) and people who see it as cruel and mean-spirited. The second group I think is really skeptical that the first group can exist, but it does!

              1. Clever Name*

                Yep. I’m someone who teases out of affection, but I have learned not everyone is this way. Heck, one of the managers at work calls me “Smelly” (it’s a not especially clever play on my name, but for him, it really is a term of affection).

              2. Roscoe*

                Exactly. I feel like the second group sees it as very black and white. In my experiences, I’ve worked in places where its all done in good fun and a way to show affection. It doesn’t have to be like that for everyone, but don’t assume those other people are being cruel and malicious.

              3. Winter is Coming*

                I work with a group of 30 something guys who went to high school/college together, so the atmosphere is very teasing/joking/pranking. It’s within reason though, so I don’t have a problem with it. I think it actually lightens things up a bit. But, I can see how others might not appreciate it.

              4. Ultraviolet*

                I think there’s also a big concern about privileging the feelings and intentions of the teaser/joker/pranker over the feelings of the target. That concern is very much valid, but taken too far or considered without nuance, it can lead to a black-and-white mode of thinking (or at least, mode of speaking online) where factoring the teaser’s intentions into your plan for dealing with the situation is equivalent to minimizing the target’s feelings. Maybe that partially balances the other extreme philosophy that the target should always suck it up, but in general I think it results in unhelpful advice.

              5. neverjaunty*

                But that’s a false divide here. I have also worked in offices where it would be totally part of office culture to give somebody crap about drunk office party shenanigans (and for there to be cell phone videos). This is not the same. The OP’s boss is the one taking videos and giving her grief. This isn’t something that OP gets ribbed about from time to time: she explicitly said “no one will let it go”, and that they are doing things like raising it while she’s giving presentations. Two flipping months later. OP has repeatedly left work crying.

                This is way beyond good-nature teasing and well into a pack of assholes picking on somebody they see as a good target. And respectfully, Senior Blogger Green, I am gobsmacked that you are smiley-facing this off as a well meant misunderstanding about harmless fun because you worked at a place like this once.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think that’s a mischaracterization of what I’ve said here. I’ve said that she should tell people to stop, and once she does, that should be respected. But I disagree that people who do this are necessarily bullies or doing it out of mean spirit. They can need to stop and still not be bullies.

              6. Ultraviolet*

                I wanted to add this too: I have several times dealt with difficult (sometimes painful) interpersonal situations badly because I thought, “The only reason Jane could possibly have for doing X is that she feels Y or is trying to achieve Z.” And I’d be totally wrong about it and not realize until much later. And pretty often, though not always, I had incorrectly dismissed the possibility of resolving the original problem by addressing it directly with the other person and being open to the possibility that they’d be unhappy to hear about the negative impact of their behavior.

                I haven’t totally solved this tendency of mine, but I’m much better at reminding myself that I can be surprised by people’s intentions.

            3. M-C*

              Really neverjaunty, you think 2 months is a long time for office gossip? Even 2 years wouldn’t seem long enough to have people forget in some contexts.
              But take heart OP: someone will do something even more public/objectionable/memorable soon enough. And the talk will be on them. It’s horrible while you’re the topic of gossip, but freshness is the best part for the gossip mongers, and life being what it is you will soon fall back into obscurity. Especially if you can control the public reminders somewhat..

              1. neverjaunty*

                This isn’t “office gossip”; this is OP being teased for two months straight. These are people who need to get a life.

          2. Shannon*

            As I mentioned below, it took a long time for me to give myself permission to stop laughing at things that weren’t funny. There’s so much societal pressure on women to fit in and not make anyone uncomfortable. When I was in a similar situation as the OP, I would find myself laughing about it or smiling, even though I really didn’t want to, and I’m sure my smiles and laughter were less than enthusiastic. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve given myself permission not to react in a way that reassures the other person (no smiling, keeping a deadpan face, or mildly calling it out.) But, that’s a learned skill that was difficult for someone without an addiction problem to learn.

              1. Shannon*

                For the most part. About 75% of people got it. The other 20% were oblivious. 5% needed to be told straight up to knock it off.

            1. aebhel*

              Yeah, I’ve found (in the context of a reasonably functional environment where people aren’t TRYING to be assholes, which isn’t necessarily a gimme) that just being flatly unamused in the face of that kind of behavior is the easiest and most graceful way to make it stop. That said, people who relentlessly tease someone who obviously isn’t having fun are jerks and should go sit in the corner. I find it pretty unlikely that no one at this office has noticed that OP is not even slightly enjoying this ~~friendly banter~~.

        2. Roscoe*

          It really depends on the person and how they are reacting to it. I’ve had plenty of stories, jokes, and nicknames that have followed me around for dumb reason. Most of it, I think is pretty damn funny honestly. If one of those things struck a nerve and I didn’t find it funny, but still laughed along and never said anything, it wouldn’t be fair for me to call those people insensitive. I think many of you are picturing her looking sad every time this comes up, but if they have a good poker face and go with it, people may really not realize anything is wrong.

      2. The Butcher of Luverne*

        How is it good fun to make jokes about someone who embarrassed themselves in front of others? For two months? And I’m guessing that the OP is not guffawing and slapping her coworkers on the back with glee, so they must have some inkling that she is uncomfortable with being teased.

            1. Cassandra*

              “The cakemaker of Kiev could kick all our @$$es! That guy is THE BUTCHER.” -Alec Hardison, Leverage (as best my memory allows me to recall)

        1. Shannon*

          I used to be in the bad habit of laughing when something wasn’t funny but everyone else thought it was or it seemed expected that you should laugh. There’s this societal pressure to fit in and not make anyone else uncomfortable, especially on women.

          It took a lot of years to learn to give myself permission not to laugh at something that wasn’t funny.

      3. Mena*

        Common sense would say ‘enough’
        I don’t think someone has to be explicitly told it is hurting feelings for this to stop. These people need to grow up.

    2. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I agree with you here – and despite what OP may or may not have done while intoxicated, they’re being pretty unprofessional themselves. It’s one thing to give someone a hard time now and then but in meetings? During presentations? Nope. As their manager, I would have squashed that long ago and I hope that he/she will help OP do it now. OP, best of luck to you! I hope you’ll give us an update when you’re able.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        THIS. It’s poor managers/leaders that let this stuff continue to happen during meetings and presentations.

        Also, I think the OP could ask her co-workers to please drop the subject without getting into the drinking problem. She could just say that it’s uncomfortable for her to continue to be the butt of everyone’s jokes, how would they feel, it’s embarrassing, etc.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I’d be tempted to stop the meeting, look squarely at the offender and say, “We have been talking about this for two months. Enough is enough. Give it a rest.”

          I don’t know if this is in keeping with your personality, OP. I totally get leaving work and crying everyday. I have done that myself. Sometimes we can find a part of ourselves that decides, “You know what? This is BULL. And today is the day it is going to STOP.” Then it becomes a matter of choosing what words we will use to get our points across.

          Start here- every human being deserves to be treated with respect. Every human being.

        2. MillersSpring*

          Yes, I agree that the OP shouldn’t have to mention her drinking problem or new commitment to sobriety. None of their beeswax. I like your suggestion for the next time she is teased…OP could reply in an even tone, “Let’s move on from this, please. After two months, it’s time to drop it.” Then change the subject. Repeat as needed in individual situations. If she has to make some kind of rationale, maybe add, “I’ve done some soul searching since that night. It’s not a funny topic to me.”

      2. Murphy*

        Yeah. I agree. I’m all for some good natured humour (although I don’t love teasing in the workplace in general because it so often misses the mark), but in meetings or during a presentation?! Oh, hells no. It’s time to put a stop to that and I’d very quickly and very publicly tell my team to cut it out.

  2. some1*

    If you are seeking treatment in AA, this would be a great issue to bring up to your sponsor and other people at meetings as well.

    1. anon for this*

      Speaking as someone in AA for 24 yrs, yes we can help with this. :)
      We have all done it and most people–myself included–have done much worse. You are walking a well-worn path here.
      IMO, try to appreciate the fact that they are looking at it with levity and not treating you like a pariah. Hang in there.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    As the youngest child of four children, I have some idea of what you’re experiencing.  Why.  Can’t.  They.  Let.  It.  Go??  Why knows but don’t waste brain cells trying to figure out why.

    Here are some responses I’ve used over the years.  Some have worked and some haven’t.

    “You might think it’s funny, but I don’t so please stop.”
    “I don’t care if it was a joke or not.  It’s at my expense so that’s why I’m asking you to stop.”
    “I don’t care if you didn’t mean it.  I’m asking you to stop so please stop.”
    “Honestly if you can’t think of anything new to say after two months, that’s a good indication that the joke isn’t funny anymore…if it ever was.”
    “Why are you continuing this behavior after I explicitly asked you to stop?”
    “Calling me sensitive/uptight/mean/defensive doesn’t change how I feel about your behavior.”
    “If you can’t think of anything new to say after all this time, then you’re not as original and witty as you think.”

    (Okay maybe not that last one.)

    Also I’d think this constitutes harassment as you are clearly intimidated and under aggressive pressure.  I’d use that term if you speak with the boss.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think calling it harassment would be a bit much. It may not meet the legal definition (since no one realizes there’s a drinking problem), and the OP hasn’t expressed to anyone that she’d like it to stop; people think it’s a good-natured joke that she’s part of. Asking for it to stop is the first step.

      1. Mena*

        to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way
        to make repeated attacks against (an enemy)


    2. Xarcady*

      Ugh. I have siblings that still bring up something embarrassing that I did when I was 4. I’m in my 50s now. Heavy sigh. I”m no longer embarrassed by it–typical 4 year old stuff, but they simply will not let it rest.

      To add to Snarkus Aurelius’s scripts, if anyone gives you the line, “Oh, you’re just too sensitive!”, look them calmly in the eye and reply, “Perhaps it is you that is not sensitive *enough*.” Then walk away.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Yes my relatives do this too. They bring up things that happened 50 years ago and that is embarrassing to that person. It’s like really? Just let it go already!

        OP – I’m sorry your coworkers are acting like such jerks over this. Kudos to you for recognizing a problem and working on getting help. That takes a lot of courage.

        1. Chinook*

          “Yes my relatives do this too. They bring up things that happened 50 years ago and that is embarrassing to that person. It’s like really? Just let it go already!”

          This is where outright telling someone to knock it off helps. Heck, my siblings (all 35+) have been known to tease my dad for taking apart his kid sister’s Christmas present when he 8 (approx. 20 years before we were born) and I think his oldest grandson (12) joined in with us the last time because it was a running family joke. We are pretty sure he is okay with the good natured razzing but if he ever mentioned that it wasn’t, we would stop it.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Oh, I agree with that last one. I find that you get a very interesting reaction when you shut people down aggressively: they get all shocked and mumble about how you don’t have to be so mean about it. At which point you look them dead in the eye and tell them not to be so oversensitive.

      1. Green*

        I probably wouldn’t interact with my colleagues that way without having tried something that assumes the best of the other person first.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Yes. Yes I do. I’m almost 40 years old. I age at the same rate my siblings do. I’m not a baby. On a related note, we are not close.

  4. Sarak*

    I sympathize, OP. My embarrassingly drunk episode was with friends, not coworkers, and I’m still not entirely sure what I said/did, but 4 years later I still cringe. What worked for me was just saying “Hey, I know you think it’s funny but it makes me really uncomfortable, please don’t tease me about it.” And people mostly haven’t. The passage of time helps, too. Good luck addressing the drinking!

