I got embarrassingly drunk at a work event

A reader writes:

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

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

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

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

  1. What's with today, today?*

    Obligatory drunk co-worker spouse story. I’ve told this on AAM before.

    We are a very small, family-owned media company. At an office Christmas party about 8 or 9 years ago, a co-worker’s wife got super wasted. As they were leaving, the sales manager (owner’s son) jokingly asked if she wanted another glass of wine. She replied, “Why don’t you eat my ass?”

    We haven’t had alcohol at a work party since.

    1. irene adler*

      I dunno. Serving alcohol might make for a very entertaining party. Might even be less expensive than hiring someone to entertain.

    2. LadyL*

      I like her style, and I would be delighted to attend any office gathering with her, with or without alcohol.

    3. MicroManagered*

      I know this isn’t the response I’m supposed to have…. but I want to drink with that woman LOL

  2. uranus wars*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot on here. It can be mortifying, but it is recoverable.

    Early in my tenure at a company I got drunk at a non-work event but co-workers and their spouses present (we were at a bar watching a playoff game on a Saturday night) and ended up sleeping on a co-workers couch. While I didn’t do quite what OP did, my teetotaler and super judgmental boss found out and pretty much wrote me off as a massively unprofessional and untrustworthy employee. I apologized and became the picture of professionalism and absolutely never again drank at a company function or in the presence of co-workers.

    It took less than 6 months for me to get back in the good graces of management and in a year we were joking around about it – but for the remainder of my time there I still did not touch alcohol.

    1. SoCalHR*

      That seems like an unreasonably harsh reaction from your boss (which I guess makes sense according to how you described said boss). It was a non-work event and you drank too much but didn’t do anything egregious while drunk…that should have been looked over pretty quickly. But I commend you doing what it took to repair your reputation (even though I don’t think it should have been THAT damaged).

      1. uranus wars*

        Oh, I wholeheartedly agree with both you and Roscoe that it’s ridiculous the boss even found out about it, let alone let it bleed into work, but I do think you can overcome it if you put your mind to it.

        And yes, it took me awhile to realize the company how far across the work/personal boundary this entire company tended to go.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        I think Uranus Wars’ boss was ridiculous and harsh…but then, there are things that would make me write off a coworker as an “unprofessional and untrustworthy employee” even if done at a non-work event. Drinking a little too much doesn’t push any of my “it’s unprofessional and untrustworthy even though it was done on their off-time” buttons, but there are actions that would – and I think there are for most people. I don’t want to to get sidetracked by specifics, so I’ll keep this vague, but if I found that someone I had until then liked did something in their private life that demonstrated a high degree of selfishness or thoughtlessness or otherwise indicated a lack of character, yes, I would think less of them both personally and professionally. I think most people would do the same, it’s just that we don’t have the same criteria for what demonstrates a high degree of selfishness or thoughtlessness or otherwise indicates a lack of character. :-)

  3. Eric*

    Not a huge fan of suggesting OP uses the phrase “one too many” in this case. It makes it seem that you think that your alcohol intake was just a little too much, rather than far over the line, which it sounds like OP agrees it was.

    1. Kate*

      Yeah, I was worried that phrasing might make the boss think the OP was downplaying it too. I was thinking something more along the lines of, “I should have been more responsible about how much I was drinking. I’m so sorry…” and the rest of it.

      1. V*

        I had the same reaction. “One too many” may come off as a lack the self awareness that it was “several too many” and would undermine the apology

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Came here to say the same thing. When I have ‘one too many’ I’m giggly and in love with the whole world, but I don’t really change my usual behavior. Sadly, what the OP described was way too many.

      1. Emily K*

        I was once at informal after-work drinks with several members of my team, and towards the end of my second drink there was a moment where I got really excited about something we were discussing and I touched/lightly grabbed my coworker’s arm just above his elbow in my excitement, in a sort of familiar way.

