Alcohol and developer culture

Scott Lavigne on September 15, 2018

Hi there, I want to have a quick discussion my friends. Not looking to toot my own horn but, today marks two years sober for me. I think alcohol ... [Read Full]
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From beer on tap in startups, to encouraging going out and getting plastered as 'team building', alcohol is very prevalent.

Although I've never had an alcohol problem, I've always been hyper-aware of alcohol culture issues, probably because several of my family members have had drinking problems.

You can always tell when folks have put in the little effort to make organizations and events comfortable for everyone, whether or not you drink. It's a matter of empathy that goes a long way. It really sucks when not drinking is a socially awkward thing to do because of the environment.

 

It does suck, I hate feeling like I'm being judged or that some of the higher ups won't promote me cause I'm not drinking. I can sometimes just feel the vibe I'm killing. I'd say 'lol', but it kind of sucks.

 

I know this wasn't supposed to be my takeaway from this, but I have a question.

The company "splurges" on the good beer, and you get a canned coca-cola. Maybe also "splurge" on the fancy sodas, or have a fancy mocktail, or something else at your event.

What are fancy pops out there for this? I never considered that there was a parallel of "good" craft beer and local pop or something like that. A Mountain Dew is just as quenchy to me as something from the local cider house, so this makes me wonder if I'm missing out on some pop culture options (edit: pop as in soda pop not 'pop culture').

RE: the actual post, I try to be mindful with non-alcohol drinking members of the team (1 due to being very open about his previous history with wine and 1 due to religious observation). I pick places for after work get-togethers with good food as well as good drinks, and call it "Fuck this release" or "Not Work" in the meeting invites instead of happy hour, but idk if this seems too forced to include the others or if it hits a good balance.

I also plan it out weeks in advance so the people with families can try to plan to join via spouse or babysitters. We have plenty of spouses who tag along too, so awesome! The events are meant to unwind without the bureaucracy of work, so the more the merrier. Drinking alcohol or no, coworker or no, it shouldn't matter.

 

There's a lot of really great smaller brand sodas out there. If you happen to be in Los Angeles there's a place called Galco's Soda Pop Stop that's absolutely chock full of them, and in some other cities there's a store called Rocket Fizz with a more limited, but still better than mass market soda selection.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of O So's butterscotch rootbeer, and Soda Boy's strawberry cream. There are some rose sodas that are pretty good as well, and a bunch of neat Ramune flavors that come in a glass bottle sealed with a marble you pop out of the top.

I ordered a box of sodas from Galco's to the office once and used them as prizes for a silly little code review contest. I think it went over pretty well

 

Not quite in LA, though it looks like my area has a shop that sells regional pops from around the country. I'll have to make a trip out there to give it a shot!

Apparently, Red Ribbon pop is a Pennsylvania brand, too. I had assumed it was a chain thing and never tried it.

 

Is Galco's the place that Tom Scott did a video on once? If so, my dream is to make a pilgrimage there with a U-Haul truck. :P So many fancy, cool things to try!

 

That's in my opinion, the most important take away from this, as it means I could one day meet you and get free fancy soda at an event. :P

Here in Kansas City we have a specialty soda shop with like 1000 varieties to build a six pack from. Its great. There are so many options you have never even heard of! Mr. Q is a cucumber soda that will change your life, there's blueberry soda, a fancy root beer ginger beer mix that is soooo fricken good, a sparkling water like La Croix, but crazy flavors like Cardamom and Bitters that are awesome. So much cool things like that, and a lot of towns seem to have things like this. But even something like the fancy Coca-Cola in the glass bottles with the real sugar is nice to see at an event!

This all said, Mt. Dew is my go to, and I would gladly be hooked up to a hose of it, human centipede style, because I love it. (Maybe not actually that style)

 

My company is quite large and has a corporate no open alcohol policy, so I'll never be in an official event that goes beyond water. If I did, though, I'd totally utilize this newfound knowledge of local pop. At the very least, now I can organize after-hours events around if a place has Red Ribbon pop.

This all said, Mt. Dew is my go to, and I would gladly be hooked up to a hose of it, human centipede style, because I love it. (Maybe not actually that style)

Really it's just all about efficiency here ;)

I'd like to say I'm not proud of that comment, but I am.

