Health / Lifestyle / Mindset

Today I will be sharing my lockdown story…

It is certainly not unique in hospitality, but I hope it may inspire others who may be struggling. Simply by speaking out, people have started to engage and address the issue of wellbeing in hospitality. I have always felt I can help people inside the workplace, now it’s time I help them outside. I had to put myself in a position to do so first. 

I woke up in the middle of March, a year ago, still drunk from the night before. In awful shape, deeply unhappy & with no motivation or energy to do anything remotely constructive. I had gone out the night before and drank to excess yet again. Not remembering getting home, waking up fully clothed next to my missus for the umpteenth time. My drinking was out of control and quite frankly disgusting. 

I have lost weeks, probably months of my life to blacking out drunk. It was at this point my girlfriend told me she no longer wanted to be in a relationship…

…FUCK.

Unexpectedly single & shell shocked, I staggered to the fridge to see if there was anything cold & alcoholic I could use to quell the numbness. I repeatedly turned to alcohol at any time of the day, often alone and easily spent 50% of my salary on alcohol, not even considering the things I could get for free in the industry. 

It is only at the age of 32 that I have realised how relationships are supposed to work (not just a significant other but friends and workplaces as well). You are supposed to work together and build something epic. The smell that hit me when I opened that can was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This was also the morning after bars were closed down by the Government & the day lockdown began. This was a sign. Something to use to my advantage. Environment is HUGE. Bartenders are the most likely profession to suffer from alcohol abuse because it is so readily available. I am a firm believer that you can only play the cards you are dealt.

The answer was obvious. It was now or never. I have reached this point a few times in my life and am disappointed to say in the past I chose alcohol. I poured all the booze in my fridge down the sink, cleared the spirits collection out of my room, and gave away my last pack of cigarettes. I made a promise to myself that I would not drink or smoke for a month. I would train physically & mentally every day. I would start working on getting my life back in order. 

Giving up smoking has actually been easy but I have wanted to address the drinking part of my life for years, but I was scared I would fail and only have myself to blame. I took it slow & steady. Investing in some fitness equipment (my rowing machine remains my best purchase to this day). I looked at my habits & what triggered my desire for a stiff drink. Stress or boredom were my 2 main answers, I would get up on my days off and just start drinking. No goals, just trying to fill an empty hole. 

Committed to self-development, I looked at what my systems were, finding what worked for me and what didn’t. The books “Atomic Habits”, “The Morning Miracle” and “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” really helped. After 16, I stopped counting how many books I read. I think that people need to be educated on self-development (and relationship management) and need some examples to follow. 

Also that not everything is going to work. 

It has been eye-opening asking why you are the way you are & do the things you do. Even if you don’t always like the answers. I think a lot of people are scared, I know I was. 

I set myself targets, improved my diet & tried new challenges. Not everything has worked, but it was certainly better than the toxic traits of my past. I addressed issues like sleep, which is a nightmare in our industry but no one ever asks why? Or what we can do about it. I tried yoga. I loved it. I switched Youtube for TEDtalks. I became inspired.

Before I knew it, 50 days passed. I was healing. I had forgotten what it was like to have vigor and purpose. 

Financial pressure is also huge right now. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was basically yeeted out of the window during lockdown as people lost security and safety. 

We are going to be teaching people how to budget and handle money properly. In one of my videos, I addressed money, not to give financial advice but to get people to actually look at their financial situation and make changes.  

It is strange how you can accidentally build something. Doing little bits every day, I now have a personal project & something solid that I can share with people. With an improved positive & opportunistic mindset, I have already filmed content from 3 different continents.

I kept a diary. I reviewed how each day added up to successful weeks. A chance nomination for a push-up challenge gave me fresh motivation to record my journey daily. I have had loads of people getting in contact to say well done, thank you & asking to share, including my best friend from school, a doctor who asked to use them for his patients in Australia. 