        I was almost instantly mortified by myself because I am nooooot into touching in the workplace, at all. I immediately switched to water. I wouldn’t have stopped drinking if I’d been out with friends because I wasn’t *that* drunk – just buzzing. But the first time you realized you’ve crossed a boundary at work because of your lowered inhibitions, the best thing to do is not just tell yourself to act better, but to stop drinking for at least the time it takes to slowly drink a full glass of water.

        If you’ve already crossed a boundary due to alcohol, you’re not going to become any less likely to repeat the mistake by consuming more alcohol.

    3. Friday*

      I think it’s just a phrase to indicate “too much” not a quantifying statement of exactly when OP went over the Reasonable Alcohol line. I doubt the boss wants a flowchart of all drinks consumed, type of drinks, times consumed, etc. to break down exactly when OP was in the bag.

    4. Mom MD*

      Agreed. That’s about five too many at least. I like Kate’s suggestion. It’s never ok to be sloppy drunk at a work party and a sincere apology is the way to go.

          1. neeko*

            Neither is the phrase one too many. And there is a shaming aspect to her “five too many” comment that is pretty unkind. This person clearly feels awful and making them feel even more shameful is unhelpful and crappy, honestly.

            1. MtnLaurel*

              I have to say I took “one too many” as being a bit of an understatement….like saying “it’s a wee bit chilly” whenit’s below zero.

    5. Engineer Girl*

      I agree. Minimizing the intake would almost equate with trying to minimize what happened and not accepting responsibility.

      I’d use the phrase “several too many”

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I’d just say “I drank too much”! and then go with Alison’s script from there.

    6. Emily K*

      Agreed. I was also disturbed by the way he referenced not remembering what he did. Some people seem to think that not remembering somehow partially alleviates them of responsibility, as if they were possessed during that time – I would have never done that if I knew what I was doing! Except, at the time you did know what you were doing. You just don’t remember it now. And the fact that he drank so much that he actually blacked out and can’t remember part of the night means he was many, many drinks past where he should have stopped at a work function, and continuing to drink was also behavior he knew he was doing at the time.

      It’d be one thing to say, “I got way too drunk and acted awfully.” It’s another to say, “I had one too many and did something I don’t remember that were apparently awful.” The latter suggests he might want to avail himself of the EAP.

    7. Thor*

      FWIW, I’ve always taken “one too many” to be a colloquialism that doesn’t literally mean (acceptable amount of alcohol)+(Literally one drink)

  4. Professor SICKamore*

    I briefly worked for a dysfunctional non-profit that cycled through EDs every two or three years. We regularly held events for donors that were catered and included alcohol. Toward the end of “events season,” we got a passive-aggressive email from our Deputy Director, reminding us that during these events we are representatives of the organization, and that visible drunkenness is strictly forbidden. Well, by the end of the day, the entire company knew that our ED herself was the impetus for that email, and several people were whispering about how embarrassingly drunk she ALWAYS got at these events. I just looked up the staff list on the org’s website. She’s still ED.

    1. Anonymous Nonprofitter*

      Ugh. I’m in the nonprofit industry too. I have two stories about one leader in particular.

      When I was working in a large organization, a new president was hired. It was a BIG. DEAL.
      Two days after he started, before his wife had moved to our area yet, I was out with friends on a weeknight. We had dinner and after-dinner drinks, and then were all about to head home at 10 when I saw our new president (my great-great-grand-boss) show up with a buddy.
      I ended up reminding him who I was and felt like I couldn’t go home. My friends and I stayed out with him until 2 a.m., eventually ending up at the gay bar down the street on a dare. His response was “I’ll go if you go” so we all went (a group of 6 20-something women and two middle-aged white dudes).
      I went into work the next morning and casually mentioned it to my direct boss. She got very serious and told me to tell my department VP everything.

