Episode 210: Ben’s Friends

This episode features a conversation with Mickey Bakst from an organization called Ben’s Friends, which provides a forum for people in recovery who work in the food and beverage industry. Micky talks about the history behind the group’s founding and the special challenges facing food and beverage workers in recovery.

You can learn more about Ben’s Friends at their website bensfriendshope.com.


0:00:00.0 John: This is the Beyond Belief Sobriety Podcast, where we examine topics of interest to people who seek a secular path to recovery from addictions of all kinds.


0:00:17.1 John: Well, today’s guest is really very timely for what’s going on in the world. His name is Mickey, and I should have asked him how to pronounce his last name, but I’m going to try, Baskt, is that right?

0:00:30.0 Mickey: Close, but it’s Bakst.

0:00:32.6 John: Bakst.

0:00:33.5 Mickey: That’s it.

0:00:34.9 John: Mickey Bakst. Mickey is from an organization called Ben’s Friends, and I’m going to introduce this organization and Mickey, and what this podcast is about by reading a couple of paragraphs from the About page on Ben’s Friends website, which is bensfriendshope.com. And the paragraph is this: “Ben’s Friends is the food and beverage industry support group, offering hope, fellowship and a path forward for professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction. Founded in the honor of Ben Murray, a lifelong chef who took his own life after struggling with alcoholism for years, Ben’s Friends exists to provide a safe haven and an anonymous, judgment-free forum for workers in an industry that has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the country. Ben’s Friends models acceptance and gratitude, and though unaffiliated with AA or NA, shares an important commonality: That being the only thing you need to bring through the door is a desire to stop drinking or using.”

0:01:41.3 John: So welcome, Mickey, I’m really excited about talking to you and learning about this organization. And it really is timely based upon what’s going on in the last year, and what is to happen in the next year in the food and beverage industry and how people are handling that right now. It’s gotta be difficult, so I don’t know where to begin. But maybe if you can start with a little introduction of yourself in your own story and how you got involved in this organization.

0:02:08.1 Mickey: First off, it’s a pleasure to meet you, John. I enjoyed our phone conversation prior to, and it’s nice to meet somebody that has the same thought process as I do, so thank you for inviting me. My story… Let’s see, I started drinking when I was 13 years old, in 1969, yes, folks, I’m a little bit older. In 1969 somebody said, “Don’t you think you need help?” And in 1982 I said, “Yes, that’s my drug club.” I have been sober for 38 years, all of those years in the restaurant industry. I have done in the industry high-end fine dining at the very top level of the dining world, and I’ve done it all sober, doing incredible wine dinners, great cognac bourbon tastings, the whole nine yards sober. So that’s my story, I am nothing more than a recovering drunk who happened to love passionately the restaurant industry.

0:03:26.0 Mickey: When I came into AA in… Well, I started back in ’76, yes, when I was 24 years old everybody said you had to do two things: One was get on your knees and pray, and the other was quit the restaurant industry. Both were things that I was diametrically opposed to. The God thing was okay, but it wasn’t for me, but quitting what I loved after having quit the other love of my life, alcohol and drugs, was more than I could handle. Though I am strongly an advocate of AA, I believe that the steps of the program help us in the recovery phase, I believe there’s a difference between getting sober and recovery, I believe that the steps of the program help you immensely. I felt, and my partner, Steve Palmer, who is a restaurateur with a group called Indigo Road that he owns, we felt that there were too many people who are coming into AA in our industry and being turned off by a lot of the God aspects, by the rules aspect, and by being told they had to quit restaurants.

0:04:49.8 John: I can’t believe that that advice is given.

0:04:52.6 Mickey: Oh, absolutely, unconditionally.

0:04:55.0 John: Unbelievable, it’s crazy.

0:04:56.8 Mickey: Here’s how Ben’s Friends started, and I’m going to give you a little bit of the background. Steve Palmer and I, both in the restaurant business, both with a period of time, Steve was 18 years sober, I was probably 34 at the time. We would meet every Saturday and have breakfast and coffee together and talk. And every week we found that we had another story about another kid in restaurants who had destroyed their lives, wrecked their career, or died. And we kept saying to ourselves, “This is out of control, we need to do something.” But we were both too busy. Then one week in 2016, in March, Charleston, where we are, South Carolina, has a phenomenal food and wine festival, the greatest chefs from all over the country come, people come from all over, it’s really wonderful.