 

Oddly enough, if you go to your local ACE Hardware store, they generally have a section of nothing but old-timey craft sodas. I'm sure there's other places to buy craft sodas, but it's an easy start finding them.

 

It looks from their store locator that there are a couple in shopping plazas in the suburbs. I'll have to remember that the next time I'm out of the city, thanks!

 

Yep! Also a lot of grocer's have a section for the fancy sodas, you just have to know to look, and where.

 

Thank you for sharing your experience, Scott!

I don't drink. I'm Muslim, but I also don't drink because I personally don't want to support social norms that drinking is "cool" until someone has a problem with it, and everyone just throws that person away.

But I definitely understand the awkwardness of events being at bars and not drinking. Once we even had a "drinking party day" at a startup I was at. Ended up just people watching that day. Now, I haven't been through your experiences, but for me, I've found that if someone asks if I want a drink, I just say, "Nah, personal reasons" and they don't ask again.

I think of it as a self-discipline thing. I've decided that I want to live a life without drinking and I'm not afraid I won't be cool because of it. I've read about people who carry soda or water to look like they're drinking to fit in, but screw that. It's a life choice I've made in the same way that I choose to wear bright color shirts most of the time.

Not sure where I'm going with this, but I liked your post and wanted to share my experience with similar feelings.

 

Hey mate, thanks for sharing! That's some good insight right there! :D

 

Thank you for sharing. Your experience is so similar to mine, although I thankfully managed to quit drinking before I started my career. Looking back on it, I was an alcoholic. I was addicted. I had to quit all together, zero drinking. I couldn't just drink socially, and still probably can't. I've worked at many different places in my career so far, with many different kinds of culture, but most if not all places I've worked have a strong connection with drinking in some way. Whether it be the beer cart on friday arvo, or after-work pub crawls, or an entire fridge stocked with nothing but alcoholic beverages.

Without fail, I always get asked the same question time after time: "Why aren't you drinking?"

Seriously, if someone is not drinking, please don't ask why. Not only does it add to the pressure to conform, but the reasons are often quite personal. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if I came up to someone who was holding a beer and asked them "so why are you drinking?"

Thanks again for sharing your experience. It takes an enormous amount of courage, serious courage, to share something like that with the world.

 

Hey! Good on you for sticking with it! I always hear of people who have these socially uncouth people they are with who ask why, and maybe I just answer it and don't notice or I don't have that, but for sure, if they want you to know, they will tell you. Don't ask, like we tell moon moon, i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfe...

 

Hey Scott! Thanks for sharing your story.

As an event and meetup organizer my main concern is always making sure everyone is having a great experience. It might be little bit cultural difference between Finland and what I assume to be US in terms of peer-pressure but I was hoping you could provide some ideas from your point of view.

We have a lot of developers who enjoy drinking a beer or two in our meetups but we always make sure we have sodas and mineral water available for people who don't want to (or can't) drink alcohol.

For you, especially in the beginning (as you mentioned it was harder back then), is it more about the availability of alcohol and other people drinking it that makes it difficult, is it the lack of non-alcoholic options, or other people actively pressuring you to drink?

 

I'd be happy to share what I can to help!

Availability is the biggest challenge in the very beginning, but I don't think it means you need to stop serving alcohol. That's up to the person with the problem to deal with here. Some of the tenants that Alcoholics Anonymous or other programs say are things like "Sober people, sober places." or "If you're not sure if you're gonna be unable to NOT drink, leave." which are fine pieces of advice. I would for sure make it known that there will be alcohol at the event prior so that the person can make a choice to go or not depending on where they are in their sobriety.

Very rarely do people truly continuously pressure you to drink unless they have a problem. Normally just saying that you're not drinking or don't drink is enough for them. You don't even need to share the reason, most people know to back off.

