Maintaining Recovery While Working in a Restaurant

People working in the restaurant industry face the unique challenge of being around alcohol as part of their daily job. In addition, a culture of drinking, whether it be going out for drinks after work or receiving a free drink per shift, is prevalent in the restaurant industry.

For those in recovery, working with this temptation can be daunting. Adding this daily challenge on top of the long hours and inconsistent schedules restaurant work is known for can shake even those strongly rooted in their sobriety.

But while it can be difficult, it in no way means you need to give up your career. Rather, being more aware of the reality can better prepare you to face this challenge head on.

Talk with your supervisor

Though it may be uncomfortable, it is important to have a conversation with your boss at the start of your employment — or if you are returning to a previously held position, schedule a meeting as soon as you return. Try to be open with your supervisor about how you are now sober and how certain things are non-negotiable because of this.

For example, be upfront about scheduling restrictions. If your home group is every Tuesday at 7 PM, let your boss know you are unavailable to work Tuesday evenings. Tell your boss that you will not be able to sample any new alcoholic beverages being added to the menu. Perhaps even ask to be placed in a different part of the restaurant, especially if your old position interacted with alcohol more than you’re currently comfortable with.

Being open can help you avoid potentially uncomfortable situations. Chances are you may not be alone, and another coworker may be struggling with the same issues. This gives you a chance to have an onsite buddy and recovery support system at work. Additionally, if your boss is supportive and respectful, you’ll feel that strength knowing management has your back and is looking out for you.

Considering avoiding alcohol entirely

You might weigh the options of working for a restaurant that doesn’t sell alcohol, like a breakfast spot or family diner. Even a BYOB restaurant is a better place to work if you are in recovery because there will not be alcohol lying around the restaurant for you to drink.

If this doesn’t work, ask for sections farthest from the bar or if you can work shifts that tend to have lower amounts of alcohol consumption, like brunch or lunch.

Set and enforce boundaries with peers

If coworkers invite you out for drinks post work, always feel confident in saying no. Your recovery is more important than the approval of the people you work with.

If any of your coworkers offer you alcohol or other drugs at any point, make sure to tell them you are in recovery from a substance use disorder. Strongly consider telling your manager about the incident, especially if it involved illegal substances.

Maintain open communication with your support system

Make sure to keep your support system aware of any issues or triggers that come up in your workplace. This includes your sponsor, home group, counselor, and anyone else who helps support your recovery. Some areas even have support groups specifically for restaurant workers. Consider looking into joining one of them if you think the added support would be beneficial.

As a manager …

If you are a manager of a restaurant and have seen firsthand the struggles of employees with substance use disorder, it is important to not turn a blind eye or in any way encourage the behavior. Some ways you can help your employees maintain their sobriety is through:

  • Getting rid of a “shift-drink” policy – A shift drink is like a shift meal, where everyone is allotted one alcoholic beverage on the house at the end of their shift. This encourages alcoholic consumption on company property;
  • Don’t ignore it – If you notice an employee drinking during their shift, clocking in intoxicated or hungover, it may be time to say something. Not only does this look out for the customers, it shows your employee that you’ve noticed and are concerned;
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy – This kind of policy discourages drinking on the job entirely, and can be an effective method of dissuading any behaviors linked to substance use. It also provides a safer working environment for those recovering from addiction and living soberly.

Taking the steps to discourage substance use in your restaurant not only increases the quality of service you can offer your customers, but, in the long run, provides better quality of life for your employees.

Talk to someone about staying sober in your workplace

If you’re struggling to maintain sobriety or feel you need additional resources, Rehab After Work has counselors available to help. Call us anytime at 610-644-6464 to see how we can help you on your journey to lasting recovery.