Before Larder baker George Callas first laid eyes on his daughter, Rhea, he felt it was time to make that final stand against the smoking, the drinking and the opiates that marred his life previously. “It kind of forced me to question what can I do to stay sober, be a person I want my daughter to look up to,” he reflects.
But, staying sober isn’t always easy in the culinary world — long, stressful hours and drugs and alcohol are commonplace.
Now, however, Callas calls Larder Delicatessen and Bakery his home, a place that values a 40-hour work week and promotes a sober environment for workers.
Recovery in the Kitchen
Cooks and drug use went “together like peas and carrots; you can’t have one without the other.” He recalls going to rehab for opiates, spending six months sober before his return to the industry spurred a relapse. “You know, a place that I have never been sober,” Callas says. “So, naturally that was very overwhelming for me." The switch to baking became part of the solution, offering earlier work hours in the day and a beneficial partnership with sober owner Jeremy Umansky, who Callas appreciates for putting employees first.
The Root of the Problem
Callas cites therapy as one of the greatest things to come out of his sobriety. “Honestly, I’ve gotten to the roots of a lot of the pain that I was trying to cover up with various things that I would ingest,” he says. That work included learning to communicate with his loved ones and bringing people into the loop when he’s stressed. “That’s the hardest part is just living life without that crutch," he says. "You have to learn all these coping mechanisms and constructive ways to get through your day."
Filling the Space
Alongside the coping mechanisms comes the need to fill time. For Callas, that meant picking up some tools. “I started doing a lot of house projects … figuring out how stuff works,” he says. “You definitely need something that fills the void, and it’s not so bad filling it with things that are constructive.”
Click here for recovery advice from an advocate and a list of regional resources.