    1. MG*

      I like this a lot — I think if people realize that it’s actually bothering you, hopefully they’ll stop. And that way you don’t have to go into revealing more than you may be comfortable with about your issues with drinking. Best of luck with all of it!

    2. Tomato Frog*

      Yes, this is the sort of script I would try to use. If they’re reasonable people, you don’t need to give reasons beyond “this makes me feel bad”.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I agree with this type of advice. I don’t think you need to tell people you’re addressing the drinking as some bigger issue; that may be more vulnerable than you need to get.

      It’s enough that it’s embarrassing you, and that it’s getting really, really old.

      You could say, “I’m embarrassed by it,” but even that, I don’t think you need to get into.

    4. Emmy*

      I like this too and it doesn’t touch on the alcohol problem, which OP might want to keep private at work.

    5. Lindsay J*

      Yeah, mine was alone, but I told a good friend about it (who worked the same place I did).

      He then told some other people at work who we were friendly with. Everyone thought it was funny in a “wow, what a hot mess, this is practically the female version of the hangover movie” kind of way. And part of me did, too. But part of me was also scared that I had no idea how I got home (I assume I got a ride with some stranger. Flashes of memory make me think maybe it was a cop; I have a vague recollection of a white SUV and a radio) and also the fact that I arrived home with no pants or shoes. So I was worried about the possibility I had been drugged or just straight up taken advantage of while drunk, concerned about getting STD tests and pregnancy tests etc, while everyone else was treating it like a complete joke and it didn’t feel good at all.

      I eventually wound up saying something similar to your script. And it worked. I only wished I had said it sooner rather than dealing with it for as long as I did.

  5. CrazyCatLady*

    Good for you for working on your problems with alcohol and I know it can be even more difficult to deal with shame if you’ve spent time numbing emotions in the past. Best of luck!

  6. sunny-dee*

    We were planning a group meeting and one guy just straight up got all of his details wrong. We were trying to carpool, and somehow he entered the wrong airport (as in, Manchester, NH, rather than Boston Logan), the wrong airline, the wrong flight time — everything. As a joke, we made him take notes for all sessions that week … and then for months after, whenever there was a group meeting. None of it was mean-spirited and none of us thought anything negative about the guy. It was just A Funny Story.

    I think the shame is from your fear, maybe, that other people are seeing it like you do — humiliating, awful, and a moment that defines who you are. And I would almost guarantee they’re not. If you’re Buttoned-Down Joe at work, then this is just a funny story about Cut-Loose Joe. But they see you as Buttoned-Down Joe, the good, dependable teammate and friend. That’s a good thing!

    And I have a loved one who I am (gently) trying to get to realize he has a drinking problem. It is so incredibly hard to assess yourself and realize you have a problem — so you have done something amazing. Don’t look at that as a bad moment — it is the moment that, very literally, changed your life. Congrats on seizing that moment — and don’t live there any more. That’s not who you are (in a good way!).

    1. Katie the Fed*

      But just because your coworker was fine with the jokes doesn’t mean everyone is or should be. People are different. I’ve been working on this with my deputy – you can’t treat everyone the same way. Some people are more sensitive to these things than others.

      1. Artemesia*

        For a week or so the joking is a way of saying ‘it isn’t that awful’ but when it goes beyond that, it can as the OP notes be damaging her professionally since she isn’t given respect in corporate presentations and such. Time to put a lid on it. Hope that she can. I’d be inclined to say something like what has been suggested when it happens in the group setting. But if that is too tough, doing it one by one is an option.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And…how can sunny-dee be sure her coworker -was- “fine with it”? As this question shows, it’s really bothering our OP, and probably she or he hasn’t said that much about it.
        There’s a heck of a lot of pressure to just yuk along with everybody.

      3. sunny-dee*

        No, what I’m saying is, we weren’t teasing him because we were looking down on him or thinking negatively. The OP seems to have a strong sense of shame, and what I’m trying to say is that the coworkers (probably) aren’t trying to give her that sense of shame — they probably really, honestly don’t see it as a big deal.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Just because they don’t see it as a big deal does not settle things for OP. I hope they don’t see it as a big deal and willingly let go of the teasing immediately because it’s not a big deal for them to do so.

          1. sunny-dee*

            I’m not saying let go of the TEASING — she shouldn’t and doesn’t have to. I am saying let go of the SHAME or any fear that they are looking at her like she has a problem.

      4. ancolie*

        That’s why I like this perspective change for The Golden Rule:

        Treat others the way they would like to be treated.

    2. videogame Princess*

      That would actually sting a little for me–as a person with ADHD, I struggle with this sort of thing a lot. ADHD is also related to more sensitive feelings. It’s not because the person is a wimp or is “taking things too hard”, but rather it’s part of the medical condition. So while for this person it might have been fun, just make sure you aren’t hurting that person’s feelings.

    3. CMT*

      I bet your coworker didn’t think it was as funny as you did months later. But even if he did, clearly OP’s situation is different.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, even stuff that’s funny at first stops being funny if it’s never dropped. I have a friend who will trot out the same joke or teasing well past its expiration date. And it’s often something that really was funny the first time, but now, months or years later, it’s just not.

        Plus, a lot of people don’t like jokes that are aimed at reminding them that they did something really stupid. And I don’t think that’s being “sensitive.” Being the butt of everyone’s joke can get old really fast.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “As a joke, we made him take notes for all sessions that week … and then for months after, whenever there was a group meeting.”

          I think it would be okay to joke once or twice about making the person take notes for the next meeting, but to actually go through with it for the rest of the week, even, would get pretty old, much less carrying the joke on for months afterward. I know when I’ve done something stupid, I’m fine (if a little embarrassed) with a little good-natured teasing about it, and then I want to set about proving that I actually CAN pay attention to detail (or whatever). Being made fun of for it for an extended period of time would really start to get me down.

      2. AnonInSC*

        Yeah – it may have been a funny story for the rest of you. But I’m having trouble believing you coworker loved the joke for months.

    4. caryatid*

      i get that the point you are trying to make is that maybe the coworkers’ intentions aren’t bad, or that they do not see the OP in a negative way, but the OP is still allowed to feel hurt and shame and ask that the teasing stop.

      emotions are really complicated and it’s not that easy to logic your way into having a different emotional reaction to something that bothers you. the solution isn’t for the OP to be “less sensitive”, the solution is that the coworkers need to be MORE sensitive.

    5. Rat Racer*

      I was once substitute-managing a medical practice and a terminally ill woman began vomiting blood in the waiting room, and I fainted (later actually – while helping clean up). My boss, who was an RN, would NEVER let it go. At large client meetings she would call me out and say “now no one talk about blood or vomit Rat will faint.” So unfair – especially since I’m not a clinician and not trained to manage medical crises.

      Just saying that we all have humiliations happen to us on the job, and if only people would treat each other with more kindness and dignity.

      1. Another Lawyer*

        I fainted once during law school due to chest pains, and of course there was a 911 call, followed by an ambulance. The EMTs wheeled me out of school and through a large crowd of people. Even years later, people who saw it will bring it up at dinners and discuss the sheer annoyance on my face as it happened. I channel that look to them when they bring it up.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Ugh, same thing has happened to me, fainting followed by an ambulance. Most embarrassing thing ever… Why? It’s not like I could help my body’s vasovagal response. But yeah, I still cringe when I think about it.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Head’s-up: I think when it goes on for months, it’s not A Funny Story anymore. I think it’s kind of mean, actually.

      I wouldn’t be proud of that, particularly.

      1. Anna*

        Yeah, there’s definitely a time limit on these kinds of things. Anything past a week is probably too long.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        And if you keep making him take notes “as a joke”, that *is* thinking negatively of him.

        I had a panic attack at work nearly two decades ago, triggered by someone grabbing me from behind while I was seated and not expecting it. My then-coworkers found it hilarious and tried to catch me the same way as much as they could to hear me scream. Well after I told them to stop.

        My manager told me I was too sensitive and I should lighten up – I work in a cube and I should expect the behavior.

        I posted out of that job and told them all precisely why when I left.

        Some might find it fun and games. Don’t ever assume the target feels the same.

        1. Kairi*

          As someone who has experienced panic attacks, I can relate to this. Some people don’t realize how serious a panic attack can be and can lead to people acting like this. :(

          Also, I ditched an entire friend group because they would make fun of me constantly. They kept saying “it’s just for fun”, but it was constant and I felt attacked. I’m glad you were able to move on from that job, though!

    7. teclatrans*

      I really like the second half of your point, but as someobe who wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until her 40s, that episode would have been full of shame for me. I probably would have embraced it (like I did when a good friend jokingly rearranged my CDs and another friend mixed up my note-taking markers so they were no longer in a pleasing gradation) but it also would have resonated with all my shame and frustration, and would have haunted me at other times.

      1. teclatrans*

        Oh, I missed a point. Laughing about it would have been at leat partially bravado, especially after months.

  7. Katniss*

    The advice given is fantastic and I don’t have much to add, aside from saying that if you do have a sponsor or friends in the program (if you’re working the program) talking to them would be helpful for sure.

    I mostly wanted to offer my sympathy. I got sober last year (it’ll be six months next week!) and I know it’s hard to stop beating yourself up over past behavior while drinking. There is a deep well of shame there, and it’s hard to pull your way out of sometimes. Just focus on the fact that you’re working to improve yourself and your life. You can’t take back what happened, though you probably wish you could, but you can focus on who you are now. Good luck, OP, and be proud of yourself: you did a very brave thing by being honest with yourself. Seriously.

      1. Winter is Coming*

        Yes, congratulations to you! My mom’s been sober for almost 10 years now, so I’ve had an up close look at the journey. I have tremendous admiration for anyone who’s in a recovery program.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think that sometimes we need the Golden-Plus Rule.

      The Golden Rule is, “treat others the way you want them to treat you,” but I think a great many people need this one:

      “Treat yourself the way you would treat others.”

      Most of us wouldn’t continue to berate someone for their mistakes. We’d cheer their progress, and we’d hope they don’t still feel bad about it months later*. So don’t do it to yourself.

      *Maybe these people who keep bringing up the embarrassing indicate -do- want you to still feel bad…but I sincerely doubt it. And anyway, Letter Writer, *YOU* wouldn’t keep reminding people of an embarrassing thing they did, so you should treat yourself that way.

      And, if someone is really intransigent about dropping the issue, that might be something to ask them: “Are you wanting me to feel crappy about this repeatedly? Is that your goal? It would surprise me–but that is how it feels.”

      1. Katniss*

        This is a wonderful rule. I try to be as kind as I can to others, and this is a good reminder to be just as kind to ourselves.

      2. ancolie*

        I mentioned it above, but I like the version that goes, “treat others the way THEY would like to be treated.”

        It’s so easy to truly mean well but still act hurtful if you only look at things from your perspective. If you love pranks and teasing — find them great fun and a way of showing affection — but your coworker/friend hates them, you should respect that and NOT prank or tease them. If you filter everything through the OG Golden Rule, it’s easy to think that pranking/teasing them is GOOD… After all, you love when others prank you!

  8. super anon*

    Maybe it’s because I’m anxiety prone and have social anxiety disorder, but if this happened to someone I work with I would *never* say anything to them again! I know if something like this happened to me I’d obsess about it forever and knowing I’d done it would kill me on the inside, so if it a coworker did get really drunk at a work event I would forever pretend like I have no recollection of what happened. I can’t imagine joking about it openly with other coworkers for months afterward – especially not a regular basis!

    I’m sorry OP – I hope you can get the talk to stop.

    1. A Non*

      I hope you mean that you’d never say anything about the drunken incident, not that you’d completely avoid talking to them!

