Do you have to leave foodservice to stay sober?

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In this in-depth investigation, NRN looks at how restaurants can recover from a culture of substance abuse.

Scott Crawford has been executive chef at some of the Southeast’s finest restaurants, and for nearly 14 years, he has done it sober.    He’s now chef-owner of Crawford and Son in Raleigh, N.C., and the head of the city’s chapter of Ben’s Friends, a support group for food and beverage professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.

Crawford started drinking and using drugs at an early age, “and when I got into food and beverage, I would say that not only did the industry and my mentors and the people around me enable my use — I don’t blame them; we were all in it together — but it was just really encouraged.

“The whole lifestyle — you’re in a place that has alcohol. There’s always alcohol in the kitchen, behind the bar, and after the adrenaline of an awesome service, it was typically followed by chasing that buzz with alcohol, and then usually cocaine.”

Alcoholism was a progressive disease.

“I progressed from someone who could be pretty functional to losing control,” he said.

Eventually, at age 30, he wound up in the intensive care unit with Type 1 diabetes. The autoimmune disease usually occurs in children, but Crawford said his body rebelled against the abuse.

“My body attacked itself and killed my pancreas,” he said. “I nearly died.”

It still wasn’t enough for him to get sober.

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Jaci Lund