A reflection on Dry January, from a sober media salesman


Being a media salesman can sometimes feel like an actual episode of Mad Men.

Before COVID, many of us had generous spending accounts that most nights we spent drinking with industry cohorts. Events like CES, SXSW and Sundance were the ultimate playgrounds for the industry. In your twenties, it can be a lot of fun. But in your 30s and 40s, it starts to catch up with you. It can impact your health, mental well-being, and productivity.

So one day I decided to quit drinking.

At first it was easy. I had a wife and a young daughter to keep my promises at home. I could occupy my time with productive things like exercise. That would be fine, but then I would have to hop on a plane and see a client or attend a conference.

When I hit the road, all bets were off. It was easy to throw away my short sobriety stints in the name of closing business. That’s what media people do, isn’t it? We take our clients out for lavish dinners which often lead to long nights of drinking. I remember the nights in New York where the bars never closed. I would go straight to my hotel, pack my bags, and not even sleep until I boarded a flight to the west coast.

Living this double life – sober in California with my family, partying with clients – was a terrible chore. Finally, after an SXSW where I passed out for a few days, I had to try to get sober for real.

But what was I going to do the next time my friends from the media agency wanted to go out in New York? I was terribly embarrassed and didn’t want them to know that I had quit drinking. I would go to great lengths to hide my sobriety. I even showed up to the restaurant early so I could tell the waiter to bring me non-alcoholic beer every time I ordered a round.

It was hard. I fell off the wagon several times. Then I met a revenue manager from one of the big social media platforms who told me he had been sober for over 20 years! I asked him how he does it, when our industry is so steeped in entertaining customers. He showed me that you could still have fun and not drink.

There’s tons of creativity in entertaining customers that doesn’t involve drinking. You can take your clients to yoga classes, shooting ranges, cooking classes or horseback riding. When you stop drinking, you start to meet a different kind of customer – someone who doesn’t take the time for a drink, but is more than willing to meet you for breakfast or a workout. early in the morning.

The lie I kept telling myself — that I couldn’t be in media sales and be sober — was shattered. I took my sobriety seriously. I haven’t had a drink in seven years.

When I heard about a group called Sober Executives in Advertising and Media, I got involved in helping others in the industry who were struggling with the same issue. It’s such a relief to know that if I find myself in another city on a sales trip, I can contact this group and find meetings and a community to connect to.

This job (and life in general) has been more rewarding when I’m sober. I’m more productive without the early morning hangovers and disappearing acts I used to play at conferences.

The explosion of non-alcoholic drinks is good too! Now we have options while others sip martinis. Non-alcoholic beer from brands like Heineken and Corona, and brewers like Athletic Brewery, are exploding, and a nascent market for wine and mocktails is emerging.

Trends like Dry January give people the opportunity to “test the waters” of sobriety. Try it and see if you don’t feel better and excel in your career.

It’s the biggest decision I’ve ever made (besides proposing to my wife, of course).

Dylan Conroy is Chief Revenue Officer at The Social Standard.


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