Drinking Ruined My Career! How I Lost Everything and Began to Rebuild My Life
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are on the rise in the U.S. More adults are drinking more heavily, and the consequences are serious. Heavy drinking increases the risk of certain health conditions and exacerbates mental illness. It can also interfere with daily functioning. Many people struggle to maintain relationships, jobs, and other normal activities as drinking becomes problematic. The good news is that no matter how far the drinking has gotten, recovery is possible with focused, professional treatment.
Drinking ruined my career, but there was a silver lining. It may seem cliché, but I truly hit rock bottom when I no longer had my job. I used to love it. It gave me purpose and a sense of identity. I was good at it. When alcohol and addiction destroyed that, it destroyed me, and that was how I knew I needed help and to rebuild everything about my life.
It Started at Happy Hour
I landed the perfect marketing job—finally. I worked in a great office in the city with people I enjoyed and with a cool boss. Everything was going great, but the job was high-powered and stressful with long hours. I started joining co-workers for happy hour on Thursdays. It felt like a great way to unwind and connect with each other.
But Thursdays turned into Wednesdays and Thursdays. Then we added Fridays. Before long, I felt I needed a post-work drink just to relax, even by myself at home. I was in my dream career and a perfect position, and I guess I felt like an imposter. The stress of worrying that I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t hold on to the job really got to me. Drinking helped me let go of that feeling, at least for a few hours.
When Things Began to Spiral
The first way that drinking impacted my job was a night at happy hour that I drank too much. My boss actually had to help me to a ride share car to get me home. The next morning, I couldn’t even remember everything that had happened. I was so embarrassed I almost called in sick, but I figured that would just make it worse.
I vowed never to do that again and, to bury my embarrassment and shame, I got drunk that very next night at home, alone. My vow lasted about a week and then I did it again. I threw up outside the bar where we have happy hour and really did call in sick the next day.
Finally, I Hid My Drinking
At this point, I knew I couldn’t keep drinking with my coworkers like that. It wasn’t just embarrassing; it was going to get me fired, I thought. But I didn’t really want to stop drinking. So, I went out for one or two drinks and left early to show everyone that I was fine, that I didn’t have a problem.
So, I went home and drank more. I was getting drunk almost every night of the week. I would stop for a few days here and there, but the brief sobriety never held. I thought if no one could see me drink too much, and I came to work and got the job done, I didn’t have a problem.
Of course, I couldn’t fool myself forever. My strategy of simply hiding my drinking eventually failed. I started coming in late to work, and while I still got everything done, my boss noticed. Then, my work did start to falter. I messed up a really important presentation on a marketing strategy for a new client. My boss entrusted me with it, and I let her down.
I Lost My Job
I had put a couple of years of really hard work into my job before it completely fell apart. Looking back now, I can’t believe how long I held it together as such a heavy drinker. I was killing myself on the inside but managing my career in the office.
I even got promoted about six months before I lost my job and burned a few bridges. The final straw came when I got drunk once again at happy hour. I had a bad day at work, struggling to focus on and get a project done. I lost my temper with part of the team working under me and turned in a half-hearted effort to my boss.
At happy hour, as usual I planned to have two drinks. Instead, I had 10 shots, several in secret on the other end of the bar from a different bartender. When my boss confronted me, I called her a few choice words. When some of my coworkers tried to calm me down, I did the same to them. I lost my job the next morning.
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I Decided to Get Help
Without my job, and with bills continuing to come in, I knew I had to make changes. Not only did I lose that job I loved, but I ruined my chances of working in the industry in my area. I burned too many bridges, caused too much harm and damage. My boss had been so supportive and I threw it all in her face. I was awful to coworkers and produced poor-quality work for clients.
Facing this thought, I decided to get treatment for drinking. I still had a hard time accepting I had an addiction, but without work to go to every day and no possibility of getting a similar job, I felt like I had nothing left to live for or to do with my time. Treatment seemed like something I could do.
Sobriety Saved My Life
My parents helped me find and pay for a treatment center. I committed to stay for 30 days but ended up staying for 90. As I began to let go of my ideas about who I am and what defines me, I was able to really look at myself. I fully understood that I had a drinking problem.
The staff also helped me come to terms with some past trauma I had experienced as a teenager. It was a set of memories I had buried so deeply, I almost convinced myself it never really happened. As my therapist led me to process those experiences, I realized they were at the root of my deep unhappiness, my need to drown all uncomfortable feelings in alcohol.
With one-on-one therapy, the support of other residents, and my parents bravely coming in to attend some sessions with me, I put myself back together. I learned how to live with my past, how to accept the awfulness of it, and how to cope with bad feelings in more productive ways.
One of the most important things I learned from treatment was that I could rely on others. I didn’t need to hide those old emotions and the trauma. I could share them with people who cared about me and they wouldn’t run away. They would listen and be supportive. This was life-changing.
Rebuilding After Treatment
Going back to life after treatment was another hurdle, but my therapists equipped me with the tools to do it. I went back to school for an IT degree and started a new career. As with marketing, I put all my energy into it and worked my way up to a great job. The only difference was that, this time, I was sober and much more confident.
I continued to rely on my treatment center for a while. I returned for continuing care sessions and attended support groups. Even now, I meet up with sober friends and occasionally go to support group meetings. I know there is a thin line between my recovery and slipping into old habits. Treatment taught me to be proactive. I do the work now so I don’t have to do more later, if I relapse.
Today, I have a great career again. I have a strong support network and friends who know my past and still love me. My parents keep an eye on me and check in regularly. Every day isn’t perfect, but I am in a much better place than a few years ago, thanks to hitting bottom and asking for help.