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I’m sure they meant the former. I actually don’t see at all how their post could be interpreted as never talking to the coworker again!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I have had people spill out parts of themselves in front of me. I would never dawn on me to remark on it later on. I have talked people down from the ceiling in the moment but once we stop talking it’s over, forever.
      My thought is, the next time it could be ME making a poor choice. We never know when our turn will come around. And people do notice. They notice that you don’t bring something up again. They notice how you handle an awkward problem with them. I had one person mention to me that years ago, I did xyz. I had absolutely no recollection of the incident. But how I handled my reaction to their stumbling stayed fresh in their minds.

    3. aebhel*

      Same. I cannot imagine teasing someone over something like this. IME, most people who get that drunk and act completely out of character around their COWORKERS are going to be feeling embarrassed about it. I would probably be mortified enough to quit on the spot–I salute the OP for having the courage to show up for work after this!

  9. vic*

    Don’t mean to criticize the OP, but something similar happened to me (and I ended up throwing up, in public, in front of coworkers).

    My best advice from that experience: don’t ever drink at a work event, or if you do, keep it to one drink!!

    1. Katniss*

      I’m guessing the OP doesn’t plan to drink at work events from here on out, since they said they were trying to stop entirely!

  10. F.*

    I am not a lawyer, and I strongly encourage you to do your own research into this matter or consult an attorney. Alcoholism is considered a disability under the ADA. An alcoholic is entitled to the same protections as anyone else with an identified disability. I am sure your company would not tolerate employees mocking or making fun of the actions of someone who has a more socially acceptable disability. They should not tolerate this sort of behavior toward an alcoholic, either. You may also be able to take leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA for treatment for alcoholism. You cannot be fired for simply being an alcoholic provided you do not violate your employer’s policies regarding alcohol in the workplace or drinking on the job and provided you are capable of fulfilling your job duties. Please see your HR person. I wish you the best in your recovery.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, I agree. The first step here is for OP to let her coworkers know that the teasing is really bothering her. Anyone who’s not a jerk will stop teasing her right then. If some or all of her coworkers turn out to be jerks, then she can start moving forward with another plan.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP could certainly try that route, but at this point it would be premature and come across as overly heavy-handed. At this point, everyone thinks they’re sharing a good-natured joke with her, and no one realizes she has a drinking problem. The first step is to ask for it to stop. In the majority of cases, that’s going to solve it. If it doesn’t, then this would be one of several options she could consider.

    2. C4T!!!*


      Certainly, ideally, you would do (1) or (2) above and see how that works. Give it a month to allow others to let it out of their system. After that, it’s time to go to HR. Certainly going to HR means there will be a process to have your Disability certified, but after that, the company can be held liable for the work environment that is perpetuated.

      If you decide to go to HR, you will want to start documenting each time it happens (date, time, witnesses, what was said). This way you can provide data that will help Leadership and HR support you.

      Best of luck.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If the OP wants to get the best outcome here — preserve her professional standing and relationships with coworkers — she really, really needs to ask people to stop directly before she goes that route. There’s a difference between what’s legally available to her and what’s practical in terms of good outcomes, and reporting people for behavior that they had no idea was bothering you isn’t likely to get you a good result.

    3. Observer*

      People tend to forget that ADA doesn’t require employers to be mind readers. Fortunately for the OP, no one realizes that she has a drinking problem (which means it hasn’t affected her work yet, which is a BIG deal.) But that means that the employer can’t be held liable for not knowing about it, or helping / protecting her.

      So, even if the legal rout becomes necessary, the first step HAS to be talking to people. And, if you are going to be talking to people, trying to do so in a non-confrontational manner just tends to work better.

    4. Temperance*

      I would advise against this course of action if at all possible. It’s going to cast the LW in an unfavorable light – her coworkers don’t know that she is coming to terms with her addiction issues, or that she is an addict in the first place. I think she would be better off addressing it with individuals in the moment. She might not be ready to tell others that she’s an alcoholic, which is fine.

      I also disagree with your legal analysis, but I don’t think it’s particularly relevant in her case. If she was seeking treatment and needed FMLA to go to meetings or rehab, it would, but I don’t think that the ADA applies to getting drunk at a work function. IIRC, I’ve read cases where individuals fired for being on drugs at work try to claim disability discrimination due to addiction, and it doesn’t pass muster (because, addict or not, it’s not safe to be high or drunk at work, generally speaking.)

        1. fposte*

          I think the point is made by Temperance (who, in addition to being ironically named, may be a lawyer, IIRC) is that some of your statements seem to be conflating alcoholism and drunkenness, and drunkenness isn’t protected, regardless of its origin.

          1. F.*

            My point in putting the information about the ADA out there is that, whether or not the OP considers themselves to be an alcoholic, others reading this conversation may recognize themselves and not realize that they do have certain protections.

            I also realize that going to HR is something of a nuclear option. However, if the “teasing” (in quotes because the OP is being hurt by it, so I don’t consider it simply teasing) is so bad that it is undermining the OP’s recovery and even the boss is in on it (see the OP’s remarks in the comments), that may be their last resort. I recommended that they consult an attorney to get an official legal interpretation of their situation, if they decide to go that route.

            In an ideal world, the OP’s coworkers and boss would not be acting like this. And, unfortunately, there may be little the OP can do in this particular job to salvage their reputation because there will always be someone who will bring it up, even after being asked not to.

            One thing I do wonder is whether the responses would be the same if the OP had a disability that is considered more legitimate. Making fun of someone who limps or stutters or has Tourette Syndrome tics would never be tolerated in the workplace, for example.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The issue is that they have no idea something like a disability is in play. They don’t know she’s struggling with alcoholism, and they can’t mind-read.

            2. Temperance*

              I am an attorney, which is why I responded to your comment with corrections. Past addiction to illegal drugs is treated as alcoholism under the ADA; you are correct that current illicit drug use is not protected. As fposte stated, there’s a difference between alcoholism and alcohol-related misconduct. Her actions at the party fall into the misconduct category, so making fun of her for being drunk would likely not fall under ADA protection (and really, it’s not a battle you want to be fighting in court, because you don’t need it to be publicly available to future employers that you’re litigious and drink a lot at parties).

              Of course the responses wouldn’t be the same if the LW had a known physical disability. I understand lighthearted teasing for something like getting too drunk at a holiday party – because people who aren’t alcoholics can get drunk. While not remotely comparable, I liken it to the time I was at a clinic with one of our clients and loudly cursed (and did that thing where someone says “sh!t!! i mean stuff!”). I am still teased by the client for that (he calls me “Temperance the Potty Mouth”), and don’t really mind. If I had a disorder that caused me to have verbal tics, it would be highly offensive. I think the issue here is that her coworkers honestly don’t know that she’s having this struggle, but I think the legal route would be time-consuming, expensive, and not have the desired result.

            3. LQ*

              “Be direct and tell them to ___stop(or whatever)____” is almost always a first step. Even if someone has a limp. Even if someone thinks they are being super obvious about not liking it. Even if you think no one could possibly think this is teasing in fun.

              Tell them to stop is the first step. That’s part of an ideal world, is when I don’t like something I tell them to stop, and when other people don’t like when I do a thing they tell me to stop.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      This seems like the nuclear option. In my opinion, the coworkers think they are laughing WITH op, not at her. I think they should be given the opportunity to know that they are upsetting op and it will likely stop without having to resort to attorneys or HR.

    6. neverjaunty*

      If you are not a lawyer, please don’t offer legal advice about such things as whether the OP can or can’t be fired, especially as she has not said she is an alcoholic.

  11. OriginalYup*

    The holiday party was relatively recent, so it’s certainly possible that you’ll see a decrease in these comments as new events take place and replace it in people’s minds.

    For the few people who just Won’t. Let. It. Go., I’d react in the moment when they make a comment by smiling calmly at them and saying, “I get that it was funny at the time, but I’d like for there to be fewer jokes at my expense related to the holiday party, please. It’s starting to not be funny anymore.” And then immediately changing the topic to something else — “Did you guys catch the game last night?” Some people think it’s super funny to beat one joke into the ground. Others think they’re genuinely joking with you about something mutually amusing. Still others are just trying to join in the office fun by doing what they think will get a laugh from the group. Either way, this approach might help to take the edge off the repetitiveness and give you the breathing space to not feel so exposed about something so personal.

    And I wish you all the best in your recovery. Best wishes to you, and take care of yourself.

    1. TootsNYC*

      especially nice in this phrasing is “at my expense,” because it does point out to people that there IS a cost to these jokes; they aren’t “free”; you’re “covering the expense” of their attempts at humor.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Oh, and I like this because I think it’s none of their business that you’re working on your alcohol problem.
      It would be the same thing if you were Jennifer Lawrence and you tripped at the Oscars. Enough already; it’s not funny anymore, it’s starting to feel mean, and they’re getting their yuks at your expense.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Off-topic, but I’m surprised Jennifer’s little mishap doesn’t happen more often. Stairs + evening wear + high heels + being incredibly nervous/freaked out = ouchies.

        Same with holiday parties. Folks + booze = someone drinking waaaay too much, alcoholic or not. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to run a joke into the ground.

        1. Shell*

          I hate high heels on principle, and this is one of the reasons why. I’ve tumbled down an entire flight of (steep) stairs, gashed my knee, tore my dress, and made a right embarrassment of myself. On prom night.

          Lots of people like their heels and more power to them (I envy those who can walk well), but it really annoys me that woman’s “formal” shoe choices are always heels of some stripe.

          1. Graciosa*

            Not necessarily – I have been known to wear flats (or near flats) with floor length formal wear, sometimes dressed up with decorative accessories. You do have to plan for it so that your hem is correct for your shoes.

            But I agree with the underlying principle very strongly. My heels have gotten continuously lower to the point where my typical work uniform involves flats and the highest heels in my closet are less than 2″. The last few years of OMG-wow! heel heights have really taken a lot of joy out of my shoe shopping. I have to keep reminding myself that this trend will, like all others in history, eventually pass.

            I do think that some very high heels are cute, and I enjoy the creative colors and designs – but I have no interest in wearing them myself.

  12. Not me*

    Oh, OP, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It sounds like an injoke that they’re running into the ground, without knowing that it’s not that kind of joke to you. I hope that Alison’s advice or Snarkus Aurelius’s is enough to stop it.

  13. KimmieSue*

    I think AMA’s advice is spot on (any of the options on dealing with the co-workers).

    My heart aches reading the obvious shame and embarrassment written in your letter. Perhaps you need to hear how brave I think you are for sharing the story with all of us? That’s amazing. Stop beating yourself up. You have clearly learned from this mistake and are moving forward. Give yourself a break. I’m sure it’s not easy with the constant reminders, but you deserve it. As you forgive yourself, you will likely have more courage to respond in the moments when the topic comes up.

    Perhaps the reason you haven’t put a stop to it is maybe you don’t think you deserve it?

    Wishing you lots of virtual support & best wishes!

  14. Katie the Fed*

    Oh yeah – you need to put a stop to that.
    I like Alison’s language a lot. You can also say that you were going through a really hard period at that time, made a big mistake, but you need then to let it go now because it’s very painful. Most people are going to be ok with that.

  15. Roscoe*

    Honestly, the easiest way is to just be up front about how this made you realize that you needed to make a change. If most people hear that, they will immediately stop. I get you may not WANT to do that, but that would be the quickest way to do that. Otherwise, you probably want to just ride it out, as tough as it may be. Now you can say something about how its been 2 months, etc. However if you do that, make sure there are no jokes, nicknames, stories, etc you participate in that would make you look like a hypocrite.