0:06:05.9 Mickey: And during that weekend, we had from Friday night at midnight to Sunday morning in the small city of Charleston, three young restaurant people die from alcohol and drug overdoses in 24 hours, and I’m going to tell the guests, your guests who are listening, one of the kids was such a talented chef that I was hosting a dinner with some of the greatest names in restaurant world, Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer, Ruth Reichl, Nancy Silverton, Andrew Carmellini, these are legendary names in the restaurant, and I was hosting… I was doing a dinner with them that night, and the day of the dinner, I was hosting a brunch, we closed the restaurant and we were serving all these great chefs and this young kid cooked our meal, knocked it out of the park, and that night, he overdosed. That night, he drank himself to death.

0:07:25.2 Mickey: The next week, Steve and I got together and we talked about these three young kids dying and we were sickened, as would be anybody. And again, we said, we’re too busy. What can we do? Two weeks after that, Steve was opening a restaurant in Florence, South Carolina and had called on some other chef friends from other places to come and help him launch this restaurant, and a young man named Ben Murray. Not a young… A young man to me. Ben Murray, he came and there were three sober chefs working in that restaurant to get it started, and Ben couldn’t handle it and went to a hotel room and took his life. Steve found out that it was his fifth attempt at recovery, fifth attempt at rehabilitation centers and he couldn’t get sober, and working in a room with three sober people, he couldn’t bring himself to ask for help. And Steve came back the next week and was just heart-broken, I mean, totally devastated.

0:08:46.0 Mickey: And at that moment, we looked at each other and we said, enough of being too busy. And we went to the local media because we are not anonymous. I’m fond of saying that there was nobody who knew me didn’t know that I was a drunk. I wasn’t ashamed to pass out on the bar stool to be found behind the bar the next day, literally.

0:09:15.7 John: True.

0:09:17.0 Mickey: Why would I be ashamed to tell people that I’m living a sober, healthy life. So Steve and I went to the local media and we said, Steve Palmer and Mickey Bakst, and this is not meant to sound arrogant, but we have big names. Both of us in Charleston were well known in the community. We said, we will be at this location every Sunday at 11:00 AM for anybody in our industry who wants help. And the first Sunday, 25 people showed up, and from that has grown a network that is now in 13 cities. We have 21 Zoom meetings a week, and I mean, just this morning, one of our chefs in Seattle is celebrating two years of sobriety, and I send out 50 texts, I copied 50 people on three texts and everybody’s responding. We have created a network of sober food and beverage people who not only share their addiction and their issues with alcohol, but we share the commonality of the industry that we’re part of, and that commonality means the understanding of what it’s like to miss every holiday, what it’s like to get off of work at one o’clock in the morning when there is nothing to do, and what it’s like to missing birthdays of loved ones and anniversaries and the stress of constantly being under pressure in the restaurant.

0:11:14.9 Mickey: Our industry is one of the three top industries for addiction: Construction workers, miners and restaurant workers…

0:11:26.1 John: Isn’t that interesting?

0:11:27.2 Mickey: Are the highest, the highest industry for alcohol and drug abuse. So Ben’s Friends came together to help those in the industry. We support AA. I want to say firmly without AA, I would not be sitting here, no ands ifs or buts. But what we’ve done, is we focus more on the community and the commonality as opposed to some of the other parts of AA. We don’t talk about God. If you have a belief, we’re thrilled, that’s your belief. But we don’t push that. What we push really is that community that is essential. And I say with enormous pride. I’m sitting in these meetings looking at people who have never been to an AA meeting and here in Charleston are now four years sober. And o Zoom with the national meetings, we are now celebrating nine months anniversaries, and people have never been to AA.

0:12:51.1 Mickey: But the commonality… And I’m sorry, I’m getting excited, I’m not sorry, I don’t care. But the reality is that I am arguably one of the oldest people, I am the oldest person in this organization, and the one with the most sobriety, so I have been to the most AA meetings and I have phenomenal friends in AA that I got sober with that are still sober, 38 years later. But I have never, ever experienced that bond that I’m experiencing, believe it or not, over Zoom, in our national meetings. People are going to meet people, people are taking the Ben’s Friends Road where they’re driving from city to city just to meet people that they’ve become friends with. We had people come here recently from Louisville and Charlotte and Columbus, and I mean, it was… I had never met these people in person and it was like old home week. So that’s a little… I don’t know if that was poignant enough.

