September 15, 2021
Work, Alcohol and Quitting

We're huge fans of debunking the many misconceptions of working parenthood and this time we're tackling alcohol. Especially during Covid, whether you over-indulged or pushed pause on drinking habits (either temporarily or permanently), we're not here to judge.

 

But one thing we do despise: the idea of alcohol as "mommy juice" (and the even more cringe-worthy maternity tees that say things like, "I'd like to think wine misses me too"). Of course, we all need a break and a way to unwind but supporting these tropes that women can only succeed in motherhood with the help of wine are dangerous to our health, given its severe physical and mental repercussions: What happens when drinking for pleasure turns into drinking to cope? 

And what about fathers? Here's one incredible and inspiring story of a real estate sales exec and father of two, who's success was fueled by alcohol (or so he seemed to think) and how becoming sober gave him a new perspective on how to succeed, personally and professionally.

Editor's note: We met Ward at a logistics conference in FL in 2018. He was building a coalition of the only cool-people-at-a-logistics-conference and we were the lucky beneficiaries of his expense account. We are fortunate to have met him and to share his story and his perspective with our community. It is truly an eye opening experience as we all juggle how to manage stress in our lives between work, family and life. 

 

Drinking On The Job

by: Ward Richmond

 

The consumption of alcohol within the world of business may seem counterproductive to those working in fields that require high alert or a staunch adherence to detail, but for those of us who swim with the sharks in the high stakes game of sales, the boardroom often resides in places where alcohol flows. I’d venture to say that many, if not most, deals are made over drinks. Going much further back than the robber baron days of industry tycoons, many of the biggest business deals in history struck because alcohol was involved. So it’s no wonder that business and alcohol are so often synonymous, even celebrated. In my 15 years of working in the rather cutthroat world of commercial real estate, I have spent exponentially more time in a bar or restaurant than in a corporate office. Whether I was holding “team building” meetings with my employees, wining and dining prospective clients, or exchanging tricks of the trade with peers of the industry, I found the excuse for cocktails, wine, or beer as not only beneficial, but essential.

In a field of work where the greater the risk, the greater the reward, I knew that I needed to be a fearless competitor, the alpha dog, chasing the adrenaline rush of money and notoriety. When you get that first taste of individual success in business, you want more, so pushing the limit carries a big stick, and you’d damn well keep ahead or get left in the dust by someone willing to take it farther. That’s why the top earners tend to be adrenaline junkies, given to extremes, and they learn it from those they wish to be coming out of college. I was no different in my indelible pursuit of making lots and lots of money, crushing my goals, and never looking back. Sales are not for the timid, so luckily I’d learned since high school the best way to hide my crippling anxiety in pressure situations, like asking that girl out I had a crush on, or making friends at a party, or deciding to run for class president despite having less than mediocre grades - alcohol. Drinking turned into the perfect elixir in creating a persona that exudes confidence, boldness, and an uncanny ability to make others take notice. In truth, I was insecure, sensitive, and excruciatingly fearful of rejection. My outrageous drunkenness somehow landed me friends, notoriety, and the belief that pushing the limit can do no harm. Alcohol as my indestructible armor going into any battle where I was likely deep down scared shitless.

 Ward Richmond

Author Ward Richmond

When entering into the fray of the business world out of college, I was shirt and tie by day and moonlit in a Texas country band at night, often getting as little as a couple hours of sleep if at all, showing up to work hung over and somehow getting away with it. The shame of this lifestyle could only be nullified if I busted my ass to get the job done, even if I despised the tie and the office environment. So when I began to take my commercial real estate game to another level, I was basically given carte blanche to make money for my company as I pleased, which meant no more going into the office unless for a required employees meeting, taking it out to the people and locations that yielded results. This also meant a newfound freedom to have a few drinks at lunch, wine and dine when given the opportunity, and still be the frat-boy binge drinker at honky-tonks in a band on the weekends. As my resume and bank account grew, so did my belief that drinking was stitched to that success. Because when I made the Top 40 under 40 list or took home another glass plaque to commemorate my revenue production, I received another shot in the arm that my extreme behavior around alcohol was completely normal, accepted, even celebrated. My office was a bar. Sitting at the same table, ordering drink after drink - sometimes from noon to seven (if not eleven), brash confidence bellowing into my phone wooing clients or berating competitors with expletive-laced assurance.

I would regale my colleagues, clients, employees and even superiors at that table, sucking down one drink after another, the hard charging rock’n’roller who knew how to close the big deals, laughing in the face of decorum, leaving those folks in awe of my power and indestructibility (this was my perception, at least). Let’s face it - in the world of making money, crushing your competitors, and racing to the top of the self-made millionaire mountain, it’s dog eat dog, and we celebrate it, we glamorize it as an ideal to aspire to. Success, money, notoriety, only served to embolden my behavior, so when my marriage counselor had the audacity to label me as a “high functioning alcoholic” much to my dismay, my utmost restrained response was, “I really don’t think I’m an alcoholic, Barb.” I eventually endured the brutal self-reflection needed to recognize that perhaps Barb wasn’t so insane after all. And it’s never a sudden epiphany, because that pesky “functioning” part of the alcoholic has a way of pretending it’s not there, which makes being one so difficult in facing reality. Just as making a lot of money has a way of hiding the red flags.

 

Now over 5 years without a drop of booze, looking back on it all, on relentlessly chasing after adrenaline and worldly success, I understand both my alcoholism and pursuit to become a mega-millionaire were illusion-self bedfellows, complementary in fueling my egomania to take over the wheel, and it simply wasn’t sustainable for my body or my mental well-being. My clear-headed self can analyze the somewhat narrow prism of the self-made success in the workplace, where forever the alpha extreme is celebrated in that Wolf Of Wall Street ideal we tend to sensationalize, if not overvalue. For me personally, I get just as much out of forming genuine and lasting relationships through work while being present in the moment and that’s reshaped my concept of work success. There will be stress to be sure, and don’t get me wrong I still enjoy closing big deals and making big bucks. But my kids’ future and making a meaningful impact on my world serves me in a much more fulfilling manner than the anxiety-stuffing rollercoaster tinder box I had become as a Jordan Belfort wanna-be, toeing the cliff’s edge of self-destruction. Or worse, destroying the lives of the ones I love. 

 Ward Richmond

Ward with his two kids