I find sometimes lack of non-alcoholic options is a problem, but not often. Normally on that front though, its more of a feeling left out kind of thing. In America we have lots of craft beers, and those are normally at start up kind of events. So if I'm offered a coca-cola in a can, and everyone else is getting nice fancy beer bottles of craft beers, or they have really fancy wines, I feel left out and like an after thought with my coca-cola. Some places will get the nicer coke that come in the glass bottles and use real sugar, and then I feel a LOT less excluded, and makes me feel like people are less likely to notice I'm not drinking. On that same front, though VERY rarely, someone will start a drinking game and you always feel really lame and making other people drink when you're not so you won't participate and feel left out. Though that's really not much of a consideration at events.

Let me know if I can answer other questions or clarify something!

 

Thanks for your reply, I appreciate you taking your time for it.

I'm happy to hear the situation with direct peer-pressure is not that bad. My personal experience with periods of not drinking is quite in line with that: usually just saying no is good enough answer (as it always should be).

I do think that if a person has to skip an event or feel excluded because of alcohol, it's a problem for the community. We should aim to build communities that include everyone interested in the community's niche regardless of certain unrelated factors like gender, religion or in this case, alcohol consumption habits.

Interesting point about coke vs craft beer. I have never thought about it that way and I'm happy you brought it up. I have to pay bit more attention towards that and see what the local soda selection is. I've always been a huge fan of Coca Cola myself so probably that's one reason it has never crossed my mind. For events with open bar, I totally agree with the cocktail/mocktail aspect that was mentioned in another comment.

I do think that if a person has to skip an event or feel excluded because of alcohol, it's a problem for the community.

Generally from what I've seen people only feel pressured to skip events early into sobriety. Going places where they use to drink, or going anywhere that is not Work -> Home -> Support Meetings -> Home in the early days of sobriety is too risky. Its less that its not inclusive, its more that its so early in sobriety that anywhere they are might trigger an urge to drink, even if there's no alcohol. or they may pass a liquor store on the way home, which is not the event organizer's problem. So don't worry too much on that front, its more of a quirk of early sobriety than anything. Like someone on a new diet won't even step foot in a restaurant, you wouldn't not serve food cause someone may be on a diet would you?

And for craft soda, it doesn't have to be fancy even, just to prevent the feel of missing out, so even like sparkling grape juice and having all the beer be poured into glasses could even work. Some people don't really care much, but some people don't want anyone to know they have a problem so being able to look normal helps. :) That said, we have a craft soda shop here and I know I'd be super happy to see some of that there, also I think there are craft soda subscription boxes!

 

Thanks for sharing.
Unfortunately, the same story with smoking. We used to use the smoking area as a social bonding opportunity, and smoke together. There we'd discuss the problems we were having and, for some reason, everyone would be much more helpful!
Once I stopped smoking, I was less involved, and my colleagues would ask me if I was "down" or something whereas all I was trying to do was to avoid being in that situation. Unfortunately, I went back to smoking and didn't stop until I completely moved away from there about 1 year later.

So as an ex-smoker, I really understand what it means to try to stop a bad habit and then being seen as a downer, but at the same time, I am really happy that you've managed to stay strong and haven't made an excuse like I did back then :-)

 

I smoked too, and have been smoke free for a bit over a year now, and by this time in quitting alcohol, I never really got strong cravings anymore, and never almost wanted to cave, but with cigs... oh boy, even now I want one. Nicotine is the fucking devil.

 

I started working out again and that doesn't go with alcohol very well.

Having a drink will take away a week of progress in the gym. And I prefer to continously progress.

It also helps as an excuse, if someone needs it and you don't feel comfortable revealing past problems.

 

I'm pretty comfortable revealing it myself now. I've discovered that people mostly don't care, or think its pretty cool. I mean, I had a problem, I fixed a problem, if you have a problem with that, I don't really want you in my life. That said, I've not had to kick anyone out of my life yet.

The gym thing is a good bit of advice though if you don't want to reveal it! "Sorry can't drink, busy getting swole."

 

Yeah, there's been a few times I almost fell off, but then was like, "I'm not gonna do that, that would be silly." That works for me it seems, the ol' "play the tape forward". The bro culture is fine kind of, in a camaraderie sense, but is exclusionary and also like you say, can be uncomfortable for the sober and other types of people. Sorry to hear you've lost people. If this causes even one company to be more mindful of their culture, then this post is a success though!