      Fast forward 9 months later. It’s pretty well-known by now that new prez is a drunk. His wife is lovely and clearly covers for him A LOT. He’s much better behaved in her presence. He’s been spoken to by the board about limiting his alcohol intake. So, at social functions, he’s starts with NA beer and then switches to the real stuff after an hour or so.
      So I’m travelling with him and his wife all around the state visiting donors. We’re in two cars, so his wife bounces between riding with him and with me. Trip goes fine, but clearly he’s hanging in the bar until close every night of the trip.
      I come into work the following Monday after this long-weekend trip, and am told that he has resigned immediately. Turns out, the board and senior leadership arranged a coux while we were travelling.

      I never saw him again.

      1. pancakes*

        I shouldn’t be surprised but it’s nonetheless horrible to see hetero people talk about going to a gay bar “on a dare.” I’m bi and have lots of gay & lesbian friends. Perhaps you have more acquaintances than you realize who don’t feel they can trust you handle them being candid about their sexuality. Don’t treat fellow human beings like zoo animals, please.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Yes, this. Treating a gay bar as a place to go “on a dare” is rude at best. Queer folk go to queer bars to drink in peace and be around similar folks, not to conveniently position themselves as entertainment for hets.

        2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

          Thank you. I thought this immediately. We LGBT people aren’t there for gawking at .

    2. feminazgul*

      I encountered similar behavior at my first professional job which was at a nonprofit. The culture there around alcohol was absolutely terrible.

  5. Amber Rose*

    I think just keep in mind that you aren’t the first by far, and you definitely won’t be the last, to get inappropriately drunk at a work function. One of our guys got so drunk at the Christmas party that he left his hotel room in just his underwear, locked himself out of the room, and was escorted by security for wandering around the hotel like that.

    You aren’t “flash a whole hotel of guests” inappropriate at least. Be apologetic, stick to juice and water, and forgive yourself.

    1. Anonbcwork*

      So true – This past Christmas was the first year my company didn’t have a holiday party. Based on what people told me, it’s because last year, someone got really drunk and mooned the camera at the photo booth. (I hadn’t joined the company then so this is all based on secondhand sources!)

    2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      One of my co-workers, last month, was so drunk at a work function her manager had to buckle her into her seat in a taxi.

      (I was a bit tipsy, and we were all a bit fragile the following day. One of the managers kept refilling my glass whenever I turned my head, so I found it really hard to track my drinking)

    3. many bells down*

      I knew a guy in college who would invariably get naked after his 5th drink. Like clockwork. The first time a work event of his served alcohol was not good for his career.

  6. spek*

    Just follow the Rules for Company Parties:
    1. This is not a place or time to air grievances, snub rivals, or engage in petty office political games
    2. Smile and pretend to enjoy yourself (if your significant other can’t do so also, leave them at home and go solo)
    3. Go ahead and volunteer to help set up, but never volunteer to clean up after
    4. One drink maximum (I get a vodka soda with lime and keep topping it off with club soda all night). NO SHOTS
    5. Be charming, remember coworker spouse/partner’s name and look sincere when greeting them. Be sure to thank everyone above you in management for sponsoring the party.
    6. Don’t dance. Too much can go wrong and it’s just not worth it.
    7. Don’t announce you are leaving – wander off, leave your drink on the table or in the bathroom and split. Do not be the first to leave, but be close.
    8. Leave early and get drunk elsewhere (nothing good ever happens after the boss leaves, and if there is an incident, you can be left completely out of the inquest).

    1. Applesauced*

      Adding my personal rules (which I haven’t *always* followed) for office drinking events:
      1. Schedule – 1 cocktail, food & water, 1 beer/wine, then go home. Nothing good (professionally) happens after 2 drinks.
      2. FOOD. There never seems to be a good food to booze ratio at company parties, so if you see food GO FOR IT.
      3. Water . Sparkling with a lime/lemon or bitters if you still want to be festive.

    2. Amber Rose*

      You know, work parties can be fun. You don’t have to just pretend they are and act like a stiff. It’s OK to relax a little. Just drink within your limits. I usually have a blast convincing everyone to line dance with me.

