A student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, has just released data from a study she ran on the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse among restaurant industry workers.

Industry Stats

Anyone who has worked in a restaurant will generally vouch that the climate is often one of drinking and partying among the employees. The study included 93 surveys, from restaurant and bar employees who had experienced negative events in their lives due to drinking or drug use. Questions included how often they drank over the last two months, and how many days they “binge drank” (5+ drinks). The results showed an average of almost 40 days out of 60 where alcohol was consumed, and around 15 out of 60 (¼) where that consumption was excessive.

The drug use was not much better; most had used drugs ~11 days of the month, with around 10 days the drug being used more than once. Yet only 18% of the employees indicated that they believed they had a problem. However, 53% reported knowing someone at work with a problem. (As most of us know, it’s much easier to spot the problems in others than in yourself). The paper concludes with data regarding the impact an employee’s substance abuse can have on a company, particularly in terms of productivity, morale, absenteeism, and injury. The author finally called for higher involvement of employee assistance programs (EAPs) in the restaurant industry, citing the high levels of substance abuse among employees.

Staying Sober in the Industry

For someone who is considering or pursuing a life of recovery and sobriety, the restaurant industry can be a tricky place. It’s an easy go-to, as it’s generally easy to get a job in a bar or restaurant, and many who are newly sober are in need of employment. Further, many people may have worked in a restaurant or bar prior to getting sober and would like to stay on. And theoretically, if someone if working a strong program (working the steps, staying connected, lots of prayer and meditation, and attending regular and frequent meetings), there shouldn’t be an issue. But for many, the temptations that surround one in the restaurant industry may be too much to handle at first, at least until they establish a strong foundation of recovery. Being surrounded by other employees who drink and use drugs (particularly if you used to drink and use with them) is a gamble. One moment of weakness or temptation could jeopardize all the progress you’ve made in recovery. It’s important for those new to recovery to discuss it with their sponsor or a trusted friend in recovery, pray about it, and make an honest decision as to whether they feel they can stay sober under those conditions. And this article is by no means telling you it’s not possible to stay sober and wait tables or bartend. Most certainly, there are plenty of people in recovery who do, and are still sober, happy, joyous, and free. It’s just a risk that you should be honest with yourself about before deciding to take such a position. At the end of the day, if your program is strong, so will your sobriety be- under any conditions and in any environment.

For more information, read the full report here.

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