On the company not changing, I feel that sometimes you have to reaLLLLY out your foot down for some things or the company will never do them. Like accessibility. Sometimes you have to throw that tantrum, because its important enough even if they don't see the value in doing it. But those details really show how the company is, and those groups are some of the easiest loyalties to buy, because they know that you care about them. It works for employees and events too. Get stuff for the other groups even if it goes to waste and it will be remembered!

 

I have seen this drinking culture before at various tech jobs I've had. I do agree that people blindly embrace drinking enough to lose control even in a semi-professional setting.

I believe as our Western culture becomes increasingly secular and less Christian, this will continue. Drinking alcohol is a sin(if you read the Bible carefully, Jesus drank juice)and that's why it was frowned-upon in our culture for so long in the past.

 

As a Muslim, who's never had alcohol in his entire life. I've worked in an agency where they would drink often in and out of the office. I was always shocked that these same people would usually just drive home after work (down the motorway) . Are people underestimating how much they've drank?
To show people that I am "sociable" I've always had to come down and have a coke. The last place you want to talk about religion or tell people you're "Muslim" is in the pub, you'll get tons of horrible stares and weird questions.
I'm glad you wrote this article πŸ‘πŸ½

 

Yeah I mean I'm guilty of in the past having a few drinks and driving, looking back it was hella stupid! I think people are underestimating how much they drank a tad, but more so than that, how being a little tipsy effects their driving.

I find going to the pub or another and having a coke fine, but it's also a great place to experiment with mocktails(cocktails without alcohol, the mojito makes a great one to remove the alcohol from) and to have something fancier that I wouldn't easily have at home, like a ginger beer(like root beer, has no alcohol) + cranberry juice.

I'm glad this article has helped you and others though! Have a great day!

 

Great post Scott and congrats on your sobriety! I personally love the idea of companies providing alcoholic drinks (I'm a craft beer girl), but there should definitely be some viable and equally unique alternatives for those who choose to stay sober. If it's not automatically implemented, then the company has an inclusion problem.

Furthermore, I have to add a few things from my feminine perspective:

First off, "going out and getting plastered as 'team building'" can become very uncomfortable very quickly since some people don't act appropriately while drunk. I can't imagine wanting to work for a company that encourages this type of 'team building'.

Secondly, in addition to employees who are in recovery, have religious reasons, or have health concerns, as reasons to stay sober, there's also pregnant women or women trying to conceive to consider. (#womenintech)

And personally, my code is shit after two beers. Though, sometimes it's shit without any beers. :D

 

Water should be available, too - not just the flavored fizzy sort, but ordinary water. Some people avoid soda and other sugary, fizzy drinks, and not just beer.

That said, I understand where you're coming from. Being stationed in Korea for 3 years taught me many things, including something I've told people over and over again. In my case, I don't drink - not for religious purposes, health concerns, or prior alcoholism. After 3 years of having to drink fairly heavily in Korea in order to avoid offending Koreans (it's really a form of diplomacy), I had the same two choices as anyone else who has gone to Korea for an extended period of time: Come back as a raging alcoholic or never touch the stuff again.

I'm one of the rare sort that took the second option, but I know it's all too easy (and common) for people to take the first option. Congrats on 2 years. I know it's been hard at times.

 

Yep I took the first option on the way back from Korea, that said I still dream of chimaek.... :P

 

I can't say I dream about chimaek. I've never met a beer I've liked and my experience with eating chicken growing up is ... traumatizing, so I don't eat chicken. I do miss eating beef bulgogi BBQ'd in the middle of the table and all those side dishes, but I don't really miss all the empty Soju bottles.

 

I am sober for 3 months already (and stopped with beer for 1.5 year already) and my to-go drink is Kombucha, I even make my own and drink every day in the morning mainly for its probiotics properties.

But what I do sometimes is to bring my own kombucha when I want to mingle with people that are drinking, and it works fine for me.

Like you just said I recently came to realize the effects of the collective pressure on consuming alcohol at the tech industry of today. I would like to recommend this great podcast episode for those which would like to learn more about this:

dev.to/hanselminutes/alcohol-and-t...