      I have one rule and one rule only: for everyone else’s sake, avoid doing anything that might possibly be described as “sexy.”

      I’ll never forget my boss doing a really uncomfortable dance involving a chair and the song Pony. -_-

      1. Nan*

        Oh, you missed the party where our office manager hired a stripper for the Director’s birthday or going away party (I can’t recall which). It was at the office. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched your Director lick Redi-Whip off a lady’s backside. Oy!

        It was Cowboy by Kid Rock, not Pony, though :)

        1. Amber Rose*

          Noooooo. D:
          I would combust. Sheer embarrassment would cause me to just die on the spot.

      2. Far more anon than usual*

        O_o. Unless you work at a strip club or on the set of another Magic Mike sequel, there’s no possible way that Pony could be part of anything work-appropriate.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I work for a manufacturing company. =P

          My boss requested the DJ play it. If you think that’s bad, you probably don’t want to hear about the party games. I actually hid to avoid them.

          There’s a small part of me that wants to see if I can convince the DJ to play some Ninja Sex Party next time as a prank of sorts. But the rest of me is very reasonably pointing out that I would be the one to suffer for it.

          1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

            Just play Dinosaur Laser Fight, or Cool Patrol, something like that….;-)

        2. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

          I don’t know that song. Do I need to look it up, or avoid it altogether?

          1. Amber Rose*

            Pony? It’s not something you need to particularly avoid. It’s just very… stripperific. If you can’t handle sexual songs where a guy wants someone to ride him like a pony, then maybe avoid it. :D

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            It’s a good song! There is no way to dance to it other than very provocatively, though. It’s definitely a club/striptease song, though, not a work-appropriate one.

    3. Anon attorney*

      I agree with the general idea here, but there’s nothing wrong with dancing at a company function, provided you’re not grinding on the finance director.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Setting up means taking a clean space and organizing all the party stuff that goes into it. Clean up generally means a giant mess plus probably lots of food & drink spills. I know which one I’d rather do.

        1. SoCalHR*

          Preference is one thing (some people like taking a messy space and putting it back in order), but the way spek wrote it sounds like there is a *reason* for the conclusion, beyond just preference.

          1. Lindsay J*

            Volunteering for clean up means that you have to be there at the very end to clean up. So you can’t leave if you feel like you may have over-imbibed, or if a coworker has and is making you uncomfortable, or if there is no food and you want to leave to actually find some.

          1. Breda*

            Yeah, it means you HAVE to stay to the end, rather than leaving whenever you feel like it.

    4. Emily K*

      #7/8 reminds me of the episode of The Office where the gang was invited to James Spader Boss’s mansion and Jim’s strategy was to stay long enough to be seen, and for one memorable thing to happen that he’ll be able to discuss at work the next day so that nobody knows he left early. (He left after James Spader, Ryan, and Gabe all jumped in the pool naked.)

    5. Shannon*

      Meh. I know that dancing #6 has endeared me to coworkers because I’ve heard it through the grapevine. I go to dance class every week and love it. At the annual party I always get coworkers and their kids, etc. on the dance floor if I can tell they just want someone to dance with and are scared to dance alone. I don’t drink.

  7. Dobermom*

    I have a story related to drinking around co-workers (and bosses!). I should start by saying I’m about 4 years removed from this event and I still have the same boss.

    My boss had just (in my eyes) “resuced” me from a bad workplace situation. I was in a department with no future and a micromanaging supervisor. This guy (my now boss) found me, created a role for me, and I’ve stuck by his side ever since. My work life almost immediately went from “I’m constantly looking for a way out” to “I never want to leave.”

    About 3 months into my new role, a few co-workers invited me out bowling. Little did I know, my new boss was there, too! We’d had casual/friendly conversations prior to this, but I’d never seen him out in the “real world.” We had a few drinks while bowling, and I guess I had “one too many.” The next thing I know, I’ve got my head on my co-worker’s shoulder (not my boss’s shoulder, FYI) absolutely SOBBING. Through tears, I look at my new boss and say, “You’re the best boss I’ve ever had!” And I just kept saying it over and over.

