#SPOTLIGHT: There’s an alcoholic in the boardroom
by Anon. My sobriety date is 6 December 2016. I’ve been in the ad game for almost 12 years. Our paths may have met; it’s just that I might have been too drunk to remember.
Pretending everything is ok
As a creative, I spend some of my time in boardrooms coming up with ideas or selling them. When I walk into these rooms, I leave my problems at the door. I put on a mask and pretend everything is okay. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. However, we’re taught to fake it till we make it.
For years, I didn’t feel that I had all that much of a drinking problem. Of course, I had problems, all sorts of problems. “If you had my problems, you’d drink too” was my feeling. Even after missing work on Mondays, going AWOL, losing jobs, getting arrested and being hospitalised with depression, I was still in denial.
I think my alcoholism was clouded by the big drinking culture in our industry. I used to jokingly say to my friends, “Bengithi siyaphuza, mara asingeni kule ngamla zase ‘spanini. Ziyabuhlaba!” (I thought black people drank, but we don’t have anything on the white people I work with.)
In the beginning, I drank to relax or for fun. Having one or two-nyana during lunch or when working late was and still is the norm. Gradually, the effect of alcohol started doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. The feeling of inadequacy and fear of people started slipping away. It gave me the courage to walk into air-conditioned boardrooms. Mind you, these boardrooms were too white. No one understood my insights, stories and ideas. Some of my work was getting rejected because I wasn’t articulate enough. I’d walk out feeling defeated and walk straight into king alcohol. One drink was too many and a thousand was never enough.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the industry for my alcoholism. The ad game has been nothing but good to me. It has introduced me to some kind, smart and very talented humans. I am the person that I am today because of all the countless chances it gave me.
I’m not unique. My illness is not unique. There’s someone else in the boardroom suffering from something. Living with things that happen in your life or head — that other people don’t experience or understand — is hard. The world of work demands more and more from each of us.
Support at work
Work is where we most need the support of others but we feel the need to hide.
We all like to think we can toughen up. When you are feeling at your lowest, it can be hard to trust that your colleagues or employer will understand, and even harder to have faith that they will put your interests at an equal footing with those of the organisation. What I’ve learned is that silence isn’t always the answer. If you’re suffering, speak to someone — even if you’re not quite ready to speak to your boss.
If just like me, when you honestly want to, you can’t quit entirely or, if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, please call Alcoholics Anonymous South Africa (AA) on this number — 0861 435 722.
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Our guest writer officially started in advertising as a junior copywriter in 2007. He has worked for four top agencies in Johannesburg. When he realised that creativity had no cultural boundaries, he took his talents to one of the top agencies in the Middle East. His work has been recognised at both global and local awards show.
This year, MarkLives is shining a #SPOTLIGHT on health and wellness in the ad and marketing industries. We would like to hear your story and use our platform to create change in our industry, so please email us at ourstories at marklives dot com.