I applaud you for taking the time to write this very thoughtful, honest and humble piece which asks a legitimate question and shines a light on what I believe is a much larger problem of epidemic proportions in our society.
If you look at the statistics, approximately 25M people in the U.S. suffer from an Alcohol Use Disorder, yet only about 10% of those people get treatment every year. This is a major cultural problem that is reinforced everywhere you turn.
I think your experience is not unique in that sober people encounter this type of attitude (or “backlash” if you will) quite frequently, it’s just that no one ever has the courage to talk about it the way you just have. And this just doesn’t happen with start-ups; every major company always has a certain group of people that behave this way and treat sober people in the way you have experienced. This can be a problem for people who are trying to do their best and advance in their career, especially when this type of behavior happens at the management level (which I believe is most common). Sober people are often made to feel inferior, or over time they are just ostracized from events because to be around them is to remind the drinkers of their own drinking issues (which are usually a problem and God forbid someone point that out).
So, thank you for speaking up and raising this issue. And, it’s like you said; you don’t have anything against drinking and neither do I, but the problem is “normal” people don’t realize that this is a chronic, progressive and fatal disease and to ask you to drink, or to put pressure on you to drink, is essentially the same thing as telling a cancer patient to stop taking chemo and radiation treatments just to have a little fun. I mean, what’s the big deal? It’s only a few drinks?
If they only knew what they were really saying…