    Needless to say, the following Monday rolls around, and I’m mortified. I’m dreading going to work because of how I behaved. Well, he acted as if nothing happened. There was no weirdness, no nothing. Just business as usual.

    Fast forward about 2 years, and I’d all but forgotten about that night. I was talking with my boss about some work issue, and I jokingly said, “I can handle it. I don’t want you to see me cry!” Well, he smiled at me and said, “You forgot. I DID see you cry.”

    1. Workerbee*

      Your boss sounds so cool. A rescuer and an “eh, things happen” type.

      I feel the years-ago mortification, though.

  8. Bea*

    Omg :(

    I’m grateful even my sloppier drunk self in nonwork events never go to that level.

    My last Christmas party before departing a company I was highly respected in was as silly as I had gotten. My supervisor brought tequila and we’re the worst like that. My big boss only had a concern about me getting home safe but my mom (lol not ashamed) picked me up. I drug my sorry hungover butt into work the next day since I was working overtime to get my process docs in place for them. Everyone was hungover, I went to get us lunch at like 10am because we needed food so bad.

    I don’t know how I would feel about a co-worker who was OTT drunk. In our industry it’s not outrageous except when you get into the touchy feely and inappropriate conduct with co-workers. Spouses come to our events and even if someone was drunkenly engaging in PDA within a relationship makes things go into a bad space in my experience. So yeah. Eep this entire thing is making me think too much into everything.

  9. nerdgal*

    Pop up ads are out of control on the INC website today. Would have liked to read the letter.

      1. Kellyk*

        I recommend an ad block for your browser. Also, if you don’t want any type of pop up, press the esc key continuously as soon as the webpage loads up. This is stop the site from loading further.

        1. IT Manager in Toronto*

          Add blockers aren’t even covering this crap today. I might never visit Inc again. It was that bad. 1/3 of the page visible, oy vey.

    1. YouthTwitter*

      I came out of lurking in the comment section just to agree with you. I even took a screen shot of the black background with dark grey writing in case Allison wants to see how terrible Inc is…

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m sorry that’s happening! I have no control over the ads over there and I suspect no influence when I pass along complaints, but I’ll pass these along.

    3. Anu*

      Same boat here. I gave up on reading. And I do have ad-blockers on my laptop but nothing currently on my phone. I should probably look into that.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I didn’t get AdBlock until several months ago. I wanted to support reasonable ads and the web sites I visit.
        But it got so bad (on my home MacBook) that I couldn’t read an article posted by a friend because the ads made the screen freeze and I couldn’t scroll. I would be trying to read or find something and intrusive video ads would start talking at me, and sometimes I couldn’t even find them to turn them off!
        I couldn’t use the Quora site at all until I got AdBlock. It would just freeze up.
        So if site managers don’t want us to use AdBlock they need to keep the ads at a reasonable level. Sadly, most don’t. It’s also obvious they don’t test the way ads affect their site before they deploy them. Tech 101… smh.
        I tried to read this article on my phone last night and couldn’t, as I posted downthread. Mobile AdBlock, here I come!

  10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    This happened at a work-sponsored party that it just so happened that I hosted at my house. This was a pretty PG-13 rated thing, in my opinion. Also, none of the coworkers noticed and no one got into trouble. My oldest child was at the time a junior in high school, in all AP classes, getting all As with hardly any effort on his end, and was hellbent on not going to college “because it’ll be a waste of time”. He wanted to work in the same field I do. So, a few days prior to the party, I asked my one teammate who was a couple of years out of college if he could talk to my son at some point during the party, and try to convince him that college is worth it. He said sure! So, maybe an hour into the party, I dragged my 16yo son downstairs and introduced him to the coworker. “Hey, Son, this is Fergus, Fergus this is Son. Fergus, can you tell Son why he needs to go to college?” Fergus turns to my son, swaying ever so slightly, looks him in the eye, and says: “Two words. Drunk. Girls!” My son ran back upstairs horrified. He didn’t like socializing, didn’t want to date, and didn’t want to do thinks with/to drunk girls. He did end up going to college, but I cannot give Fergus credit for that.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Coworker! not a friend. There’s a difference. But yeah, pretty much.