  16. TCO*

    Congratulations, OP, on facing some hard truths and making some hard decisions. A lot of people would rather run and hide when confronted with those.

    In addition to all of the great advice above, I’d recommend (when you’re ready) looking into the TED talks or books by Brene Brown. She speaks some powerful, reassuring truths about shame that might help you move past those awful feelings of shame that you keep experiencing. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re also experiencing strong shame from other events in your life, too, and it might be worth exploring whether that’s connected to your drinking. I’m by no means trying to offer a diagnosis on your life, but just suggesting one route that might help bring you some insight and healing. Best wishes.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I was going to recommend Brene Brown, too but decided not to for some reason. Her writing about shame has helped me a lot.

  17. TheOP!*

    Hey everyone, this is the OP!

    Alison, thank you for answering my letter. I wasn’t sure if it was reasonable to request that the teasing stop since I brought it on myself. Also I wasn’t sure if I’d just end up being known as not only a sloppy drunk, but a humorless-sloppy-drunk-that-can’t-take-a-joke on top of it. So I’m relieved to hear it’s okay for me to ask it to stop.

    Thank you also to the commenters for your support. I’m just on a quick lunch break now (trying to really do a good job at work right now to offset this mess!) but as soon as I get off I’ll read through all of them.

    I’m not sure if I’m ready to divulge my struggles with alcohol yet – my sobriety (only about 3 weeks as of now… I already had a misstep) very fragile right now. I’ve sought help before for my drinking, albeit in a half-assed way, and obviously failed, but this time I really want to succeed. So I’m going to try the scripts that keep things vague for now but I’m glad to have the other ones up my sleeve just in case. I’m also going to try just talking to my coworkers directly instead of my manager, since he’s not sympathetic to my discomfort. He actually took a video of my drunken antics and emailed it around to a bunch of people who had already left the party, and most of the teasing comes from the stuff in that video, so even people who weren’t there anymore got to see the show :-|

    Okay, gotta run back to work. I’ll be back this evening!

    1. Katniss*

      Hey, three weeks is great! Every day you get matters, and isn’t an “only”, it’s three whole weeks!

      That is so incredibly cruel of your boss, even though he doesn’t know about the underlying issues. I’m so sorry he did that to you. I hope it goes well with your coworkers! Please keep us/Alison updated!

    2. TCO*

      That was awful of your boss to take and share a video–that’s not okay, no matter whether it’s “all in fun.” You didn’t deserve that. I hope that with your continued progress you’ll feel stronger in your sobriety and more confident that you really, truly don’t deserve to be endlessly teased about one bad night.

    3. Tiffany In Houston*

      The fact that your coworker videotaped you and sent it around to other people is setting off my hinky meter. I don’t like that at all. This seems like harassment or bullying.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve worked places, particularly early in my career, where that would have been done good-naturedly and with affection. At this point in my life, I can see why it’s not a good idea to do it anyway (in part because you never know if someone is struggling with alcoholism or just plain old embarrassment over the incident), but there are many offices where this wouldn’t be intended to be mean or negative at all / where they think everyone, including the OP, is genuinely finding it funny, even a “badge of honor” type thing, like someone else mentioned above.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yes, I work in an office where someone might do this good-naturedly, with the idea being that we’re all friends here. Of course, I am sure there are some people in my office who wouldn’t appreciate that, but overall this is an office that doesn’t draw a clear line between work and play or friend and coworker. I also think, in my office, a sincere request to stop bringing it up because it’s a painful memory would be effective.

          OP, congratulations on three weeks sober! I’m so happy to hear that you’re making positive changes.

        2. The Bimmer Guy*

          Even if someone is fall-over drunk, I really can’t think of a single scenario in which it would be understandable or acceptable for *someone’s boss* to take and send around a video, especially to other people in the company. I wouldn’t even do that to a good friend or someone I knew really well. I just can’t wrap my head around that one.

          1. Temperance*

            At my workplace, we passed around a very hilarious and unflattering photo from a clinic. It wasn’t really mean-spirited – just an honest to God awful photo from a work event. The guy in it was making a weird face like the Joker from Batman. (The man in question, BTW, is a lovely man and one of the nicest people I’ve worked with. It’s all in fun!)

          2. aebhel*

            This. I would be furious and humiliated if a friend did something like this–but a boss? I’m absolutely baffled that anyone could possibly think that’s okay.

        3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          But Alison, does the manager’s intent trump the OP’s feelings?

          I mean, I get that Manager thought it was a funny thing and distributed it as such (which is assuming positive intent here). But if the video causes shame for the OP, that doesn’t make the Manager’s action harmless because he didn’t intend to contribute to the shame. And it doesn’t excuse Manager from OP’s anger that he would do such a thing.

          Just because Manager is oblivious doesn’t mean Manager didn’t cause pain, and I feel like comparing this experience to a badge of honor isn’t apt – honor shouldn’t depend on shouldering the burden of ill-received joking.

          There are lots of good-natured things that happen in an office yet sometimes they may not be taken as such. I kinda feel that saying the Manager was trying to be funny comes across as dismissing the OP’s feelings, and I’m not sure that’s what you mean to say.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I absolutely agree that the manager’s actions aren’t harmless. My point is only that it’s not necessarily the act of a bully or a harasser or anyone who intends to be unkind. People have different standards around this stuff, and in an office that does a lot of happy teasing, someone could miss that the OP isn’t happy about this.

            Re: badge of honor — I was saying in some offices a drunken night at a holiday party could be taken that way, and that people wouldn’t necessarily realize that the OP didn’t feel like that about it.

            I’m talking intent, not impact. Impact of course matters, quite a lot. But I don’t agree with labeling people who are doing the teasing as bullies, based on what we know.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think anyone here is arguing that intent is magic. No one here has said “they don’t mean any harm so let it go.” She should tell them to stop and they should stop.

              But that doesn’t change the fact that they don’t have to be bullying assholes to have done it in the first place.

            2. fposte*

              But neither are emotional responses.

              That doesn’t mean they’re invalid. Just that they’re not an inherent measure of anything.

          2. fposte*

            Hmm, interesting question. In general, I think we’re pretty good at supporting upset OPs, but we also look at issues beyond that, which is one of the things that I like about AAM. And I also think somebody could do something that left me upset or ashamed without being a wrongdoer, because unknowingly making somebody feel bad isn’t inherently wrongdoing in itself; it also isn’t, IMHO, wrong to discuss that alongside the upset in this venue, because we’re talking about negotiating the situation, and intent matters hugely in that.

            This reminds me of the prank discussions, which makes sense, as I think there are some cultural similarities between teasing and pranking. It’s really hard for people who read them in one language to get into the mind of somebody who reads them in another, and it’s also hard for people to resist the temptation to consider their reading as the only right one. Right now the OP is like somebody who keeps kosher and is repeatedly finding bacon on her lunch plate. Until she tells her co-workers that even the idea bacon makes her sick, it’s hard to tell if they’re being hospitable or mean.

            This discussion also reminds me of a note about Nordic humor I just read on an Icelandic blog: “He told me that when someone slipped, the Icelanders would burst into immediate laughter, followed by some light snickering from the Danes and the Norwegians if he wasn’t hurt, wheras the Swedes would not laugh until they were positively sure he was alright.” He goes on to say that this is related to the Icelandic national philosophy that boils down basically to “Eh, it’ll work out”: “If you subscribe to it, you know that the one who falls will be alright, so there’s no need to feel guilty about laughing at him.”

            The viewpoints here may not align by nationality so neatly, but I think we’re still talking cultural stuff, and it’s useful to consider how to negotiate that to get the best outcome.

            1. Kaleidiscope*

              This is always one of those potentially controversial topics since everyone (obviously) feels somewhat differently about it. Fposte, you posted something in a different thread a few weeks back that I think is once again relevant:
              “It is never harmful to assume good faith first.”
              I wrote it on my quote board and have passed it around to my coworkers and employees because I think it is such a great, simple tactic to take. I am more easily offended than I would like to be, but I also am the first to let my team know when they have crossed my line and they always are so apologetic and kind about it. It took me years of letting things grate on me for way too long though, and remembering that most people mean well is something that truly helps my mindset (even if it isn’t true, I only get to control me after all)!

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                I honestly don’t know the answer.

                I like to assume positive intent, yet there are things I know I have done to be helpful that were not taken that way. My intent didn’t negate the discomfort caused.

                Yet I could intend to wound and obtain the same result.

                I get lost in philosophy. I can feel for both sides – the OP who is mortified and the coworkers who may mean nothing but fun – and I’m not sure what I think. I felt one way yesterday and another way today.

                In my mind, it comes down to assumptions vs. communications. It’s better to speak of it, no matter how hard, and confirm than to continue to assume. I’m with Alison on OP speaking out, but I’m on the fence as to motivations of the coworkers and whether that’s a factor in this at all.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, it’s a tricky one, and it’s a very quivery needle, I agree. But I’d also say the discomfort caused didn’t negate your good intentions, either. They’re both relevant–the question is what you want to do about it?

                  It gets complicated for me, too, because of course there’s history of invalidating the feelings of people with less power, and there’s a lot of good discourse around attempting to remediate that; I think validating feelings, though, is not always the same thing as saying the other person is a wrongdoer. And while in an emotional support venue, I wouldn’t raise that point, because that’s an inappropriate a shift of the focus, I think in a blog devoted to practical outcomes, it becomes relevant in exploring what actions it might be useful to take.

                2. Ultraviolet*

                  I really enjoy these letters that make me think hard and stick with me for awhile. Maybe we should do a survey sometime about which letters we all found most thought-provoking.

          3. Ultraviolet*

            Funny, I was writing a comment above related to intent/impact at about the same time you were!

            I don’t think it’s very meaningful to ask whether the teaser’s or target’s feelings or intentions trump the other’s in a vacuum. Feelings are feelings. What you can do is decide how to account for each for the purposes of making some kind of decision or assessment of the situation. I know there’s an unfortunately tendency for people to reason, “Does the teasing need to stop? I know Teaser didn’t mean any harm by it. So maybe Target feels bad, but the teasing doesn’t really need to stop.” And that’s clearly a problem. But if the question is, “What should Target do to stop the teasing?” it’s really shooting yourself in the foot to ignore Teaser’s intentions in figuring out how to approach them.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I’ve written here about my epic holiday party disaster (so cringe-worthy). There is a video and my boss shared it at the morning meeting the next day and it was hilarious. No one was making fun of me in a nasty way and this job had a heavy drinking culture so I knew it was all in good fun. If OP’s coworkers continue to make fun of her after they are told she doesn’t like it, then you have a point. But I really don’t think there are nefarious motives here.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You are making me think. It sounds like it’s office culture. It could be that the underlying thing here is that OP is in the wrong workplace culture. But figuring that out is down the road a ways.

          You and Alison kind of rocked my thinking here. Because I was thinking “What kind of boss takes videos of his employees at their worst and passes it around for fun?”

          Then it dawned on me. It’s not my kind of work culture. I would not fit in. I’d last, oh, maybe a week. And OP, down the road this maybe a conclusion you come to. Or it could end up being fine and you continue on with your company. No way to know right now.

    4. Observer*

      Oh dear. Your boss doesn’t sound like a particularly good manager, everything else aside. I mean who thinks that this is a good idea and will do anything to improve the workplace.

      It’s also just such a juvenile and mean spirited thing to do.

      So, yes, I really would avoid talking to him about. At least you know to keep your distance from him and not to trust him with anything.

