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Tackling Addiction Within The Hospitality Industry

Though addictions can strike anywhere, it is worth noting that certain industries lend themselves more to temptation. The hospitality field, for instance, is known for a high rate of dependencies, particularly because those who work around food and beverages are constantly exposed to alcohol and other vices. Forbes Magazine recently highlighted that stat and a recovery advocate who is working to help struggling chefs, bartenders and restaurant employees get clean.

Steve Palmer is a world renowned restauranteur who happens to be a partner in some of the country’s most well established eateries. He is also a recovering addict who knows firsthand all of the addiction challenges facing workers in that field.

Speaking about his love of hospitality and its dangers, Palmer summed up a few of his experiences.

“The hospitality industry operates under a perplexing contradiction,” Palmer told Forbes. “We are an industry of caring individuals whose job it is to care for others — but we are failing to care for our own. The industry enabled my addiction so readily and completely that I nearly drank myself to death on the job.”

He went on to describe the issues that several of his peers struggled with and the tragedies that befell those who did not seek help. One close friend, famed chef Ben Murray, wound up killing himself in the midst of an intense addiction.

It was Murray’s story, in particular, that motivated Palmer to take action. Within the last three years, he founded Ben’s Friends; a sobriety support group for people in the food and beverage industry. Currently, it is active in 10 cities across the country and includes weekly support groups, as well as online resources.

As the site describes it, Ben’s Friends offers “hope, fellowship and a path forward to hospitality professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.” It also has a social media component, which includes chats and local event notifications.

Palmer has truly become an inspirational figure in his field. Beyond the sobriety support, his company (The Indigo Road) offers programs to help employees secure home loans and receive free mental health therapy.

As Palmer told Forbes, it all comes full circle and he is a firm believer in “paying it forward.”

“Projects like Ben’s Friends are my life’s most important work,” he concluded. “The restaurant industry has given me a life that I could’ve never imagined, and I have a deep desire to leave the industry better than I found it.”