0:14:08.5 John: Oh, that was great. It really brings up some questions that I have, and also I’m guessing from my own experience. My drinking started when I was like a teenager and got bad in its early 20s, and during that time in my early 20s, I was working at a restaurant. What I remember about that experience was what you described. Incredibly long hours, working into the wee hours of the morning, hard physical work and easy access to alcohol and it was… I would get off work and I was just drunk because that’s all I did. And one day what happened to me is I came into the restaurant drunk, and told everybody I quit. I walked away, and I went to a job unloading trucks. But what I remembered about that experience, though, the difficulty of it was, and I wasn’t even at that time even aware that I had a problem. But it was like that job was all-encompassing. It just sucked out all my time, and alcohol was right there in the restaurant, we had a beer machine on tap, it was just, it was just too easy to be a young alcoholic in that industry. It was set me up perfectly, I think. I wonder if that’s what you’re describing, that kind of a scenario.

0:15:48.6 Mickey: There’s no question. Restaurants are a perfect place for those with the propensity to drink to end up. They drink and drug. There’s no question. All of the factors that you mentioned are there. But the biggest factor is, what do you do at 1 o’clock in the morning? You can’t go anywhere, except the bar for an hour.

0:16:18.8 John: Right, bars around here close at 3:00.

0:16:22.4 Mickey: And so in here in Charleston and in Michigan, where I’m from, they’re 2:00. So what else is there to do? You have another job and you get off of work at 5 o’clock. You got hours to unwind. Who can unwind? You’re wound up. You’ve been running non-stop all evening long. You’ve been listening to customers, and you know, you’ve been fighting with chefs or fighting with bar tenders and servers to get the things you need. You’re wound tighter than a drum. How do you unwind? And in the industry, we attract people that might be a little bit misfits.


0:17:10.9 John: Yeah.

0:17:11.1 Mickey: And we’re a perfect welcoming place for people to land, who are looking for that.

0:17:22.0 John: Tell me this, let’s say that somebody who works in a restaurant and they’re recognizing they have a problem and they’re trying to get sober. Do they find that their fellow workers are not supportive and does that make it more difficult?

0:17:39.1 Mickey: To be honest with you, I don’t think so. I think they find a little bit of pressure at first, but I think in today’s environment, when people are… For me, when I got sober, there was at first a little push, oh, come on, come on, you don’t need this, come on. I think today there is such a rampant, rampant problem that people identify it and people support those who are trying to get sober.

0:18:20.5 John: There has been some progress made, hasn’t there?

0:18:23.1 Mickey: There has been enormous progress made, and I see it everywhere. I see it everywhere. Number one, restaurants are identifying it as a problem. We used to have the shift drink. Everybody at the end of the work would get a free drink. It isn’t happening as much. It still happens in places. Restaurants are talking about healthy management, is talking about healthy ways of living. There is a very subtle shift occurring in the industry. HR people are not throwing somebody out of work. More so today than ever, they’re asking people, how can they help them, and how can they help them with the problem of alcohol.

0:19:17.1 John: No, that really is a big difference, even… Yeah, that is a huge difference. [chuckle] I’m looking back at my past. [chuckle] Yes.

0:19:24.8 Mickey: John, honestly, it’s incredible. I mean, HR people… Steve’s company is not the only one. Steve’s company, Indigo Road… Now, how did you like that plug? Steve’s company now is offering alcohol and drug substance abuse counseling for their employees. Because here’s the reality, the restaurant industry needs people. We don’t need to kick people out. We need to help people stay in.

0:20:00.1 John: Yeah. So tell me about this, Mickey. Since COVID and since all these… Since we have to social distance, I don’t go to restaurants anymore. How are people dealing with this in the restaurant industry?

0:20:19.3 Mickey: I will tell you, John, the thing that fascinates Steve and I more than anything, as you know, isolation is absolutely… [chuckle] It’s a devil toss. The worst place to be is with your own brain alone, as an addict. And yet, I think what happened is what I’m seeing, is that there are so many people who came in to Ben’s Friends and AA, because in those first couple of months of sobriety… Of the pandemic, I mean, they went all out. You’re stuck in a 500 square foot apartment by yourself, without a job and no idea what’s going to come, and you’re a heavy drinker. What do you do, John? You drink more. I think what happened is that people who had the propensity towards our illness, they really went at it, and they hit walls, and those walls forced them to ask for help. And we are seeing a avalanche of people now who are getting sober during this pandemic, and it’s mind-boggling to me. I cannot imagine being without a job, by myself, and getting sober.