    5. Ann*

      He actually took a video of my drunken antics and emailed it around to a bunch of people who had already left the party

      That is awful. I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s a new one on me. But I have never been one to enjoy slapstick or any movie/video where people are embarrassing themselves. So this trait heavily factors into my reaction to this boss.

    6. Temperance*

      OP, I’m so sorry to hear that your boss did that. It’s been almost two months – I think a week of teasing is plenty.

      Do you have an HR department? Is there someone you could talk to, confidentially, about the issue? I recommend utilizing your EAP for help with the addiction issue, if you’re comfortable.

      As for your recovery, three weeks is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve been told by many of my sober friends that the first month is the hardest, and that blips along the way are a part of the process. Writing this letter to AAM was incredibly brave. Bes tof luck to you.

    7. Xarcady*

      And here I was wondering why a manager hadn’t stopped the teasing on the company-wide chat program, or said something in a meeting when the teasing started. No place that I have worked would have tolerated this in a public forum like a chat program or a meeting.

      But if the manager is enabling it–videoing the behavior and then sending it around? This is not professional behavior on his part. I’m not usually at a loss for words, but this behavior–I don’t even know what to say.

      OP, congratulations on three weeks. I have watched, and held hands, and had more than one midnight phone call while siblings walked the walk you are walking. It isn’t easy. And your co-workers aren’t making it any easier. Please draw on your support system as much as you need. There are people in this world who will help hold you up, unlike your co-workers and boss who seem to delight in pulling people down. I’m so sorry you are going through this.

    8. Liana*

      It sounds trite, but the saying “The first step is admitting you have a problem” really is true. You know it’s something you want to work on and are obviously willing to take steps in that direction, which is incredibly brave. I don’t have a ton of advice that other people haven’t already said, but I had a similar experience last year, where I got blackout drunk (not at work, thankfully – this was on my own time), and ended up in police custody. The whole experience was a wake-up call to really examine my attitudes towards drinking. The amount of shame I felt, and still feel, is overwhelming sometimes. If you’re able, I’d recommend seeing a therapist, one who specializes in substance abuse. A good one will be able to provide ongoing scripts for you to use and will also provide some emotional support when the shame and embarrassment becomes too much to deal with. If you don’t end up seeking therapy, confiding in a trustworthy, nonjudgmental friend can also help offset those feelings as well. Please don’t bottle your emotions up – I tried that for awhile, and it only made me feel more ashamed. Best of luck!

      (Oh, and also, your boss is an unprofessional jackass, seriously.)

    9. Mimmy*

      Oh. Wow. That it was your MANAGER who videotaped and shared your behavior takes this up into Ick territory.

      In addition to all the great advice given, I wonder if you should also talk to your manager. I know you say he’s not sympathetic, but at least make it clear that you did not appreciate him videotaping you and SHARING it–without your permission no less–and it has contributed to the relentless teasing.

      Your coworkers and even your boss probably genuinely think this is all in good fun. But after awhile, it crosses a line. I hope you are able to get this to stop soon.

      Best of luck to you in achieving sobriety.

    10. Mike B.*

      If you’re having trouble maintaining your sobriety, OP, I’d recommend getting a prescription for naltrexone and trying the Sinclair Method (drink as you normally would, but always take a pill an hour beforehand). It’s legally available for sale online if your doctor refuses to prescribe it, though somewhat more expensive.

      Your situation reminds me so much of my own until three or four years ago–I got blackout drunk at more than one office event (I have a very vague and horrific memory of hitting on a much-younger colleague of an incompatible sexual orientation), I was hung over at work just about every day, I was completely broke, my personal life was a shambles…I was a real mess. Today I only drink if I happen to be on a date at a bar or there’s some other occasion where I’d rather not have to explain why I’m abstaining (eg, champagne at a wedding)–very rarely, and never to excess. When taken as intended, naltrexone just makes you lose interest in alcohol, with no need for any kind of therapy or support group to help deal with cravings. It’s wonderful.

      The video is a horror story that probably puts your boss in the running for worst of the year; I’m not even going to try to give you a platitude about it. But you can do better, and it sounds like you’re going to. Good luck!

    11. Batshua*

      I am not a healthcare worker, but I haven’t seen anyone recommend naloxone. Ask your doctor about it. :)

        1. Mike B.*

          Hahah! Naltrexone and naloxone aren’t quite the same; the latter is a short-acting drug that can rescue someone from overdose but doesn’t do much to alter drinking behaviors. The most success there has been seen with naltrexone and nalmefene, since their effects can last through an entire drinking session.

    12. JMegan*

      Three weeks is amazing, good for you! And missteps will happen – the important thing is that you forgive yourself, and that you keep trying. I wish you many more days of sobriety in the future.

      I would definitely not disclose that you have a problem with alcohol at this point, as I don’t know if you can trust your coworkers to treat that information with any kind of sensitivity. (And by that, I mean they might start teasing you about your drinking problem, rather than just about that one party.) I like Snarkus Aurelius’ scripts above, which are basically just variations of “I don’t find this funny, please stop.”

      Good luck, and I’d love to hear an update when you have one!

    13. TootsNYC*

      worrying about the “humorless” part: the script above about “It was funny,” may help.

      Also, if you’re even, and not mad or snippy, that would help with that as well.

    14. hamster*

      It is ok to ask it to stop, but yes it will bring down your street creed so to speak. My advice is do not share you have a problem with you boss or coworkers . Now you drinking issues have not affected your work , do not even bring them in. Let it be just fun/young/drunk person who doesn’t drink that much and found his/her limit at a party. Everyone has seen this kind of stuff at one office along his career. There are the kissing stories, the drunk karaoke, etc. It is part of a semi-normal social interaction in some offices it usually will be overlooked . IT WILL DIE AWAY. IT WILL IT WILL IT WILL
      I will be wary to show weakness. if there are bullies there you will trigger them. your boss may have some tendencies himself. Don’t say omg i am so ashamed. Try to cut it out nicely. Even with your boss. Like , i know i have put on quite a show, but please, let’s focus on the work now . Smile , pretend like it’s no big deal, it was just a slip etc. could you discuss shame with your therapist, i mean in a way we are all humans and i am sure the fail is bigger in your eyes than it is in theirs. Get known for something else. Run a marathon, bake some cookies every week for the whole office . Do a google-type-cleanup. Put something else (inoffensive ) about you in people’s minds.
      Just to give you hope: I worked with a guy whose mean vindicative ex was mass mailing us telling what a jerk he is. You don’t want to know what angry e-mails she sent to the whole company. Yes, he worked there for like 2 y more. It died out. in the beginning it was a big hoopla but he kept ignoring it and moving on and people found something else to talk about. I kept thinking i would die of shame and felt sorry for him but in the end the story went down. Even so nobody made fun of him in the e-mails but still…
      They are handling it badly, which is why i think you should at this point try to see it as also a problem wiht them not only with you

      1. ginger ale for all*

        “Get known for something else. Run a marathon, bake some cookies every week for the whole office . Do a google-type-cleanup. Put something else (inoffensive ) about you in people’s minds.”

        I like that advice! Great idea!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with this advice. Particularly, in light of your boss videoing your famous moment. He is showing you he cannot be responsible with the knowledge of other people’s personal short-comings.
        So no, do not talk about getting treatment. Just ask them to stop. If they don’t stop then stop asking and start telling them to stop.

        And in knowing about the video, I no longer wonder why this thing has gone on so long. The boss has pulled out all the stops in effort to perpetuate it. He is keeping the pot stirred.

    15. bridget*

      I definitely don’t think you need to mention your sobriety. I’m the sort of person who will keep a joke alive for too long, just because sometimes I suck at realizing when it’s turned into Not Funny Anymore territory. If someone tells me they are tired of it, I will stop right away even if there isn’t a big reason like sobriety. For me, I would never bring it up again if you said “I know it’s a fun joke for you, but I’m mortified it happened and would really like to put it behind me. Can we drop it?” Just the information that it embarrasses you would be enough for me to shut up forever (and apologize for insensitively not dropping it before).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I used to have to tell my husband to get new material. He would repeat jokes and repeat jokes. Find a rule of thumb and stick with it. I recommended one week to my husband. After that move on to new material. People get tired of it. My husband would run the same joke for years. We all heard it 27 times.

    16. LQ*

      Absolutely reasonable.

      If your office is really big on joking there are some really good scripts people have offered that can help you deal with this without having to divulge your struggles and without ending up being seen as humorless. If you have anyone you can enlist in shutting to help shut it down that would be good.

      I really wish you all the best.

    17. LCL*

      3 weeks on the wagon, you fell off and got back on? You are awesome! You can do this, you will do this. That one misstep doesn’t negate all of the sober time you are accumulating.

    18. Lauren*

      I am weeping for your pain, OP. That’s beyond teasing. It’s one of the cruelest things I have ever heard of, let alone in a workplace.

      1. Roscoe*

        IF this is really one of the cruelest things you have ever heard, you really must live in a bubble.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I will agree with you Lauren, it’s in my top five cruelest things I have ever heard of. I am not really clear why others think it’s okay, but I am trying to figure that out.

        I think one of the reasons why I feel it’s very cruel is the amount of time this has gone on. And the other reason is this seems like abuse of power on the part of the boss. He knows everyone will open the email because you have to open all emails from a boss. So he is counting on the fact that it’s the boss’ email to make everyone open this video and watch it.

        It almost feels like scapegoating- a type of thing where if everyone is picking on OP, then no one has to worry about themselves being picked on. I don’t know. Clearly, I don’t understand the culture.

    19. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Ugh, I’m so sorry your boss did that! That is like rubbing salt in the wound, I’m sorry.

      Do you have any coworkers that you feel like could be an ally for you? I had an embarrassing drunken episode a few years ago with a group of friends. I was worried that there were going to be stories told for months and I ended up telling a close friend (truthfully) that the reason I’d drank to excess was because I was really stressed out about an medical situation I was going through and how embarrassed I was about the whole situation. Well, she actually ended up being really helpful, if someone brought up the incident, she would immediately chime in with something along the lines of, “That was so long ago! Who cares?” or just changed the topic entirely. And yeah, people moved on really quickly!

      Anyway, not suggesting you have to get into your sobriety journey with a coworker if you don’t want to get super personal. But maybe there is someone you feel comfortable enough with to pull aside and say, “Hey, I’m really getting tired of the teasing going on. Do you think you could help me squash it?”

    20. Erin*

      Hey, OP! Congratulations! You go, Girl! I wrote a comment below…a faithful reader, but I have been on vacation.

  18. Come On Eileen*

    OP, I can relate to your story in a lot of ways. Many years ago I had my own alcohol-infused embarrassment at a company party, and endured some teasing at the office afterward. It wasn’t as extensive as you’ve described, but I felt a lot of embarrassment and shame. Alcoholism by its nature brings a lot of guilt and shame with it, both of which are such defeating emotions and need to be smashed. Time and distance are some of your best allies in this case, along with some of the great scripts that Alison has provided here.

    And I’d encourage you to share your story, as much as you feel comfortable, with other people in recovery. There’s a lot of power in getting our secrets out in the open and instead of being judged for them, hearing another person say “yeah, me too.”

    I’ll be hitting my two year sober anniversary in a week, and it’s been the greatest gift I could have given myself. It sounds like you’re ready to take your first steps, and I applaud you for that. You’ll never regret the drinks you don’t take.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Congrats on your anniversary.
      And I am so glad you mentioned how alcohol can exasperate emotions. There are foods and scripts that also exasperate emotions. And they are sticky, you get stuck in the emotion and it’s hard to find a way out. Time will be kind to you, OP. Keep believing this will change, because it will.

