Hello, I'm Todd
and I am a recovering alcoholic.
I have been sober for over nine years. During that time, I have wanted to crawl out of my skin, wanted to drink, been in places I have no right to be in, tested my limits, and much, much more. So why am I telling you all this, person who is reading this?
I've been putting myself out there in the public eye for over a year now. Close to two years. I needed things to do to keep me busy during the pandemic. Which is still going on, if we haven't noticed. I can tell you that it is the toughest thing I have ever had to do. Getting sober. Staying sober. It has gotten easier over the last couple of years. I have put in a lot of work doing it, but lately, I have been slipping back into old habits.
By "lately" I mean, the past year. I was (and to some people still am) a horrible person. The worst of the worst short of doing time in a prison or jail or committing any heinous crimes or doing anything that would be considered "evil" (again, some may protest that).
When I go to conferences, I see the culture of alcohol. Something I have lost the right to partake in. I have no right being in a pub or tavern. No right being in a bar or saloon. I have no right being in a place where I have booze flowing freely around me. I cannot put myself in these places. This puts me in a group of few or even by myself sometimes.
It's a lonely place when you go off to a dinner by yourself while everyone is at an after party. I don't mind, but it does affect me. I don't want to push my agenda (sobriety) on anyone. Religion does that, and I'm not a religious man. I don't ask conferences to make it a booze-free event. I don't wish to dictate that to any one or event. That's not my place. I have the choice to leave.
What is this all about
I wish events would have something alcohol-free. I have spoken to a few organizers, they have been very gracious and open to discussing that. I have been to a couple conferences where they had an option for me, which I appreciate. I have been approached by a couple organizers who wanted to discuss how they could help me enjoy the event without the booze. Something I am grateful for and very thankful for.
I want a bottled water, but I don't have a ticket. The bartender says I need a ticket. For a water. That's not inclusive or accessible. I'm not asking for a free water, I'll gladly pay you for it and tip you a couple bucks. But if I need a ticket for a water, that's pretty lousy in the rules department.
I really want to speak at your event
I do my accessibility talks and plan to keep doing more, but I want to do events I normally wouldn't. Two in particular that I just cannot attend because of the frat party environment. Sure, I could just avoid it all like the plague, but what fun is that? I don't get to mingle and chat with my peers, I don't get to enjoy a night out and have fun with said people.
"Well, you could always go somewhere else or go back to your room."
I could go back to my room and be miserable or go off somewhere else. I have actually tweeted out that I am doing booze-free activities or dinners and I have gotten to meet the greatest people and been able to have a great time at the events that have a focus on alcohol after the conference day. I'm grateful to those that have gone out of their way and joined me, I am grateful for the support fo my friends that have foregone the drink to enjoy a lunch or dinner with me. More than they know.
I think I met one or two folks that are in the same boat as me and are recovering alcoholics. It's time we started to ask these organizers and these events for an alcohol-free alternative. If they have one, great! If they do not, then we can make one. That's the easy part.
The hardest part is though, the wanting to be heard and to fit in and feel valued. I want to feel like I'm wanted at an event and that not everyone drinks until they're falling over drunk. Those days have passed me by. Those days of me going far beyond my limits and creating a shit show of colossal proportions are long gone (thankfully, so far).
Conference organizers. Please… just remember not everyone drinks. Please provide an inclusive and accessible alternative at your conferences to have alcohol-free events.
To those of you who have joined me at booze-free lunches and dinners and shown your support, thank you. I really am grateful for you.
To you, reader. Thanks for reading.