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From Whiskey to Wellness

How it took reaching the bottom of the barrel to truly find my way

I had one of those jobs. The one that no one can quite believe is real, where people’s singular response when you told them what you did was: ‘I want your job’. To them it was like being paid for doing what they did on a Friday night after work. A seemingly endless party with free alcohol, sex, travel and a seemingly bottomless corporate credit card.

Just like the aftermath of any party, what they didn’t see were the regular 2am alarm calls, the semi-permanent jet-lag, at least 30% of my waking hours spent in an uber, a reliance on rich restaurant food, breakfast buffets, push button coffee, mini-bars and a level of alcohol consumption to rival the most steadfast of Russian sailors.

Wake up, coffee, pack bag, book Uber, check-in, security, coffee, board a plane, champagne, movie, finish presentation, land, hotel, pick-up, restaurant, deliver presentation, dinner, bar visits, cocktail, shot, cocktail, shot, cocktail, shot, cocktail, shot, back to hotel, sleep. Repeat.

I did this for 7 years, visiting 62 countries and earning enough airmiles to earn me a trip to the moon and back but on the 9th November 2016, it all came crashing down. Whilst attending the Athens Bar Show I had a breakdown to rival the best of them. I survived, made it home and was eventually diagnosed with Severe Unipolar Depression.

Through the darkness I decided to share my illness and struggles with the wider world and attempt to add a little weight to the wrecking ball trying to break down the stigma around mental health illness. What happened next truly shocked me. Amongst the hundreds of supportive and loving messages I received from friends, family and complete strangers where an even larger number of messages from people thanking me for opening the door for them and telling me stories of their struggles and problems. It seemed that I had opened the proverbial box.

Today, I have, with the support of family, friends, and a large dose of self-help made a full, and hopefully lifelong, recovery.

I’m just a regular guy, with slightly oversized feet and no discernible super powers who just decided to be honest with the world. And it is that honesty that has determined my future. What drives me is a desire to help others, and after my journey to mental hell and back, to help others avoid being overwhelmed by one of the least understood and most destructive of illness.

The hospitality industry is widely regarded as the unhealthiest industries there is. A study published in 2015 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the US showed that the hospitality industry has the highest use of illegal drugs and ranked 3rd highest in excessive alcohol consumption. Studies in Australia & the UK found similar patterns. Cooks are 1.77 times and bartenders 2.33 times more likely than average to die from alcohol related disease (source), servers and bartenders rank 2nd & 4th as the most unhappy jobs in America (source) and a 2015 study by the US Department of Labor Statistics found bartending the 13th most dangerous job in the US (source), with bartenders more likely to die on the job that police officers.

The industry also lacks many of the safety nets and protections of other industries. Hourly or tip based pay means that paid sick leave is avoided at all costs, there are few organised industry unions supporting the rights and wellbeing of workers, healthcare and insurance is extremely variable and dependent upon country and employer and financial insecurity a constant cause of stress and anxiety.

They say the night is darkest just before the dawn, and it was through the darkest moments of my life that the light of the future began to shine. Inspired by the amazing work of people like Rich Roll, Tim Ferriss and Arianna Huffington who have dedicated their lives to helping improve the lives of others in very public channels, I have launched a new project dedicated to improving the health, wellness and life of hospitality professionals around the world. Healthy Hospo is a platform to provide information, advice, support and motivation for anyone who works in bars, restaurants, hotels and the wider hospitality industry.

I’ve just started out along this journey. I have no idea where it will take me, but I know I’m walking the right path as I’ve never felt more comfortable with who I am and where I’m going. 

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