  19. Laura*

    I don’t know your coworkers and obviously if you want it to stop it should, but it’s possible that people aren’t letting it go because they think they are bonding with you. Depending on their age and your business culture it’s possible that it is behavior that some of our college years have taught us to admire “so and so is a legend he drank everyone under the table” . And that they want to be able to relate to you on that level.

    Especially if you aren’t especially outgoing at work some might find this to be a likely point of reaching out for a more friendly connection.

    Obviously that doesn’t mean you should have to live with it, but maybe if it seems to fit, it can help you get past some of the embarrassment of the last few months.

  20. Way to go Broncos!*

    OP – I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit. The shame is the worst part because you know better, you know what a good, hard-working person you are when sober and that is the reality you want to maintain. Then the alcohol takes the reins and all of that is out the window. The shame, guilt and remorse come in because now the perception is the reality and the image is tarnished. My advice to you is let time pass, give your co-workers a gentle “I’m not okay with this anymore”, then apply more pressure if necessary. And finally, don’t beat yourself up anymore over this. It’s done, can’t be undone, let it go. Will it matter in 5 years, 10? Good luck! Sincerely, 29 days sober and counting :-D

    1. Way to go Broncos!*

      Okay, maybe you don’t have be gentle after re-reading your post and seeing your comment about the video. WOW, I have not words. I’m sorry you have to deal with that on top of everything else.

  21. Jen*

    This is also a great reminder to lay off co-workers for not drinking at events. I also had a few instances that were worrisome last year with my drinking causing me to stop drinking alcohol. I have attended a few work events and I have tried not to make a big deal about it but it’s really annoying to get comments. “Why aren’t you drinking?” “Are you drinking WATER?!” and then since I’m female, people wonder if I’m pregnant and kid me about that. Just shut up about people not drinking! If you’re at all tempted, just say nothing. If you say “Hey, what are you drinking?” and someone say “oh just water with lime” leave it at that. Don’t kid. It is amazing to me how often this has happened in my life. During two pregnancies and now my sobriety . . .

    1. mander*

      I can never understand why people make such a big deal out of others not drinking. I have a couple of friendly acquaintances who don’t drink for health reasons other than alcoholism or pregnancy, and it’s amazing how many people can’t just say “ok” when the person asks for a soda rather than a beer at the pub, or says they’d rather go get dinner or a coffee than go out to the bar.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Because they’re assholes who are insecure about their own drinking. Seriously, that’s it.

        1. regina phalange*

          100% agree with this – they are insecure about their own drinking and feel the person not drinking them is judging them. I feel it’s a never ending circle – you get judged if you drink too much or not at all. It’s really weird.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The same general thing happens with food. If you are trying to follow a particular diet, you remind other people of their own guilt. What happens next is they try to goad you into pizza or whatever it is you are avoiding, so they can eat it guilt free. It’s rude.

      2. Rana*

        My theory, when it comes to giving people grief for abstaining from something, is that the people doing it are to some degree insecure about their own behavior. So they view the person who’s not drinking/eating cake/goofing off/whatever as implicitly judging them. Unfortunately, with such people, there’s no good way to convince them that you’re not being sober “AT them” (in the phrasing of Captain Awkward), because it’s really all their issue, not yours.

        1. fposte*

          I had kind of an interesting, albeit guarded, conversation with a colleague in grad school who was taken aback by my not drinking. She just liked to know, she said, who she could go out and let her hair down with. And obviously there’s no literal truth in that–you find out by asking if I want to come out for clubbing and shots and hearing me say no–but yes, a lot of subtextual reveal on the “I want to know you’re not judging me” thing.

    2. OwnedByTheCat*

      I had a boss (fundraiser) who got sick of this so she’d order sparkling water with a slice of lime. Everyone just assumed it was a Gin & Tonic.

      Hate to have to “play the game” to get out of questions like this but yep, the questions will be there.

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        I realize putting “Fundraiser” in there doesn’t make sense on its own – it’s because we were always manning events and didn’t want to be drinking and yet people would be very freaked out by the fact that we weren’t drinking…

    3. Alienor*

      I agree. I don’t drink and have been the subject of many comments/jokes about it at work events. In my case it’s because I take some medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol (I was never much of a drinker anyway, so it wasn’t a hardship to give it up), but for all they know, I could be an alcoholic who’s been struggling with sobriety for years. Why take the risk?

    4. Omne*

      I never drink alcohol and always order a coke or something. If anyone asks me why I just tell them the truth, I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I’ve never had anyone follow up on that. What are they going to say? You should drink something you can’t stand the taste of?

      1. regina phalange*

        That is what I say when people seem to be appalled that I’ve never smoked pot. I cannot STAND the smell of it, so why would I smoke it? That answer usually shuts people up. And it’s true – the smell of it makes me want to gag.

    5. Hobbits! The Musical*

      I picked up a useful script (I think from Captain Awkward) for when someone gives you grief over ordering a non-alcoholic drink – give them a genuinely puzzled face and say “why does it matter to you/why do you care what I’m drinking?”.

      Opens up the way for them to either feel the awkwardness and STFU… OR talk about what’s been mentioned here, that maybe they feel a bit judged, and you can let them know your drink = your thing, their drink = their thing.

  22. Student*

    They are continuing to tease you because you continue to give the reaction they are looking for. That might be embarrassment, flustered, smiling laughter, anger. Stop giving the desired reaction – whatever it is – and it’ll start to fade out.

    An eye-roll and heavy sign accompanied by something like, “That’s soooo December! Yawn!” or “That’ll teach me for trying the company eggnog!” and a swift topic re-direct of “So how was your weekend?” or “Have you got the Teapot reports done?” might help.

    I like Alison’s advice, but I’d try something much less formal to convey the same info before I’d go right to asking-for-exactly-what-I-want. The reason i wouldn’t go with the direct-ask is because sometimes (often, IMO) teasing is intended to hurt you. If you reveal that it is hurting you deeply, then the teaser will either (1) realize they’re hitting too hard and back off (2) realize they’ found a tender spot and hit harder. I’ve seen a lot more of response (2) than I have of response (1).

    1. Xarcady*

      Sadly, I agree. This might not even really be teasing, but a form of bullying. I’ve seen it, I’ve been the victim. Sometimes, the only way to deal with it is the eye-roll. The moment they sense it bothers you, they intensify the attack.

      1. Sherry*

        I don’t think the OP’s situation sounds like bullying. It’s useful to differentiate between rudeness, meanness, and bullying. None are OK, but the rude person doesn’t intend to offend — they’re just not thinking. A mean person does intend to hurt, but doesn’t do it repeatedly, maybe just once in the heat of the moment. And bullying is a deliberate pattern of hurtful behavior directed at a victim.

        I think some offices are very “teasing” places, and, believe it not, they tease ya ’cause they like you. That being said, if the OP is uncomfortable, she should tell her coworkers.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s possible that it’s bullying, but there’s a greater chance that it’s intended to be good-natured and they don’t realize it’s bugging her. I’d hate to encourage the OP to see it as the former if it’s the latter. If she addresses it on the premise that it’s the former and they don’t stop, then she can change her assessment, but I wouldn’t start there.

      1. Student*

        I would agree with you except for the duration. I don’t think “good-natured teasing” goes on for so long unless the tease-target sends major signals that she is enjoying this particular jest. “bad-natured teasing” goes on and on and on as long as the teaser gets the desired payoff, potentially for years.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But sometimes it really does. See, for example, Bridget’s comment above about being someone who takes too long to realize something has stopped being funny to the person, but never bringing it up again once she realizes it.

    3. OhNo*

      I agree, but for a different reason than you stated. I don’t think most people will push harder out of malice, just as a self-defense mechanism. Many times, being told that they are doing something to hurt you makes other people feel bad or ashamed, which they try to cover up by pushing back. A common example is the “you’re just too sensitive!” response, which many people use to make themselves feel better by making their shame your fault, instead of taking responsibility. Going easy first gives them a chance to fix their behavior without prompting the defensive reaction that might hurt you more.

      Now ideally, you wouldn’t have to play that game, and you could just tell them what you want to happen and why, but it sounds like your coworkers might be a little light on empathy for that to work right out of the gate.

    4. AnotherFed*

      I agree with you – that sounds like a much better response to the culture the OP described. Without any intent to be mean-spirited or bullying, my teammates would do similar things, including, yes, passing around stupid videos of each other. The point is bonding over a shared moment without having to know anything terribly personal, and using humor to do so, and then using that shared sense of humor to deflect frustrations when trying to keep morale up even though Jane is about to go over the table at Wakeen for today’s disaster of choice.

      Going past “find a new joke already” to sharing something about hurt feelings/embarrassment would be different enough from the culture norms that even if it got the desired reaction, it would brand OP as someone who didn’t fit in. It’s rejecting the impression of a shared bonding moment and shared sense of humor, which is also going to reject a big chunk of what lots of workplace “friendships” are built on.

    5. neverjaunty*

      “Just ignore the bullies and they’ll go away” has always been terrible advice, because it falsely assumes that 1) bullies only want one reaction and 2) you can perfectly control your reaction to bullying. Sometimes bullies just want to bond with each other, or curry favor with authority figures (like the OP’s boss).

      1. AnotherFed*

        Student did not say ignore them. She instead gave ways to approach them that would not indicate weakness at all, which can be very important in getting a desired end state. I think it applies even if they aren’t intentionally bullying (which I tend to assume because OP has not told them to stop), because “enough already” is a very different level of shut down, and it’s likely to have far less impact on relationships with coworkers.

    6. Evergreen*

      I agree to go for something less formal (but I don’t agree that it’s bullying, more likely misdirected bonding).

      Some other ideas for scripts:
      ‘Haha, you wait til next company party! It’ll be my turn with the camera!’
      ‘Aw man, stop reminding me! I still can’t drink champagne (/beer/tequila/etc)!’
      ‘Haha if I’d known the first half of the meeting would be that video again I’d have stayed at my desk doing my job!’
      ‘Ugh! Let’s change the topic – I’m still mortified!’
      ‘You’re playing that again??! I should have set up a YouTube channel – you’d have cleared my student debt in adviews by now!’

    7. aebhel*

      Yeah, although it’s easier said than done. I think mildly annoyed ‘Drop it already’ is likely to work better than giving her coworkers more ammunition by disclosing her humiliation and drinking problem. The potential backlash of that if it turns out that it’s NOT all in harmless good fun just doesn’t seem like it would be worth it. And like you, that’s been the response I’ve mostly seen in situations like this.

      I’m pretty untrusting of the ‘show your sore spots to people who are already indicating that they can’t be trusted to behave in a kind and respectful manner!’ type advice. If her coworkers are good people, that will probably make them stop (unless they decide to double-down so they don’t have to feel like jerks). If they’re just after the reaction, now they know exactly how to get it.

  23. Chalupa Batman*

    Yes, please try to let go of the shame. My guess is that because you describe yourself as buttoned up at work, your coworkers never considered that you might have an actual problem with alcohol. I think a lot of us have given a good natured rib to a friend who had too much the night before (though I think it stops being funny within a few days), but would never tease like that with someone who we thought even might have a problem with alcohol. They may have even assumed you were so drunk because you’re not the “type” to drink often. You do not need to be ashamed. You saw that your behavior that night was a sign of a problem, and instead of ignoring it, you made a choice to change. You deserve to be happy, and you’re making that happen. YOU.

