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Alcoholism in the Kitchen

In between the endlessly hilarious pictures of poorly labeled containers of unknown food over at r/Kitchenconfidential there are truly excellent people looking for help and giving it out. An honest request for help for an all too common problem brought about a fantastic response from an industry-alum that all of us would benefit from reading. Thanks u/groove for your bravery and u/RockleyBob for such great first hand experience and advice - well done to you both.

Posted by u/groove_daddy
How to deal with alcoholism in kitchen life?
I was recently fired from a great job for showing up reeking of booze. However this was not the first time it’s happened. Over the last five years I’ve found that I have become a functioning alcoholic in the workplace. I always thought I was being sly about it but I was only fooling myself. Are there any programs/groups out there like AA that cater particularly to cooks? I need some guidance here, anything helps

Posted by u/RockleyBob
Hey man, I am 36, and only just now transistioning out of the restaurant business. I’ve been working in them since I turned 17. It’s been a great run, but like many of us I developed a drinking habit. For pretty much my entire 20’s, I was a daily drinker. I didn’t “go to sleep” once in that span of years - I passed out.

I did many things in restaurants. I worked as a bar manager, bar tender, mixologist, wine steward, sommelier. I worked for celebrity chefs. I took classes in wine and spirits and legitimized my drinking. I made drinking a part of my job. During the day, I was tasting and selecting $100 bottles of wine for our lists and at home I was filling red solo cups with Peter Franzia Chablis out of the box. The restaurant biz didn’t make me an alcoholic, but it made it easier for me to hide in plain sight.

After being let go from numerous jobs, after having my wife and son leave and return after heartfelt apologies, I finally hit bottom and got some help. I went to a rehab where I slept without the aid of booze in a long time. I distanced myself from a daily cycle that was destructive, and I learned about what options existed for me.

In the end, I had a friend who was in recovery. He took me to AA meetings. AA worked for me. I was not, and remain a non-religious person. Having a network of people in recovery helped immensely. AA is not like how it is portrayed in movies and on tv (and reddit, for that matter). That said, AA is not the only way to remain sober, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t look at other options.

Whatever you decide, it was critical for me that I end the cycle of saying “I would make changes.” I needed outside help. Trying to fix an addicted brain with decision making from that same addicted brain was not going to be productive. I tried over and over to drink like a normal person in every conceivable way and it always ended up with me out of control. Other alcoholics I’ve met stopped for periods of time, but the lure of alcohol always got them again at some point when their guard was down. Having a program and a network of friends in recovery greatly helps with this, be that AA or something else. The community over at r/stopdrinking is great. You will find many cooks and people from the “biz” there.

Good luck and don’t hesitate to PM me.

Edit: I just want to add that I didn’t leave the business when I got sober, but I did find work in a BYOB as a server, which lessens my exposure to alcohol quite a bit. For the last five years, I made great money, waited tables, and went back to school. I will graduate with a computer science degree in May. I have a job now as a computer programmer. This isn’t to brag - it’s to make clear how much I suddenly could accomplish financially, mentally, academically, and professionally once I stopped drinking. Working in restaurants was a part of my identity, and I didn’t think I could ever give that up. Whether you decide to stay or leave, quitting will definitely make your goals more attainable.