        It is amazing what, otherwise deeply hidden, thoughts can come out of people when they’re drunk.

    1. Bea*

      Frigging Ferguses strike again.

      I’m the worst at my college hatred, this being said to a teen on the fence about it is so vile and adds to it. Argh.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        When my son did go to college, he made sure his experience was the opposite of Fergus’s. He took all the credits, went to all the seminars, did nothing not school-related, and graduated in five semesters. He just wanted it over with. My personal college experience was somewhere in between, and ended with me marrying my kids’ dad, whom I’d met there.

  11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Also just remembered that I and another female coworker once stood guard for a male coworker who, on our way from the parking lot to a bar for an afterparty, had to go to the bathroom so bad that he unzipped his pants and peed on a wall near an entrance of a bank, in a posh, trying to be trendy, outdoor shopping center. (It looks like a village and there are horse carriages that can take you around the shopping center. Enough said.) A group of old ladies came our way. I had to walk up to them and distract them while he peed. The other coworker worked in HR. I will never tell anyone who knows this guy professionally, but let’s be honest, I’ll never forget, either.

    1. HyacinthB*

      A friend got banned from a casino for peeing on their wall (not near the entrance, around the side where no one was about). Not work related, but still funny.

  12. MF*

    Not sure what your history with alcohol is like, but it might be worth talking to a professional about. (You can have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol without being alcoholic.)

    It might also be helpful to tell your boss: “I’m evaluating my relationship to alcohol with a therapist right now in order to ensure that what happened then will never happen again.”

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Great point. While anyone would likely have embarrassed themselves after heavy drinking at a professional event, if the alcohol is leading you to be combative and possibly sexually harassing coworkers, it’s worth reevaluating your relationship with it.

      1. Bea*

        This is an excellent way to word it. I was struggling with exactly what the appropriate thing to say in that respect is.

        I’ve known plenty of drinking and shenanigans involved but these are dangerous and illegal.

    2. MLB*

      I think that’s a pretty big leap considering we know nothing about the LW outside of this one incident. Personally I am a very cautious person and have only allowed myself to drink to excess when I knew I was with people I wholeheartedly trusted to keep me safe (i.e. not at a work event). But people make mistakes. Doesn’t mean they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

      1. ANONforTHIS*

        True. I got drunk at a work party once and I don’t have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I learned quite a bit from the one time!

    3. Meh*

      Eh, this seems very over the top. I drank very rarely in my early 20s and the times I did, I often over indulged because I was drinking at the same pace as my friends without having their tolerance. Now I limit myself to one drink because I get tired/headaches, but I wouldn’t say I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol when I was younger.

  13. AKchic*

    I really think the letter probably downplayed the severity of what happened. If multiple people came to HR to complain, there was a problem. If you cannot remember parts of your night, you had more than “one too many”; you blacked out.
    What the LW may be describing as a drunken “playful push” or “put my arm around someone” may have been a lot worse. It could have been a harder shove to a sober person getting pushed (and from witnesses viewing the incident), and it may have been sloppy unreciprocated flirting with an uncomfortable coworker who was trying to extricate themselves from a situation. And that’s just what LW is willing to describe (or can remember!).

    Damage control needs to be seriously apologizing to the boss, sure; but not minimizing the drinking aspect, or minimizing the potential damage LW may have caused.
    “I realize that I drank more than I normally do, and that was not professional or in character of me, and I apologize. I would like to apologize to everyone I offended, but considering the fact that I cannot remember everything that I did that night, and considering what I have heard that I did, it would probably be best if I emailed my apologies to the staff or affected staff.”
    Then be the consummate professional and avoid drinking at functions for a while.