0:22:05.9 John: I know. I know. It blows my mind too. We see the same thing in the secular AA community as well, more people getting sober for the first time online, not having that face-to-face connection, and it amazes me. In one way, I think it would have helped me, ’cause I do remember it was very, very, very difficult for me to walk through that door for the first time. [chuckle] And I bet you… I mean, things had to get pretty bad for me to be willing to open the door to actually go into a room like that and ask for help, but maybe if I didn’t have to do that back in 1988 and I could have gotten on a device and actually seen people on a screen, it might have been easier for me to check it out. So there’s some advantage to it, I think, in that respect.

0:22:54.1 Mickey: Yeah… No, there’s tremendous… It’s funny you say that, because I literally am working with a brand new kid, who a friend of mine called from his restaurant, and the kid is incredibly shy, incredibly shy. And the thought of going into a room with 30, 40 people is just overwhelming. But Zoom, you can go in, you don’t have to do the visual, and they can sit back and listen for a few times. And we can call on them, and they can say without any nervousness, ’cause nobody’s seeing them, “I’m not ready to speak yet, but I’m glad I’m here.” And then you watch as the days go by, the first step is the visual part of the Zoom starts and then all of a sudden they’re talking and they’re comfortable, and now they’re calling people and they create a network. So there is a major advantage for those who are introverted. Me, me, I fill my soul on hugs and kisses.

0:24:20.6 John: You’re extroverted. [chuckle]

0:24:23.6 Mickey: And so I don’t know how I would have done with it. But it has brought to the table a lot of new people.

0:24:30.4 John: Yeah. And they’re finding… Are they finding new people…

0:24:32.8 Mickey: I honestly love it. Honestly, John, I love… I mean, I did it the first time… Ben’s Friends went to its first national Zoom meeting on March 23rd. Now, everybody who comes has said, no matter what happens with the pandemic, we want this to continue.

0:24:55.1 John: Yeah.

0:24:55.7 Mickey: Everybody, unanimously. And I have found that as an old guy who really is not… I mean, it’s Gmail and Google search, that’s about the extent of my thing. And I found, I don’t want it to end. I have grown close. I truly can say I love people that I have never, ever put my hands on or seen in person.

0:25:28.9 John: Sure. Oh, I think it’s going to continue. Again, we’re noticing the same thing in our secular community, probably in the recovery community writ large, this is the experience. And so what’s going to happen is you’re going to see a lot more of these online meetings, maybe some hybrid meetings. I’m curious, what is a Ben’s Friends meeting like? Can you describe the meeting itself?

0:25:51.6 Mickey: We formatted it around the AA principle, ’cause that’s what we knew. We open with a preamble, which, if you give me one nanosecond, I have it right here. May I read it?

0:26:13.1 John: Absolutely.

0:26:13.6 Mickey: And you’ll notice some similarities to another one. [chuckle] “Ben’s Friends is a coalition of sober food and beverage people committed to their sobriety in an industry filled with drugs, alcohol and stress. Each of us has found or is seeking sobriety in a way to deal with our careers and lives in a sane and purposeful fashion. We are here to share together how we do it, and provide those seeking sobriety with the tools and the community needed to find it. Our only purpose is to help each other find freedom from the bondage of our addiction.”

0:26:55.9 John: Wow, I love it.

0:26:58.1 Mickey: But it sounds similar to me.

0:27:01.6 John: I can hear the cadence and some similarity, but it’s more modern. [chuckle] It’s good. I like it.

0:27:08.1 Mickey: It’s funny you said that, ’cause was it you that I was having a conversation with? I think so, about the writing of the Big Book.

0:27:17.6 John: Yes. Yes. So we were talking about… So when we both came in the program, which was decades ago. Okay, the book was already old, but now it’s basically ancient. [chuckle] It would have been like you coming into the program and someone giving you a book that was written like 1888. [chuckle] You would’ve looked at it and say, “What? This is crazy.” And that’s what’s happening now, you’re giving people a book that’s over 80 years old now, so it’s getting to hit that century mark. And no doubt, when it does get to be 100 years old, they’ll still be using the same damn book. And it’s a problem. It really is.