 

Congrats on three months!

I normally go for a cranberry + ginger beer(NO ALCOHOL FOR THE LAST GOD DAMN TIME PEOPLE) or a coke and grenadine, or I just do some soda or sparkling water. Never really saw the need for Kombucha in my life but if it helps, keep on doing it! :D

 

Thank you for bringing up this super important topic!

I've been the person who didn't drink at work events. I've also been the person so wasted (even at work parties, if my life stress was high) people didn't know if I got home safely.

Switching to working for myself was a huge relief to me, because I no longer felt beholden to whatever the culture is anywhere else. And I didn't exactly realize how prevalent of a culture it is until I was outside of it.

In my place of business now, however, there is a definite meme and 420 culture. πŸ˜‚

 

Necromancy post: because alcohol is a timeless problem.

I have 1 or 2 beers a night but I struggle to go without it. I just had a a baby and there are some frustions at work, nasty comutes and money worries. Am I on the road to trouble?

 

Only you and your doctor can truly decide things like that.

That said, it really truly is up to you.

Is the one or two a day truly only one or two a day? Never more? Do you ever binge? Hide it? Feel ashamed? Is it always alone? Is this a recent thing? A continuation? Do you act mean if you go without it or have other withdrawal, even if its minor like a caffeine withdrawal? Have you tried going without for a week or is going without for more than a day or two too hard?

These are all some of the classic signs. Though that said, I think really the most important bit is whether or not you ever obsess of it. When you go without are you ALWAYS thinking about it? Are you thinking about getting done with your day so you can get to those two beers and go to bed? Those would be the more concerning signs I think, the rest would stem from it.

I would check out reddit.com/r/stopdrinking it helped me tremensly. Also it may sounds weird but the scenes from The West Wing with Leo McGarry talking about his alcoholism helped me realize I had a problem. So maybe watch those scenes on youtube as well?

I hope that helps and if you have more questions feel free to ask or message me!

 

I am a person in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, myself. I’ve been clean for over six years. I do the 12-step thing, and there is an expression in the rooms which I feel is appropriate in this discussion:

β€œWe are not responsible for our disease, but we are responsible for our recovery”

While I agree with you that the lack of nonalcoholic options can be a drag at conferences and networking events, I would caution that making our disease the concern of others abdicates the responsibility we have as persons in recovery. People like to party, developers and everybody else, when in groups. It is no more right for us to directly or indirectly shame them for drinking then it is for us to be ostracized by lack of nonalcoholic beverages.

I, for one, would like to be able to identify those β€œin the clubβ€œ at said conferences, kind of like yellow balloons at Phish shows denotes the Phellowship (sober Phish fans). I’d get a whole lot more out of that than 4 kinds of seltzer.

I hope this doesn’t come off as critical, because on the whole I agree with you. I simply brought it up because I have a lot of sympathy for conference/event organizers that already have to consider so many separate populations when hosting an event. Why add another special interest group to the list when we can be responsible for ourselves?

 

Six years is pretty cool! Good job!

I've never been into the 12 steps thing, but if it works for you, then work it!

I agree that making it the concern of others is not good, but as time goes on I feel it gets easier to stay recovered. Most people don't even think about alcoholism or people who don't drink at events. I was mostly hoping to make people aware of it and think about it, but also things they could do to help.

Just like when I was a vegetarian, I wouldn't expect people to make a vegetarian option for me at a party or something(although I always appreciated it), I won't expect 4 varieties of seltzer, nor artisanal, small batch, free range soda made from un-distilled icebergs, unrefined sugar, and hand bottled by virgins. :P But its always a nice gesture, but most importantly I think is to just be sure that there's no pressure to drink.

As you conquer more and more times where you didn't drink its easier to be responsible for yourself, but if someone can make it easier, its always nice. IDK, I guess I agree, at the end of the day, its up to the individual, but some help is always remembered? I always remember the events that have food I like or clean facilities.

 

I like to enjoy a good glass of also good whiskey while programming. :)

 

Hey my best friend does too and we work in the same office, it doesn't bother me, and I get the desire. Just be sure not to force it on any co-workers! :D

 

Congrats on two years sober. That's awesome.