    I have so many drunk coworker/cast stories, and frankly – they all knew better. There are times where I want to shake people for doing foolish things.

    1. lovinglife*

      in our organization this behavior at a company event would warrant at least a mandatory referral to Employee Assistance and maybe even disciplinary action. Being drunk does not absolve you from the consequences of your choices.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      +1 to what OP may or may not remember.

      I know someone from college who had a bad drinking night (in college, underage drinking… sigh) and remembered “giving a girl a hug” when he was introduced to her through mutual friends. He actually gave her an over-the-shoulder boob-grab.

      He was mortified to learn the truth (like a week later…), apologized profusely to the girl, and never had another incident like that (to the best of my knowledge) thank goodness.

  14. Mom MD*

    Keep in mind that binge drinking to the point of being out of control is now identified medically as a form of alcohol abuse and may require intervention.

    1. sfigato*

      When I was in college I had a really unfortunate experience where I drank so much I blacked out. It caused me to cut back on my alcohol intake, which was somewhat challenging because the default attitude towards alcohol among my cohort of 20 somethings was pretty abusive. I would tell my horror story and they’d be like, ah, that happened to me! One time I got so drunk I peed my pants! etc. My point being that abusive behavior towards booze is pretty standard in some segments of society. It’s pretty much saturday night in many college environments.

      1. A Nickname for AAM*

        Yup, I remember in college seeing a lot of my classmates from high school post on social media (AIM, early Facebook) things like: Friday night, Operation Blackout!

        It typically cemented my choice to attend my particular college, where knowing when to stop drinking was considered an important social skill.

      2. Cochrane*

        The university setting is the only place I’ve been where “alcoholic” is a badge of honor and something to aspire to.

    2. Courageous cat*

      What does this even really mean? That all college kids (or even rational adults) who get really drunk at a party are alcoholics, even if partially? And what kind of “intervention” would be necessary after one has a night where they binge drink?

      Yes, for *patterns* of that kind of thing, that may signify something. But without any further context other than one drunken mistake, I don’t think this comment is helpful.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Yes it is serious, no its not alcoholism. Let’s look at it this way, say you get really mad in whatever context and become physically violent. Sure in some areas assault that doesn’t cause bleeding or bruising is seen as “no big deal.” Sure it may really have just been a perfect storm and you snapped. Should you be required to go to anger management and/or seen as having a chronic problem? Maybe not.

        Regardless, even if its just once it is still serious maybe even more so because it is so far removed from what your normal reaction is. At the very least is should cause you to take a hard look at the circumstances leading up to the incident. Whether its drinking or raging even one incident where you are out of control could lead to a ruined reputation, permanent injury or death for you and those around you.

        One other point. There have been alcoholics in my family and it is something that has genetic links. When a young member of the family got black out drunk the first time he drank at all that was a GIANT red flag. Because the pattern isn’t just the one person in the story the pattern could also be in that person’s genetics.

  15. AlcoholAnonymouseToday*

    We had a coworker who was drinking on the job. She went out to lunch one day, and bumped a car in the parking lot and drove off. The owner of the car (not in our office) saw her and reported it to police. They came, suspected she was tipsy and breathalyzed her in the office parking lot (our office has tons of windows looking over the lot). She passed, but the next day, (they must have been reeeeallly suspicious) she got pulled over as she was driving off the lot to go home and flunked it. She then went to a prestigious work event we were hosting in another state and continued to obviously drink. Once that team was back in the office, she was let go, to say the least. I hope she got the help she needed.

    1. AKchic*

      Ugh. I had a coworker who was blatantly sloshed at work almost daily. Came to work still drunk from the night before and reeked of cheap whiskey.

      We reported multiple times. Nothing ever happened. So many problems with this person, but we suspect she has some dirt on the company in order to stay with her problems.

  16. Michaela Westen*

    I tried to read this on my phone and wasn’t able to because the screen was black with pale blue letters. I don’t know if the big black car ad at the top anything to do with this.

