If you’ve ever felt pressured to drink, you are not alone – with Brandi Marzolino

Pressured to drink. Let’s consider the broader implications of such events. Research, like the study in Substance Use & Misuse, reveals that non-drinkers often face negative reactions in environments where alcohol is prevalent. This isn’t just about feeling out of place; it’s about the broader impact on networking experiences and overall event satisfaction. For Laura, attending events was often a balancing act, navigating conversations that revolved around alcohol, while staying true to her personal health choices.

“I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges of alcohol-centric events, both as a drinker and now as a non-drinker. These gatherings, ostensibly designed for networking and connection, can inadvertently create an unwelcoming atmosphere for those of us who choose not to drink. But reflecting on this, I see a powerful opportunity for change, a chance to transform the landscape of professional gatherings into something more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.”  Laura Nelson

Pressured to drink: This isn’t just one person’s story.

Bonding at a “happy hour” can lead to uncomfortable situations where what you choose to drink (or not drink) becomes a source of focus vs celebrating professional achievements or exploring potential collaborations.  It reinforces the dangerous misconception that alcohol is a necessary component of professional success and camaraderie. It perpetuates a culture that equates social ease and belonging with drinking, potentially sidelining talented individuals who might bring invaluable insights and innovation to the table. And at its worst, the drinking culture at professional events can lead to an environment ripe for regrettable decisions, blurred boundaries, and situations that can have lasting impacts on careers and lives.


Pressured to drink: Something has to change

This discomfort is a shared experience among many non-drinkers, and it highlights the need for a shift in how we approach event planning. We are at a pivotal moment to embrace inclusivity, to consider the varied reasons behind an individual’s choice not to drink, whether they be health-related, cultural, or lifestyle-oriented.

Sober Life Rocks co-founder, Margy Schaller interviewed guest Brandi Marzolino, founder of ‘Courage and Joy at Work’, and a founding member at ‘Sober Life Rocks’ about her experience with event networking as someone sober. 

Brandi Marzolino openly shared her struggles with drinking, which began in high school and escalated during her college years as she dealt with ‘extreme discomfort and feeling like I didn’t belong’. She recounted her initial resistance to alcohol, describing how she tried to ‘sweeten’ her drinks with Jolly Ranchers, a testament to how she had to force herself to acclimate to a behavior that didn’t sit well with her true nature. Brandi’s journey into adulthood was marked by episodes of vacillating between attempting to achieve perfection and succumbing to drinking as a means to escape the overwhelming pressure.

Pressured to drink: Her path to sobriety wasn’t linear. It included a serendipitous encounter with someone at a party who, full of life and vibrancy, introduced her to AA. ‘It was almost as if this person was put in front of me,’ Brandi reflected, signaling a turning point that led her out of existential crises and into a period of sobriety she never anticipated.

Despite this, Brandi’s professional life, deeply rooted in the culture of social drinking, saw her relapse after four years of sobriety. Brandi discussed the internal contradiction of being a highly sensitive person with a penchant for order and routine, juxtaposed with the chaos of her drinking persona. ‘I didn’t know that how I felt mattered. It became very much based on external,’ she admitted, speaking to the performance-based pressures from her family and a sense of never truly being accepted for who she was.

Margy Schaller chimed in with her own resonating experiences, tying the narrative back to the community they’ve built with Sober Life Rocks. The exchange between the two women revealed not just personal victories, but a collective journey of finding authenticity and connection in places where alcohol is no longer the focal point.

“What’s even crazier is I actually wasn’t in the room when Laura did her talk [at DeW] …I came back down, and I asked the woman at the table, what did I miss? And she goes, oh, my God, it was so amazing. And she was telling me everything. And she said, and this woman, she got up and she said she doesn’t drink. All these people raised their hands and said that they were either sober or sober curious. And I was like, what? How did I miss this? These were the people I was looking for.”

– Brandi Marzolino

Pressured to drink: Toward the end of the episode, Brandi and Margy both expressed gratitude for their transformative work in recovery and sober living, and finally being able to voice their lifestyle and connect with other like-minded people. 

As we look towards the future of professional networking, let’s champion this change. Let’s create spaces where everyone can connect, engage, and thrive regardless of their drinking choices. The time for change is now, and it begins with us.

Pressured to drink: It was a conversation marked with laughter, vulnerability, and an overarching sense of hope, underpinned by the community and support found within the ‘Sober Life Rocks’ initiative.

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