Support groups offer help to hospitality workers struggling with addiction

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The financial fallout from COVID-19’s impact has been crippling for many hospitality workers. From job insecurity to extreme stress, many employees say finding a way to cope can lead to addiction.

WSAV spoke with two professionals who say they know what it’s like to struggle with substance abuse.

“I’d become a shell of the man that I could be,” Nick Cammann, a cook at Wyld Dock Bar, said.

Cammann and Bill Vissicchio say substance abuse is rampant in the food and beverage industry.

“I’ve been in the restaurant industry for about 35 years now and about 10 years ago, addiction to drugs, addiction to alcohol really got ahold of me and I was fighting the fight for a while, and I did get sober about six, six and a half years ago,” Vissicchio, the owner of Rocky’s NY Deli and Italian Catering, described.

Cammann said it was hard for him to find other workers in his industry that were able to maintain sobriety.

“I wondered, I was like you know are there others out there?” Cammann said. “I knew Bill already, I knew a few other people but I felt like maybe we needed some type of fellowship and a way for all of us to connect.”

Ben’s Friends was founded in honor of Ben Murray, a chef who lost his life after battling alcoholism for years, and is a national community to help people who are facing a similar fight.

“When we heard of this and we found that there are other people in the restaurant industry trying to get sober but can’t, we felt like we were in a good position that we could help people,” Vissicchio said about his first time attending a Ben’s Friends meeting at the flagship group in Charleston.

Vissicchio and Cammann started Savannah’s Ben’s Friends group and say that their door is open to anyone.

“There was a big stigma surrounding my addiction for sure,” Camman said. “I struggled with heroine addiction for over a decade. Generally things like that are highly shunned by the public. I want to be somebody that people can turn to when they’re struggling. When a mother loses her son or daughter they’ll struggle with that for the rest of their lives. I want to be there for whoever needs help and understanding. There is a way out.”

“I get it, I understand and you know, identifying with somebody who’s going through the same thing is part of what works,” Vissicchio added.

They invited others to join their group that they describe as an open space that is laid back with room for everyone whether they’re sober or working towards sobriety.

“I would say that it’s just something that is very difficult to do alone. If you stumble, it’s ok, you can get back up, there’s no shame in that. Life is sometimes like a rocky road you can move forward you don’t have to continue to go backwards or stand still,” Cammann said.

“Anyone that wants to get sober can. There’s hope, there’s absolutely hope. Nick and I are proof of that,” Vissicchio relayed as he invited others to join them each week.

Savannah’s Ben’s Friends group meets every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. in the restaurant Local 11Ten (1110 Bull Street).

You can email Vissicchio or Cammann at the following email addresses to get in touch:

Click HERE to find a Ben’s Friends group near you or to join their daily Zoom meetings.

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