New support group launching for Nashville hospitality workers struggling with addiction

Posted at 3:44 PM, Aug 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 19:19:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ben's Friends, a national support group for restaurant and bar workers struggling with addiction, is launching in Music City.

Anyone who has found — or is struggling to find — sobriety is welcome at the weekly meetings that start Monday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at Oak Steakhouse.

This is the first chapter in Tennessee.

"The people that we get to meet through Ben's Friends — I want to be an available resource for them for friendship, advice, counsel, encouragement. I'll be available as much as people want to reach out," said Jamie Pruitt.

Jamie Pruitt is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry. He is currently the production manager at BAKERY by Frothy Monkey.

Four years ago, Pruitt decided to stop drinking alcohol. Like his career, it was consuming his life, but not in a good way.

"I frequently remember how lonely that felt, and I wish what Ben Friend's had to offer existed then, and I don't want anyone in this Nashville community to feel that sense of loneliness," Pruitt said.

Ben's Friends was created by two food-service industry professionals who lost their colleague to addiction in 2016.

A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found the restaurant industry to have the highest rate of substance abuse of any profession.

The honky tonks and high spirits in downtown Nashville can make it hard for restaurant and bar workers to stay sober, according to Pruitt.

"This town is built on tourism and the entertainment industry, and those things and substance use go hand-in-hand. I mean, walk down Broadway on a Friday night and almost all you smell is booze. For so many of the people that work in those establishments that dot that stretch of road, I can't imagine how difficult that must be," he said.

Meeting attendees can use the valet at the Westin at 807 Clark Place. Meetings will last an hour, and you don't have to sign up in advance.