    My addition to the script suggestions for next time it comes up is a deadpan, “Yeah, that was funny. Two months ago. There won’t be a repeat performance. Now, the TPS report…” Or my personal favorite: *raised eyebrows* “Really?” *subject change*

    1. CM*

      I really like this advice. I agree that your coworkers wouldn’t find this so funny if they didn’t think it were so out of character for you. To you, this may have been part of a disturbing pattern, but to them, it was completely unexpected. It’s not really funny if the guy who’s always cursing and yelling at the top of his lungs does more of the same at the holiday party. So, while I think it’s a good idea to let your coworkers know it’s time to let this one go (and I’m with you, I also would not want to divulge a drinking issue at work unless I’ve successfully been sober for quite a while), I hope you won’t feel so nauseated and ashamed. It’s because they think you’re normally so professional that they find this one (to them, isolated) event so hilarious.

  24. The Wall of Creativity*

    “Yes I was drunk that night. And you were ugly. The difference is that today I’m sober.”

  25. Beck*

    This is why I take a “what happened in Vegas stays in Vegas” approach to company events. If somebody gets silly drunk I won’t mention it at all to them, except for one sly reference the next morning (looks like you had fun last night!). Unless they bring it up of course. Then it’s all fun and games :)

  26. Tomato Frog*

    Yeah, I would NOT talk about my struggles with alcohol with coworkers who behaved this way. They might not be ill-intentioned, but they’re clearly not the most thoughtful lot. It puts something out there that you can’t take back, and if they handle it poorly — which even well-intentioned people can do — you’ve just compounded the awkwardness they can cause for you.

  27. caryatid*

    OP – i would absolutely mortified if a coworker had to ask me to stop teasing them. i would stop immediately. hopefully most of your coworkers are like me.

    i also just realized i’m not exactly the teasing kind though.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I would be very upset with myself if it had gone that far. Usually my teasing goes along the lines of “look at you, superwoman, you did x, y and z. Where is your superwoman shirt?” It’s a left-handed compliment type of thing.

  28. CADMonkey007*

    The first step is making it clear you want them to stop! I would consider an email because calling someone out mid-joke tends to get people on the defensive or embarrassed. Try a simple message that essentially says “I know you all joke about it in good fun, but I’d rather not be reminded of my faux pas from the holiday party and request that the jokes come to an end.”

    If people continue to bring it up after that, then they are jerks and don’t be afraid to call them on it. It’s rude to continue joking when you’ve asked them to stop.

    1. JDT*

      ” I would consider an email because calling someone out mid-joke tends to get people on the defensive or embarrassed.”

      To that I say…good! They should feel embarrassed, and it should be awkward. Direct feedback in the moment is the best way to go to really shut this stuff down. The co-worker will survive a moment of embarrassment, and hopefully those feelings will fortify the message.

    2. aebhel*

      I actually would cut them off mid-joke, because then it immediately stops being fun for them, which means they’re less likely to keep doing it.

  29. nodumbunny*

    I wonder if the OP might be better off talking directly to her coworkers but *not* raising the issue of it having triggered realization she has a problem with alcohol. Because as has been noted above, that is opening up a whole different can of worms by sharing a personal issue with people who have proved they’re not very sensitive. What if she said “I know you don’t realize this, but I’m deeply embarrassed by what happened that night and I’ve realized I’d really been in the habit of drinking too much. Can I ask for your help in leaving it behind? I’d really appreciate it.”

    Thinking good thoughts for you OP.

    1. TootsNYC*

      You don’t even have to be “deeply” embarrassed to mind this.

      I’d stick with, “it bothers me,” and “it’s getting really old.” Even “it’s a joke at my expense, and I’m getting tired of it.”

      1. Willis*

        Agree. I think overdoing it at a party (work-related or otherwise) is probably something a lot of people can relate to…it’s easy to understand why someone could be generally embarrassed by the incident and tired of the teasing, without having to go into much personal detail. Plus, it’s been a couple months since the holidays…time for them to move on from these jokes. Good luck!

  30. insert pun here*

    I used to work in an office with an enthusiastic drinking culture — and not just the young folks, either. Obviously, I don’t know your coworkers (and your boss sounds like an asshole), but in my former workplace, this would be a “yeah, we’ve all been there, ha ha ha” bonding sort of thing. Of course, what they’re not getting is that we haven’t all been there — occasionally drinking too much and doing stupid shit is not the same thing as what you’re experiencing. If you have a trusted friend in the office, could you maybe tell them what’s up? You wouldn’t necessarily need to use the word “alcoholic” if you didn’t want to — just something like, “I realized I was spending too much time in bars and not doing enough crochet/javelin throwing/rabbit breeding/kayaking/whatever else you like to do, so I’m cutting back.” Even just feeling like you have one person on your side can help.

    And I think Alison’s note about shame is right on. Keep in mind that your shame may be preventing you from perceiving things clearly, and you may need to “overcorrect” until you get recalibrated. Of course, that is easier with sobriety. Good luck, we’re rooting for you.

    1. hamster*

      Yes to this . In 2 of my former offices it was a drinking culture and most people had this stories. It was nbd/bonding. Play hard/work hard of thing. They probably don’t even fathom drinking problem . I don’t know from a therapeutical point of view if it’s better to come out or not. But work-wise i think keep it , “so 2015” “so last year” “drinking too much fun stories” and letting it die will work easily cause you don’t add to the discussion pile .

  31. SH*

    The advice on this one is really solid so I just came here to congratulate you on three weeks of sobriety. You should celebrate every day that you’re sober and forgive yourself on the days you’re not.

  32. Mena*

    Anyone with any degree of empathy can imagine that you wish the whole scene never happened at all and don’t want to be reminded of it for the rest of your tenure with this company. This tells you a lot about the maturity (read lack there of) of your co-workers; they sound aggressive and mean with all their ‘kidding.’

    I think talking to your boss is key and enlisting help in shutting this down. And with the day-to-day snide comments (and however cheerily these are presented, these are snide, nasty jabs in disguise), I’d say “I pity the next target for teasing in this office. Hope it isn’t you because it is way over done. I should know.”

    Yes, you made an error in judgment and it was witnessed by co-workers. This isn’t the definition of your self-worth and it is now OLD. Your co-workers are behaving badly. Any reasonable person witnessing the ongoing ‘teasing’ is empathetic to YOU and looking down on these childish brats.

    Good luck. You don’t deserve this ongoing harassment (and that is what it has become at this point).

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      Exactly. I really, *really* take issue with the whole “you brought it upon yourself” attitude. Reputation may be something you bring upon yourself, harassment or joking is not. If your coworkers now think of you differently, there’s nothing you can do about it and it is sort of your fault. But you’re not required to endure jokes, especially at inappropriate times like meetings and during company communications.” It’s sort of like how a sex video might get out, and you might gain a reputation of being a slut. So now people’s perception of you is different. Fine. But if someone starts joking about it, calls you names, or tries to reach up your skirt, they cross the line. Your coworkers are crossing a line when they joke about the party at work.

      All this is to say that even though I think everyone thinks it’s good-natured fun and that you can approach them in a friendly manner, this isn’t something you’d appreciate them stopping. This is something they *need* to stop doing once you’ve asked them to.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Honestly, I think what OP did is one thing but what the coworkers and boss did is a whole different thing. For one thing, they are having this behavior while sober, so this is a clear headed choice on their part. While OP is taking steps because of this situation, coworkers are remaining stagnant, continuing on with their same behaviors. I can foresee a time where OP will outgrow these people and need to move on.

  33. The Bimmer Guy*

    I actually don’t think that being fall-over drunk at a company party requires you to suffer several months of ribbing from your coworkers. It’s certainly behavior you’d have been better off avoiding…but people who would bring it up in meetings are being inappropriate, themselves; that’s hardly the time or place, even if you consider it a worthwhile topic to mention at all. And anyone who adopts the mindset that you brought it upon yourself and refuses to stop…is a jerk.

    Also, it probably *was* a fireable offense. Most drunken displays are, really. But don’t let anyone (specifically superiors) tell you that “you should just be happy you didn’t get fired.” If they were willing to overlook your behavior and keep you on, they also need to be willing to drop the incident if you ask them to. That’s just basic decency, after all.

  34. Julie*

    Most people love to be helpful, especially if there’s a specific ask involved. Depending on your relationship with your coworkers, you might talk to one or two people in private. Without revealing anything personal, you could just say, “You know, I’m quite mortified about what happened, and it’s painful for me to keep being reminded of it. Do you think you could help me find a way to put a stop to this?” If you enlist one or two trusted people to be your advocates, they would step in next time someone makes a joke at your expense. In any case, good luck with everything, OP!

    1. BadPlanning*

      I was thinking something similar. Is there someone who would take the lead if you let them know the jokes were bothering you? That they would stop making the jokes themselves and then shutdown others, “Okay, okay, I think we’ve teased OP enough for today, let’s get back to the widget presentation.”

  35. Dasha*

    OP no advice but I’m glad you reached out and asked for advice and that you’re seeking help. I hope things get better for you and you’re able to put it behind you.

  36. Canempathize*

    Hi there, OP. I’m just another person sharing my experience with a similar issue. Kudos to you for recognizing you had a problem and seeking to change. I was addicted to drugs for about a 5-year period that culminating me going to jail twice IN ONE WEEKEND. I fortunately was only charged with public intoxication, but it could have been much worse. I realized I needed some serious help when I was sitting in jail the second time that weekend. I had tried to sober up on my own, but always seemed to relapse…. I made it a month sober one my own at the most before relapsing. So, I left my job for a month using FMLA leave, and I went to an in-patient rehab facility, and I’ve been clean sense (a little over a year now). My life sure has changed for the better; it’s amazing how much easier life it when you’re not messed up most of the time. My finances are better, work performance is much better, I recently got married, and we’re expecting our first child. I can’t believe how much my life has improved since my jailbird weekend.

    My work was pretty understanding (at least to my face). Come to find out, many of my co-workers and management were aware I was on something when they would see my bloodshot eyes, sometimes slurred speech, and diminished mental faculties. When I sobered-up, I was extremely embarrassed of my past. Frankly, I was petrified at the thought of returning to work after rehab, and yes, it was difficult, but I did it. I was up-front with my boss about my issues, and told him I’d prefer not to be asked about it by my co-workers. I’m not certain if he said anything about it, but I didn’t even get asked specifically why I was out when I returned. Most just extended me friendly, “welcome backs”, which I appreciated.

    I think if people understand it’s a serious matter, they’ll cease their joking about it. And the truth is, most people can relate to addiction problems. If not them, there’s a good chance they have/had a friend or family member/relative with similar issues. No one is perfect; we all just need to try to be the best versions of us we can be, and when we hit a bump in the road, do our best to try to get back on the right track.

  37. TootsNYC*

    “because someone could argue that you brought that damage on yourself more than the jokes have done,”

    I actually disagree with this. Well, someone could make that argument, but it’s not actually a factual argument.

    Because the jokes are making it impossible for the OP to recover from that damage.

    AND, the jokes are saying “my coworkers now don’t take me seriously on a routine basis,” and that’s serious damage that’s very different from “I got really drunk once and acted stupidly.”

    So I think it’s OK to start to get a little stern w/ people once our OP has started to make her point.

  38. Cobol*

    Allison has been saying it repeatedly, but until you tell/ask people to stop you can’t expect them to know you want them to stop.

    This is usually the first step in most interactions.