As someone who doesn't drink for religious reasons, I love to see stuff like this. Thanks for posting.

 

I just keep seeing you all around here! I'd love to get a boba tea some time if we're ever in the same area, you seem like a cool dog! :P Thanks for the congrats!

 

I didn't realize we'd interacted before! Haha. I don't drink tea either, but if you're ever in the Salt Lake valley, I'd love to grab lunch with you!

We talked in your graveyard post. :P Also you seem to have good comments when I see you around here, your bowtie in the profile pic makes you memorable. I'll be sure to hit you up if I make it back through Utah again, I want to as I liked the salt flats but the memory is mired with car trouble and being in the middle of no where.

 

First of all, congrats on the 2 year mark.

For my part, I'm a seventh-day adventist (I know that makes me unpopular on some forums) and we don't use any kinds of drugs or alcohol. I've known people getting their lifes destroyed by alcohol abuse and I guess we can do better with our lifes. My cup is allways filled with tea (when cold) or orange/lemon juice, but ultimately I believe the beverage won't make you a better developer (so it seems like a joke when reading some posts by a developer being "drunk" while coding).

 

I agree, it won't make you a better dev. I for one have noticed that my mental acuity is almost doubled since I stopped booze and cigs.

 

"Will I be seen as an uncool prude if I don't go out and drink? Will people judge me?"

"Will I be seen cool and proud 20 years from now, when everyone else will be on their death bed, weak, unable to walk, unable to feel the fresh air?"

Plain water is healthiest drink, and it has no harm in anyway. Any canned drink, be it soda, cola, orange juice, everything is filled with too mush sugar, preservatives and extremely unhealthy for programmers who are required to sit for 40 or more hours a week.

 

Sure. But alcohol will kill you a lot faster than soda! :P That said, all in moderation and favor water! :P

Also at least in America, there is La Croix which is flavored carbonated water that has no sugar or sugar substitutes, just th every hint of fruit smells. It comes in a can, so not all canned things are bad!

Either way, more water fam! Its essential for mental tasks! Half the time when I can't concentrate, I'm just dehydrated.

 

Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sorry to hear you returned from korea with a bad habit. I still drink but I don't like a culture of forced drinking. I have made a habit not to participate in Korean drinking culture even with my wife's family. It's stressful but one can order a green tea and appear to be drinking mekju.

 

First, congratulations for your efforts.

Regarding devs drinking habits... I don't think that drinking in "dev culture" is that much different from drinking among ... I dunno construction workers? I don't want to pick any group.

Some people drink, some drink too much, and some don't. If people are promoted because they don't drink, that sounds bad.

But you can interpret it in different ways. If someone doesn't drink, because he cannot stop and instead of learning to drink just one or two drinks (or whatever), he goes to the other extreme, what does it show?

As I said, you can interpret it in many different ways. Here are two:

  • This guy is cool, he knows that he cannot stop before hitting his limits, so doesn't drink at all. Very good, what a smart guy!
  • We cannot even have a beer, because he cannot stop. This grown-up cannot find the golden mean. Either he is drunk or doesn't drink anything. Only black-n-white, just the extremes! Do I want that approach in other circumstances?

It's hard to argue that not drinking at all is better than getting drunk all the time, but the second interpretation is not so flattering. I don't even say that I agree with one or another, don't get me wrong, I just see different ways of interpretation.

What I've seen so far - not in development though - that the person who didn't drink at all had harder times to get socially accepted than the rest who went out drinking. But is that strange? If you want to get accepted by a group of people who plays football, while you play basketball, you'll have harder times...

I read an interesting article on how drinking contributed to humanity's history.

 

Little off-topic but this reminds me of the scene in "The Internship" where they make sure there will be no drinking with your boss.

 

Congrats to you and all the other ex-drinkers/alcoholics on your sobriety!

 
 

What is developer culture anyway? Does that exist? If so, please write something about that.

 

Haha, true. I guess its the kind of bro culture and startup culture you're more likely to encounter in the dev department or in a dev role. But also the 'people are stupid and I need to drink their stupidity off me' culture that seems to be pervasive. Though that is more in IT than programming culture.

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