0:27:52.4 Mickey: I agree whole-heartedly. I’ve been thinking about that since we had the conversation. It’s sort of like watching a 1950s sitcom. [chuckle] There is this thing… Yeah, who wants to do that anymore, a black and white… So yeah, there’s that. So that’s our preamble. And then, honestly, first of all, the most important thing is language. We swear a lot. There are a lot of F words, a lot of shit, a lot. It sounds like a kitchen in a busy restaurant. And then, the rest of the format is really, we don’t talk steps, we talk about life, we talk about change, we talk about a couple of real prevalent subjects as, “How do you stay sober serving booze every night? What do you do with yourself at 1 o’clock in the morning? How do you continue to deal with the stress?” We talk about the change…

0:29:10.9 John: Answer some of those questions, if you could. How do you stay sober when you’re serving alcohol?

0:29:16.4 Mickey: Well, you know, everybody has their own things. For me, it was… I’m a low bottom drunk, okay? Low bottom in the sense that I had a DOA. I was found in a hotel room after four days of bingeing on the verge of death. I was also in a straitjacket in a nut house, at one point. I lost my business. Nobody really gave a hell damn to talk to me anymore. So I was a low bottom drunk. At 30 years old after leaving home at 16, the only place I had to go was mommy and daddy’s house, and that was… That was a little different after 14 years of being out. So for me, I always tell people that in AA, the first step is we admitted we were powerless and life’s become unmanageable. For me, my first step was, I made a decision I didn’t want to die.

0:30:22.9 Mickey: And then, I came to believe that if I wanted to live, I had to change parts of me. And so, we talk, for me, about the, “How do we do it?” I, actually, had to look at the beginning as booze is poison. I literally would talk to the bottles and say, “No, you’re not going to kill me. I want to live.” I conditioned myself to see that bottle, not as fun, not as relief, not as escape, but as death. And I, every time I wanted to drink, every time I served somebody in the early days, I had to remember that I was serving them what was poison for me. Other people have other ways of doing it. They make that decision, they don’t want to drink. Well, it’s really the bottom line is, you know it’s going to kill you…

0:31:37.9 John: You know it’s going to kill you, yeah, and it’s just like, for me, now, I don’t know, I guess if I see alcohol, it’s an object now, it doesn’t really have… I guess, I know it’s something that’s not for me. It’s taken some time that where if alcohol is around me, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s like a neutral type of a thing. It’s like a lamp in the room or something. I might… No, maybe not like a lamp. It’s more like a gun on the table. I know it’s there, but it’s just an object.

0:32:11.4 Mickey: The gun on the table is a good analogy. Yeah, it is.

0:32:13.7 John: That’s what it is. It’s a gun on a table, because I know, I always know, if I’m in a room and there’s a bottle of alcohol, I know where it is. But that doesn’t mean that I’m so attracted to it that I’m afraid I’m going to pick it up and pull the trigger, but I know it’s there and I know it’s something I need to be aware of. I guess I’ve conditioned myself mentally in that way.

0:32:37.4 Mickey: And listen, I’ll tell you, a funny story is when I got sober and I was supposed to be reading the Big Book, ’cause that’s what they told me to do, I read the Big Book, but also on my night stand was wine books, because I was in high-end fine dining, and I had to do it. So I had to condition myself to, as you said, to realize that it’s something I can’t do and that’s okay. I have a whole bunch of world-class wines in my house. I open up a bottle of wine for my wife, and she has two glasses of wine a day. I have served the greatest wines in the world. I have done dinners with Louis XIII, and the greatest cocktails. It just doesn’t bother you after while.

0:33:37.5 John: Yeah. I get it, yeah. I think that once you’re in recovery, it does get a little bit better. It does get easier over time.

0:33:50.0 Mickey: Oh, it gets a lot easier.

0:33:52.4 John: It does. It does. Especially if you have support. And if you have people in your life who support your desire to stay sober, it makes it a lot easier.

0:34:02.1 Mickey: And then also, especially if you’ve changed the person that you were. Let’s be honest, we were liars, we were thieves, we were deceitful. It’s really rather simple, is you learn to tell the truth, you learn to do the right thing, and then you don’t feel that need.