  39. Ultraviolet*

    I agree that it’s best to start with the assumption the teasing is intended to be good-natured. If it were me, I’d individually ask a few coworkers to stop. I’d go with some variation of “Can we please stop joking about the holiday party? I know these things can be funny, but I actually feel pretty bad about it.” And I especially like “feel bad” rather than “am embarrassed/ashamed,” since even good-natured teasing relies to some extent on embarrassing the target. Saying you feel bad will drive home the point that this teasing is missing the mark. You could also say this to your manager without also asking them to get everyone else to stop.

    If you feel better just asking them to stop bringing it up before presentations, you could say (again, individually to a few coworkers), “It’s really discouraging that my mistake at the holiday party is brought up so often when I’m presenting my work or communicating with the rest of the company. Can we please stop joking about it so often in those settings?” If someone does say that you brought in on yourself, you can say, “Yes, it was a mistake, but I’m still asking you to stop.” And if they don’t, then maybe you can talk to your manager.

  40. whyblue*

    If it were me, I’d tackle my coworkers one by one when it happens (starting with the ones I like) along the lines of “Can I ask you a favor? I know I screwed up that night and you guys think it’s hilarious. But I am trying really hard to forget that particular moment of my life. Could you stop joking about (latest joke)”. Combine with puppy eyes/shamefully. People like to help (much more than being asked to stop doing something), they’ll get the message. You might even be able to enlist the sympathetic ones to help shut down the insensitives. It’s stops being funny when nobody laughes along. Granted, there are a bunch of those conversations in your future. But I don’t think you need to get into any details or talk about alcoholism, that’s between you and yourself.

    1. Winter is Coming*

      I really like this approach. And you could even do it well after the joking (say a few hours or the day after) to give it some distance – that may cut down on any potential defensiveness. You could even do it as a “between me and you” request (not divulging anything about the alcoholism though).

    2. NK*

      I really like this. I think it’s best to approach people in a way that assumes that they’re not being jerks before saying things that assumes that they are.

  41. Myamitore*

    I’ve noticed that when a group of people (coworkers especially) keep going back to the same old joke over and over again, it can be because they’re trying to bond with each other but don’t know what else to talk about. They have one big thing in common (the shared joke) so they go back to that well whenever they need something to talk about. It sucks for the person who’s the butt of the joke, but it’s typically not meant maliciously at all, it just means they’re trying to be friends with you but have no idea what else to talk about!

    For OP, maybe coming up with other good topics of conversation to redirect the culprits away from the holiday party would be a good way to get the jokes to stop organically. For instance, if one of them is a Game of Thrones fan, you could preemptively bring up the most recent episode/news article/whatever before they have a chance to talk about the party. Everyone has something that they’re obsessed about – find whatever that thing is and use it to take control of the conversation.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “they’re trying to bond with each other but don’t know what else to talk about.” In places like this I have never seen people who ended up in true friendships. Once the job was over so are the friendships. There’s a lot of “Phew, at least it’s not me they are talking about” going on. This is not something lasting bonds are made of.

  42. Roscoe*

    The responses on here are why so many people, myself included, just roll their eyes when people start throwing around “harassment” and “bullying” for every little thing. To make it worse, people are bringing up lawsuits and the ADA.

    Look, people are making a joke over something (questionably) funny that they witnessed That happens. If you think they are going on too long, thats a very fair claim. But none of these things are bullying or harassment, or anything like that since the OP never communicated how it made them feel.

    I’m sorry that the OP is going through this, and it apparently made them see something in themselves that they need to change. However the way people are overreacting to this is ridiculous. Assume ignorance before malice. Nothing that has been said makes it sound like these are bad people. Just they joke with someone who doesn’t find it funny anymore. Thats fine. Give them the chance to change before you decide they are awful. But don’t call them bullies. Don’t threaten lawsuits. Thats all way too much.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It’s like my mom’s advice.

      “That’s illegal! Get a lawyer! start documenting!”

      Yes, it may be illegal, but let’s start with a conversation. Otherwise you’re bringing a tactical nuke to a knife fight.

    2. Donna*

      I agree that those terms are thrown around too much. However, the term “bullying” has been clarified and possibly expanded in the attempt to educate school children about it and its consequences. At the school level, there are different types of bullying–boy bullying, girl bullying, friend bullying, etc. The associated behaviors in each classification can look very different from each other.

      I’m not an expert, but what this group is doing somewhat fits the description of “friend bullying”. The jokes are a grey area, but the distribution of the video and the comments during the meeting could definitely be construed as such. In friend bullying, the “bullies” usually don’t realize that what they are doing is hurtful and the victims don’t feel like they’re in the position to object because of shame or fear of ostracization. Of course, the advice for the victim is to let the friends know, but this can still be terrifying for the victim!

    3. Xarcady*

      I don’t think the victim of bullying needs to tell the bullies it bothers her for it to become bullying. In fact, letting the bullies know that the victim is bothered often makes the bullying worse.

      I agree this doesn’t rise to the level of harassment, but there is a possibility it could be bullying, and I think that possibility needs to be considered.

      The length of time this has been going on, spreading it company-wide through the chat program, mentioning it in business meetings, and the manager videoing and spreading the video around the company? It might not be bullying, but it has all the hallmarks of bullying.

      1. Roscoe*

        Thats fair. But if these people truly think they are just having fun, labeling them bullies seems a bit much. I’ve had jobs where stupid things I did got me nicknames that stuck. I was fine with it. But if I wasn’t, yet acted like that, its a bit unfair then to tell people I’m being bullied at work because they aren’t intentionally trying to make me feel bad. I’m fine with saying the manager made some poor choices, but often these things can be settled with just a conversation

  43. Lauren*

    I am so sorry, OP, that you are bearing your pain alone. My dad had 44 1/2 years in AA when he died in 2012; my sister currently has almost 25 years, my two brothers stopped drinking on their own, and one sister is still heavily into drinking with no interest in stopping. (For some unknown reason, the disease bypassed me.)

    What I have learned from all this is how personal and emotional a decision it is to seek recovery. I admire more than I can say those who choose it and live it.

    Your original post stabbed me in heart because I cannot imagine the pain you are experiencing at work. No one, for any reason, should be the butt of others’ ongoing teasing but especially when that teasing is cruel and mean spirited because it is based on something personally painful to the person who is the victim of it. It is disrespectful. There is no reason for it. Your manager stinks. So do your co-workers.

    Whatever path you choose I send you my best. I hope you will be able to find peace in time.

  44. MissDisplaced*

    Oof! Oh, OP I feel for you. You’re brave to post this both as a lesson of what NOT to do at the company holiday party and also as a lesson in recognizing you had a drinking problem and want to get better.
    As others have mentioned, I don’t think this teasing is done in a mean-spirited way, nor is 2 months all that long in the workplace scheme of things (especially in the boredom of winter). However, you do need to nip this in the bud now and going forward, using any of the methods mentioned above. I agree you may not want to discuss your recent sobriety or AA with co-workers and that’s fine to leave that part out of the conversation, but certainly if you are going to AA your sponsor and group can help you formulate some good responses as well. Best of luck to you!

  45. Donna*

    OP, is there anyone at work who could be an advocate on your behalf?

    Maybe just telling one person–the right person–that you were going through a bad time and are truly humiliated about what happened would prompt him/her to go and pass it on to the other co-workers. Then you wouldn’t have to have the same painful conversation over and over again. You might get the “it’s all in good fun” or “you shouldn’t be so sensitive” comments at first, but I would hope that once you tell them that being reminded of the situation is making you physically ill and depressed, they’ll realize that it’s time to stop.

    The most important thing here is your health and continued sobriety–kudos to you for taking steps!

  46. Shabang*

    Not that this helps the OP, but if you are in a workplace and there is stuff like this going on, maybe you could be the someone who would say that maybe the “picking” about an incident should stop… Help someone else out and practice a little empathy. Most of us have had things like this happen, and when they do, I wish I had someone who would recognize and speak up to make it go away so we could all get back to work. That’s what work is all about, after all.

    I have had this experience (was brought up 7 years after the incident – that’s why I don’t drink with coworkers EVER) and also remember a coworker bringing up someone else’s “shituation” – all I could think was it said more about the person bringing it up than the one who was getting their chops busted.

    Earn Karma +5 – stomp out “shituations” in the workplace.

  47. 4 Years Sober*


    I am a recovered alcoholic, sober for four years in January. You are not alone in this. I think the advice Alison provided is spot-on. I also want to add another element: alcoholism is a disease. It is a very, very real disease. Though it is definitely socially acceptable to tease someone for drunken behavior, we would never dream of making fun of someone’s behavior if they were, say, diabetic and had a major sugar low, and lost control of their actions. Whatever you decide to do in terms of dealing with your (in my opinion, really immature) coworkers, I encourage you to start believing this, FOR YOU. No matter what others say or do, how they react, the most important part her is what you do, what you believe, what you know to be true about yourself.

    Having an alcohol problem does not make you weak, it does not make you undisciplined, it does not make you a somewhat less-than person. AT ALL. In fact, I strongly believe that those who face their addictions (whether alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, whatever) head on, admit there is something in their life that they are powerless over, turn it over to God (or Higher Power), and take action daily on recovery, are some of the best people I know. They each possess a high level of character, thankfulness, and generous spirit. There is strength that comes from weakness.

    Every person I know who has worked up to and into recovery has a “hit bottom” story. You are okay. You are normal. You are valuable, and most importantly, you can overcome this.

    Blessings and hugs.

  48. Mookie*

    OP, there’s no bed here. Having an illness is not a poor choice you made that you need to apologize for, nor does it define you. Please try to forgive yourself for what happened, and to not assign yourself responsibility for your co-workers’ boorish behavior. Best of luck to you, and congratulations on doing what so many of us can’t because we don’t have the courage or insight or will or ability to stave off our own self-destruction.

    1. Mookie*

      (Speaking mostly about myself in the last sentence; again, it’s not a personal failing or a character flaw or a sign of mental weakness to be ill.)

  49. Mr. T*

    Something similar happened at my work – we had a company outing, things got a little out of control, and I realized later that those who had been the most out of control didn’t appreciate being reminded about it. I got the cues from them and backed off. Only a handful of us witnessed it, so it didn’t become A Thing, otherwise they would have needed to nip it in the bud more directly.

    By the same token, I think it is annoying to have company sponsored events with tons of booze and then mock people who get drunk.

  50. Erin*

    As a recovering alcoholic of 27 years, I feel your pain. There are 2 separate issues going on here, IMHO. One is job related, and one is your life. Hopefully, you will look back on this incident and be grateful that it drove you into AA. Please, please talk to some women that are sober and going to meetings and get some advice from them on how you can move forward into sobriety. That’s the personal or life side of it. Job related, I would advise you to talk to some clean and sober people as well, but in the meantime, DO NOT mention trying to get sober in any of your conversations. Earth people (those people who are not alcoholic like us) sometimes have a hard time hearing alcoholic or alcoholism without jumping to conclusions or immediately thinking of some experience from their own lives that may cause them to judge you unfairly. Besides, the second word in AA is Anonymous. You will come to treasure your anonymity, if not now, in time, and you don’t want to announce to all and sundry that you have a drinking problem. For one thing, if you happen to relapse–not a requirement of membership in AA, but it happens–you don’t need extra scrutiny from your coworkers when you are feeling horrible about yourself already. That’s enough out of me for now. please contact Alison if you would like to speak to me directly. It’s all about one alcoholic helping another, and I am always happy to help another “Sister in Sobriety”.

  51. Banana Sam*

    FWIW, if a coworker explained that they were working on their sobriety I’d view it as a strength, not a weakness. Weak people do not take the difficult, painful steps necessary to improve themselves. You saw a problem, self-corrected, and became a better person/employee. Everyone screws up, but only some people handle it as well as you have.

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