Alcohol and Holiday Parties

holiday parties

Holiday parties are tough for me because I struggle with alcohol.

I am a petite woman, so it’s tough for me to hold my liquor. It just takes a few sips before I start to feel buzzed. Once I start drinking, my judgment is off. I forget that I can’t handle liquor, and one glass becomes a bottle. One bottle can become several.

Knowing this about myself, I try not to drink at holiday parties. I’m never as charming as I think I am, and I don’t want to be the person crying in the bathroom at the end of the night.

When I worked in human resources, I was able to avoid alcohol by policing the workforce. But now that I’m out of HR, I don’t have any excuses other than trying to stay sober because I care about my physical and mental health.

And sometimes that excuse isn’t enough.

I had my first, epic drinkathon at my husband’s holiday party in 2012. His company wasn’t doing well, his CEO had just resigned, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the anxiety of another holiday season. So I went to the holiday party on one condition: I need to have a drink in my hand the entire night.

My sweet husband granted my wish, not knowing the depth of my dependence. That was the night I invited myself over to another employee’s house, unconsciously stole the remaining wine from the party, and fell on my ass and bruised my tailbone after the event.

You can dress me up, but you can’t take me out.

Holiday work parties are terrible for people like me who are trying not to drink. Some of us barely make it through the season with our dignity intact, and the forced-fun of a party only makes it worse. And, while not everybody is a functional alcoholic like me, some people don’t wish to participate in the season’s festivities for personal or cultural reasons.

So, if you have a holiday party, make it something work-related while people are getting paid to be there. Be sensitive to those who would rather spend time doing something else. And, if you serve alcohol, also serve delicious food.

What’s better than champagne? Nothing. But I’ll gladly distract myself at your holiday event by shoving tasty snacks in my mouth. Keep the hors d’oeuvres coming!

FOT Background Check

Laurie Ruettimann
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.


  1. Sam says:

    Laurie, I get where you’re coming from. I’m lucky – we have an office holiday lunch (no alcohol) where everyone just wants to grab their bonus check and leave after they eat. Quick and easy!

  2. China says:

    Also, have delicious non-alcoholic choices on offer. As a non-drinker. I always appreciate those planners/hosts who remember that not everyone is a drinker.

  3. Laurie – thanks for such an honest article. Too many people forget those of us who struggle with dependence. Your suggestion for a “during work hours” event makes the most sense from many perspectives. Again, thanks for your honest.

  4. Fred Flinstone says:

    1) Office parties serve no beneficial purpose and often result in negative outcomes.

    2) Office parties are the epitome of the results of “group think”. Very few actually like them but no one wants to speak up.

    3) Where I work, about half our staff is not Christian and does not celebrate Christmas. Call it what you want but it won’t erase the incentive.Since diversity or, lack there of, has become the issue de jour, “holiday” parties are an invitation for conflict.

    4) Work is work and social is social. Mixing the two under any pretext has little upside and lots, of downside potential. I’m speaking from almost 40 years of experience.


  5. Fred Flinstone says:

    1) Holiday parties are the epitome of “group think”. No one really likes them. But no one will speak up and tell management that.

    2) Work life and personal/social should be separate. Mixing the two, especially artificially like this, is risky and fraught with peril for both the organization and the employee. If I wanted to combine them, I’d be in the military…or maybe a cop.

    3) In today’s more diverse work force environments, the euphemism “holiday” compared to “Christmas” doesn’t take away the implication. Or, the conflict risk.

    4) All the tech companies here in the BA that have pictures of their parties, trips, gatherings and other social gatherings, especially when the employees are hoisting alcoholic beverages towards the photographer, are a turn off for well adjusted, normal types who have a life outside of work.

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