Probably one of the most loaded topics we tackle within MTB is the issue surrounding substance abuse and addiction. According to the medical community, drinking 9 or more units of alcohol per week classifies you as an alcoholic. Most of us will chuckle at that number, because we all know that we have had 9 drinks in one post-shift session, nevermind a week. So here we come to look at the true definition of addiction and the difference between an unhealthy over-consumption socially and being a slave to a substance, mentally and physically.
Within our industry, we have a very complicated and sometimes negative relationship with substances, especially alcohol. It is our release, our reward at the end of the shift. We make our money from selling it, restaurant profits depend heavily on mark-ups on drinks, so we are also constantly encouraged to get that one last drink out of our guests. Culturally, North American also have a binge-based relationship with alcohol, which differs from our friends in Europe and abroad. If we have had a bad day, we deserve to get drunk. It’s girls’ night, let’s get smashed. But considering how horrid we feel the next day, how unproductive, lethargic and sick we feel. Does that mentality even make sense? This conversation about how we relate to alcohol is important, related to addiction, as most industry drug issues start with alcohol, then move on to narcotics. This is not to suggest alcohol is “bad”, or getting drunk is “bad”. But perhaps, it’s time to look at how we as an industry encourage an unhealthy use of alcohol and narcotics as a replacement to healthy coping skills. Time as managers, employers and vendors to support the positive mental health of our people, without the potentially dangerous effects of continued over-consumption.
Addiction serves a role – be it numbing pain, wanting to feel good when everything feels too much, to push bad feelings to the side. Addiction can be a coping technique, which, at first, can seem very effective. But addiction becomes the driving force of your life, costing you relationships, money, jobs and your own health. Current medical professionals have taken all levels of addiction and call it Substance-Use Disorder.