  17. GreenTea*

    It boggles my mind that people over the age of 25 even still do get drunk, let alone at any work function.

    1. MissDissplaced*

      But that’s precisely why it happens at work events. People who normally don’t drink, drink (to fit in, nerves, etc.). They may not be used to the alcohol and chaos ensues.

  18. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    At my first job we had a team dinner. I was the newest and youngest member and very nervous. I got so drunk I can only remember throwing up in the bathroom while my boss’s wife chatted with the director’s wife. They were older ladies with grown kids and both assured me that they had seen everything with their kids. Bless their hearts.

  19. Don't Party Too Hard Kids*

    Oh boy – I wonder if I worked with OP as we recently had an almost identical situation at a company event. Unfortunately, the “playful” aspect involved actual groping and the “bar incident” was the offender trying to make out with someone rather forcibly.

    He was terminated within the week.

  20. cantaloupe*

    Honestly I wish companies would stop having open bar types of events. I belong to a community organization where we give out two drink tickets per person at the door and there is no option to purchase additional beverages. That seems to work well-and our insurance carrier is much happier. A few people might manage to get some additional beverages, but overall it has functioned well.

    1. Cochrane*

      At an old job, the sales staff noticed when HR came around to hand out the drink tickets for the holiday party later that day that the tickets were from a roll of raffle-style tickets sold in the local office supply store. At lunch, they buy a roll of these tickets and slip them to their buddies and used them amongst themselves at the party that night.

      I wish I could have been there to see the reaction when management settled up the bill and nearly triple the amount of tickets handed out were collected from the bartender stations.

    2. Jean Lamb*

      Our company had an open bar for a Christmas party, and the first DUII was at 8 pm, even though the company had laid on taxis to get people home. Never Again.

  21. essEss*

    Ugh… long ago I worked at a store and our department staff would go out on Tuesdays to a local place for margaritas after work. It was a long-standing tradition. One night, I remember we decided to go hang out at our department boss’s house after we had the margaritas. She was at the restaurant and it was her idea. We arrived at her house, had a couple more drinks and some food and we were sitting around chatting when we realized that we hadn’t seen 2 of our staff in a while. Boss goes looking for them and finds them having sex in her bedroom on her bed.

    She didn’t interrupt them or yell at them but she quietly told us the party was over and we needed to leave. She decided to have a private word with them after we were gone whenever they decided to emerge and rejoin the group.

    I don’t know what was said since I left with everyone else, but I was stunned to find out that they both still kept their jobs working in our department. Personally I would have flung open the door, yelled a lot and fired the both of them.

  22. AnnNoE*

    Had a co-worker, who was actually supposed to be my report but since she actively ignored me, I handed her off to our Director…anyhoo, she claimed she had a medical condition, one that alcohol would normally aggravate, but insisted that alcohol actually helped “quite” her condition down. She always had a glass of iced tea with her. Eh, we are in the Deep South so that was not really odd. What was odd was the fact that every time her glass got low she went out to her vehicle and came back in with a full glass. We were certain that her iced tea was more of the Long Island Iced Tea variety rather than Sweet Tea as she became less focused and verbally louder as the day progressed.

    National Conference rolls around. She pulled medical condition and got *my* single room. Proceed to invite a bunch of folk up to party with her. I stopped in to cover the next day’s itinerary and she is cutting lines in the bathroom. I high tailed it out of there. The next morning she was still so wasted that I sent her back to her room and told her to stay there. She was eventually let go but not without a lot of convincing on all of our parts to our Director who just thought she needed one more, then another, then another chance.

    The next year at conference, small industry, many of the same attendees, I fielded tons of questions about her whereabouts.

  23. The Sociopath's Ex*

    My ex-husband had a serious drinking problem. When he did particularly outrageous things when drunk (which sometimes involved police being called), he would say he had just started a new medication and didn’t realize that its interaction with alcohol could cause whatever problem he’d caused.

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