Creating a positive network around you is so, so important, especially with all the sh*t going on in the world now. The toxic bravado of hospitality is creating so many mental health issues and teaching people how to handle pressure is important.
NB: Pressure is a good thing as it stops you from getting sloppy, stress is bullshit. My analogy is pressure creates diamonds, stress breaks things. 

I am so grateful for the support I have received along the way. The guidance of Paddy at So Lets Talk has been awesome. So Lets Talk is specifically set up to #86thesilence in hospitality and Paddy has a similar story to mine.  

Having an accountability partner in Iws, the Founder of the sister project Hospitality Life UK, has helped massively. To anyone I ever upset with my drinking, I truly am sorry (I am so ashamed I’ve literally reduced my family to tears with my drinking habits and still didn’t stop).

So…Let’s Push Things Forward

Here we are, 100 days sober. I genuinely thought I couldn’t do it. I’m glad I have. 

Will I have a drink to celebrate? Maybe, I think I have earned it. But I will do so knowing that I don’t need to drink to enjoy myself, which I previously thought I did. I actually had my first drink on day 106 and for some reason chose Guinness which was fucking grim.

I hope my story and the upcoming project helps people in hospitality & maybe injects some much-needed positivity into the industry. This is important now more than ever and is a skill to be drip-fed to people. If you try to force positivity down someone’s throat, especially someone with negative or pessimistic habits they will reject it as toxic because it is too much of a shock to the system.

Optimism is living in the present but being excited about the future. Being realistic and extracting the positives from sh*tty situations. 

It is a solution, not a problem, it is remembering the awesome couple at the bar that tipped you £10, not that one drunk idiot who was showing off in front of his mates. 

It is controlling the controllable.  

I will also make my daily advice accessible to anyone that wants it. This is available on the FB or Insta page of LPTF. 

The recordings are unrefined, I am learning by doing & excited to watch it & myself improve. TBH, they are poor quality but if I waited for perfection I would never get anything done. 

This is a commitment to the next chapter. My journey continues. For the first time in a long time, I am enjoying the ride. It feels like we are starting to make a difference. I have started mentoring and consultancy work in how to write functional menus and operate in a way that doesn’t stress the f*ck out of everyone in your building.

If people want to get in touch, please do. I have really missed talking to people & looking forward to sharing stories. 

The outreach has been amazing but we have a lot more work to do. I have had people say they have stopped drinking because they have seen me do it which is honestly so so rewarding. If people want to be on the podcast to share their story, even better. I am going to invest in some equipment before I record anymore. Also, take a class on how to record a podcast and maybe get a sponsor. 

I used to be the auditor for a big hospo company, have opened bars across the UK, broken world records in booze & still love a good spreadsheet. There must be something I can do to help.

For now, let’s get open, let’s stay safe & let’s push things forward.

Thank you
Arron

The first pic is me 2 years ago at a bartending comp, smashed and unhappy despite putting on a brave face. The 2nd was taken in the afternoon of last June. 100 days sober.

References:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs diagram: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html#gsc.tab=0

Arron Smallman About Author

I started my road to recovery on day one of the first lockdown. Which seems like many moons ago but has actually passed in the blink of an eye. After hitting rock bottom and not knowing where to turn I threw a rather large tantrum and decided I was going to sort my shit out. I did 100 days no drink, dedicated myself to training physically and mentally every day and committed to improving myself. As well as finding like-minded individuals within hospitality who were looking to or had done the same. Enter Paddy and So Lets Talk. I am still convinced that myself and Paddy are the same person in many aspects, but the truth is that is just the brutal nature of an industry that chews you up and spits you out if get swept up in the tidal wave. We are on a mission to change the face of hospitality and make sure the future generations of this amazing industry thrive and not just survive. It is great to have purpose and, in what has been a sh*tty and difficult year for many, actually be able to have clarity for the first time. Healing feels good. Progress feels even better.

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