Addiction and Alcohol Use in the Service Industry

addiction

Just over one year ago the world shared in collective sadness while we mourned the loss of Kitchen Confidential author Anthony Bourdain. He was brilliant, relatively young (62), approachable, and he also struggled with both addiction and co-occurring mental illness.

Like many young men in the prime of their life, depression brought Bourdain to the precipice. Seemingly being no longer able to manage the invisible illness, he made a conscious decision to end his life. While nothing any of us can do or say can bring Anthony back, there is a silver lining to be found in his untimely departure. From world-famous chefs to anonymous bartenders across the country, restaurant workers are opening up about their struggles with alcohol use and addiction.

Millions of Americans make a career in the service or hospitality industry. It's hard work and mentally taxing, but people keep showing up to work because the pay is agreeable. Preparing exquisite cuisines, waiting tables, and crafting cocktails are demanding; the hours are long, and guests are not always the nicest of people. Not surprisingly, those lines of employment can exact a heavy toll on mental health. Any person who has worked in restaurants knows this truth.

Those who do not have healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with industry-induced stress are prone to turn to drugs and alcohol. A sigh of relief accompanies a shift drink come closing time. However, one "shifty" can quickly lead to two—ad infinitum. Life moves forward, years pass by, and before you know it, a problem develops that requires attention.

The Other Side of the Bar is a Dangerous Place

It's no secret that toxic relationships with alcohol abound in the service industry. This is especially true for barkeeps. Practically all customers expect bartenders to sample their wares; they even offer to buy their mixologists drinks as a modest token of appreciation. Such gestures are welcome, to be sure, but it may not be in the best interest of the recipient. Still, many will accept the free drink not to offend the patron.

For those who do not have a history of harmful drinking, a free drink is a free drink. Having a drink on the job is a slippery slope when it comes to men and women who are apt to drink to excess. There is a good reason why most individuals in recovery avoid working in the service industry; the risk of relapse is exceedingly high. That isn't to say that you can't work a program of sobriety while working in hospitality. A large number of people do; however, those who do need to be extra cautious.

The truth is that men and women in recovery can follow any career path they like; provided, however, that such people are on top of their program. There are no barriers or exclusions for those who put their recovery first. A strong support network, working the steps, and attending meetings regularly puts people in positions to excel at anything.

Helpful Reminders Not to Use Drugs and Alcohol

In circles of recovery around the country, it is not uncommon to see people wearing rubber bands on their wrist. The idea is simple: whenever you think of having a drink or drug, give it a snap. The discomfort is minor but the brief sensation can be enough to force you to remember the pain that accompanies alcohol and substance use.

A significant number of men and women in the early years of addiction recovery carry their AA or NA tokens with them wherever they go. The unassuming coin serves as a reminder of how far you've come, and where you came from, most importantly. It is a talisman; it's a marker of progress. Having a sobriety chip in one's pocket is useful when the temptation to drink or drug is high. Urges to use can be quelled by merely touching the coin.

On a similar note, a growing movement is underway among service industry employees that involves wearing a talisman of sorts. The Pin Project is a way for bartenders and others who find employment in hospitality to express their intention not to drink.

Similar to the rubber band trick, The Pin Project came about when a bartender decided he was not going to drink on the job anymore. In an effort to stay true to his intention, Mark Goodwin reached for a sharpie and drew a circle bisected by a straight line on his forearm, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Each time Goodwin thought about having a drink, he looked at the marking, much like the person wearing a rubber band. It worked!

Goodwin has abstained from drinking ever since, and others in the field have joined the movement. One of Goodwin's regulars, Alyx Ryan, created a small, brushed-metal pin that resembles the symbol once drawn in sharpie.

The Pin Project Promotes Healing and Understanding

"The opposite of addiction is connection," Mark Goodwin, a bartender at Coin-Op Game Room in San Francisco, tells the SF Chronicle.

A couple more bartenders in the Bay Area jumped on board with Goodwin's mission. Together, they launched the initiative – to help service industry men and women find strength and abstain while on the job and beyond – on June 24th. What is The Pin Project?

It is a collective of bartenders and service industry professionals based in the Bay Area looking to create a movement of healing and understanding for those among us caught up in the often dangerous context that comes from working within close proximity of alcohol...The pin project was created with the intention of helping industry folks, but anyone that could use a hand in curating safe space to uphold their intentions not to drink are welcomed to utilize it in any of the contexts they themselves struggle within."

People working at restaurants who are also in recovery may benefit from wearing the pin. Goodwin points out that industry workers must show guests a good time; sales and tips are dependent on a person's ability to accept proffers without protest. Saying no to free drinks from a customer could inadvertently impact the bottom line. Pointing to the pin, and explaining to diners what it means, might have the opposite effect.

It's worth noting that Goodwin, along with The Pin Project collaborators Nick Melle of Bon Voyage and DiDi Saiki of Bourbon & Branch, launched The Pin Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from pin sales goes to linking service-industry professionals with mental health services.

Addiction Treatment for Men

Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you are struggling with alcohol use. Our gender-specific addiction treatment center for adult men can help you break the disease cycle and learn how to work a program of long-term recovery. We also can help those who contend with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Team members are standing by to field any questions you may have about our extended care, mental health, and addiction rehab for men. 800·526·1851

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