0:34:28.0 John: Right. And we were… The whole thing about addiction is that it forces one… Okay, like in my own example, first of all, I was in denial, so I was lying to myself. I was hiding my drinking from other people, so I would lie to hide what was going on. If I was ever in trouble, I just had to talk my way out of it, lie my way out of it, whatever. If I needed alcohol and didn’t have the money, there was always a cheque I could bounce, or someone to con. So that becomes a lifestyle. That became so ingrained in my personality that I felt like I was a bad person. I felt like I was… [chuckle] I needed a new way to live. You’re right.

0:35:20.0 Mickey: That’s the subject that’s always talked about in Ben’s Friends, is there is a difference, as I said earlier, between sobriety and recovery. Sobriety is the act of putting down the drink or the drug. Recovery are the changes that you needed to make to get away from the person you were, the person that kept you drinking. And we talk a lot about that in Ben’s Friends.

0:35:52.4 John: That’s so correct. That is so correct. I actually took a course on becoming a peer specialist here in Missouri, and they describe recovery as a process of change. And that’s exactly what it is. And they also talked about the importance of how we communicate our story and to focus more on that recovery end and less on the use end, because you can easily retraumatize someone if all you’re going to do is talk about the drinking and the using and the problems.

0:36:23.4 Mickey: Right, absolutely. I don’t do that. [chuckle]

0:36:25.5 John: Yeah, I know. I know.


0:36:28.2 Mickey: It’s interesting, there are those… And this is… Everybody has their own life. There are those that choose to get sober and make everything in their lives about their recovery world, the books they read, the discussions they have. I’m about living. There was a corny old, you’re old enough to know Jefferson Airplane, had a spin-off group called Jefferson Starship.

0:37:05.4 John: Yeah, I remember it.

0:37:06.5 Mickey: Yeah, okay? But they did a song, and in this song, there was a line that struck me early in my sobriety. And the line was, “You can live in books, and you can live in stories, or you can live and leave the stories behind.” I came to a point where I wanted to live. I didn’t want to spend every waking minute… I didn’t want to go to three meetings a day. I didn’t want to go to 10 meetings a week. I wanted my sobriety to be about the joy of life. For me, that’s music. Every single newcomer that comes into Ben’s Friends, the ones I can get to, ’cause sometimes it’s too many. Literally, I start a series of songs every morning, because they need to hear positive things. I start with… And I’m old, so I start with Van Halen’s Jump, because they need to jump in to a new way of life.

0:38:20.3 John: Yeah. Their music, by the way, is still good.

0:38:23.4 Mickey: It’s still good.


0:38:24.0 Mickey: I go to With a Little Help From my Friends…

0:38:27.2 John: Yes.

0:38:27.5 Mickey: Because on your own, you can’t do it. I then go to It’s A Beautiful Morning, because you’ve gotta have a little gratitude, and then I go into Don’t You Worry About a Thing, by Stevie Wonder, because you’ve gotta accept what is.

0:38:47.3 John: That’s amazing.

0:38:48.8 Mickey: And then I do The Man in the Mirror, because if you want to make your life better, make the change. And so I do this for literally… I mean, I can’t tell you how many people. Every single morning at 6:30, I sit at my chair, and I send out texts to new people and tell them, “I don’t care what kind of music you love. Find something you love, and make it things that make you want to dance, and open your arms to the world.” We came into this addiction, and we lived in darkness, we lived in isolation, we lived with what you just said, the lies, the con, the cheating, the dirtiness. Think about the filth we lived in at the end of our addiction. It’s not what sobriety is. Sobriety is the absolute opposite. And that’s what, at Ben’s Friends, we try to teach them. You can change, you can live, you can continue doing what you love to do, and there’s no reason alcohol or drugs need to stop you.

0:40:09.5 John: Yeah, so is the… Mainly based upon the community and people supporting one another, is there any sort of program that’s recommended that people follow, are they encouraged to go to therapy? What’s…

0:40:23.9 Mickey: They’re actually encouraged to go to AA. And then take what they need and leave the rest. There is a woman in Charleston who is our… Steve and mine’s role model. Her name is Katie. I know she wouldn’t care. Katie came to us, 27, 28, living in a crack house with no windows, a hole in the ceiling, a house that should have been condemned. She had no ability to communicate with people. She couldn’t keep a job. And Katie came to Ben’s Friends and literally did not talk to us for three months. Couldn’t lift her head up and face anybody, couldn’t look you in the eyes. Katie, we… I said to her, I say it this way, “Ben’s Friends is a community, but you need some kind of program. You need some kind of program of recovery,” and for me, it was a…

0:41:35.9 John: I find that so interesting. You’re using AA as a tool, but Ben’s Friends is really the support. It’s really the… It’s the safe place, isn’t it?

0:41:47.4 Mickey: Absolutely.

0:41:48.8 John: That’s where you get with the people who understand you and your particular situation.

0:41:52.9 Mickey: And in AA parlance, Ben’s Friends becomes a home group.

0:41:58.3 John: Yeah, and I’m sure that you can talk people down who’ve gone to an AA meeting and people are telling them, “Oh, you gotta quit your job.” [chuckle]

0:42:05.8 Mickey: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

0:42:08.9 John: That’s stupid to tell someone that.

0:42:10.5 Mickey: Listen, we’ve got bartenders, mixologists, sommeliers, waiters, hosts, owners… Who am I missing? Servers, we’ve got it all. Chefs, everybody in Ben’s Friends. And everyone will tell you, “You don’t have to quit your job.” I love my restaurant, I love going to work. We got a guy in Sonoma, California, who is just starting a new job. He’s so excited, and then somebody comes to him because of his sobriety and says, “How would you like the money to open your own place?” It’s fabulous, it really is.

0:42:54.8 Mickey: I want to tell your viewers because we haven’t gotten there that our website is bensfriendshope.com. And hopefully you can get that out, bensfriendshope.com. Currently we have 21 Zoom meetings a week. We have seven in the daytime at 1:00 PM Eastern, we have three at night at 11:00 PM Eastern. We have a men’s meeting at night, a women’s meeting at night, and we also have local city meetings around the country. Some of our groups are still doing that. So I would absolutely love anybody who is struggling in our industry. And by the way, we don’t turn anybody away. One of my favorite members is a landscaper. She’s never been in restaurants. Other are restaurant people who have worked in restaurants when they were younger, felt an affinity to it and then moved on. There’s a submit page questions, I want you to know, I answer personally anybody who calls asking for help, and so…

0:44:15.0 John: I’ll definitely put the website out there. I’ll put links to it on YouTube and our Facebook page, our Facebook group and on our website, and in our show notes on the podcast as well. It really is a good website with some great information, and through that, you will learn how you can find a Ben’s Friends meeting. You can learn how to support Ben’s Friends and learn more about it. I think it’s a great… I’m so glad I ran into this. I just think it’s… And so timely right now with what’s going on in the world, especially in the restaurant industry. God, it’s just… This is necessary. It’s absolutely necessary at this point.

0:44:57.4 Mickey: Our goal is to be everywhere there’s restaurant people, and that’s what we’re going to do. Steve and I both say we are involved in a number of charitable events that we do together, and raise money to support shelters that feed the homeless, that help people out of homelessness. Steve does a number of things, I do a number of things. This is our mission. I don’t want to lose another kid in our industry to… I don’t want to lose another kid.

0:45:37.9 John: And you’ll never know how many lives that you’ve saved already, so you’ve done a great job going over this. I’m really excited about getting this podcast out and letting people know about Ben’s Friends ’cause I just… I know it’s just really badly needed and it’s wonderful to have this out here. So thank you for bringing this to light, I really appreciate it, thank you very much.

0:46:00.4 Mickey: John, it’s been absolutely a pleasure to be here with you, and stop by a Ben’s Friends sometime… Meeting.

0:46:06.2 John: I will, I’d like to stay in touch with you.

0:46:08.4 Mickey: Absolutely. Me too. It’s been a pleasure, buddy.

0:46:11.7 John: Yes.

0:46:12.4 Mickey: Thank you.


0:46:26.5 John: That’s another episode of Beyond Belief Sobriety. Thank you for listening. If you’d like to support our podcast with recurring monthly contributions, head on over to patreon.com/beyondbeliefsobriety or become a member of our YouTube channel. If you’d like to make a one-time contribution, then visit our website, beyondbeliefsobriety.com, and click on the donate button. I do appreciate your support. Thanks again for listening and we’ll be back again real soon with another episode of Beyond Belief Sobriety.