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Local chef in recovery serves up message of hope

Greg Shaffer of Washington Courthouse said his road to addiction began in his early 20s when he enrolled in culinary school and began working in restaurants.

He’d been married, become a father and gotten divorced by the age of 22, so he was ready to party when he entered the world of professional kitchens — notoriously an easy place to score drugs.

“A lot of what I began to use for was to maintain my work ethic. At least that’s what I told myself,” Shaffer said. “I drank to sleep, to forget about the worries. And then I’d use other drugs to stay awake at work and to function for long hours on end.”

 

He was able to hold down good jobs at high-end restaurants for years, but his heavy drinking grew worse.

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“Drinking and drugs are very made known in restaurants, especially in the kitchen,” Shaffer said. “It’s widespread.”

Multiple starts and stops in treatment and an arrest for carrying a gun while intoxicated led him to The Refuge, a rehab ministry in Vinton County.

It got him on a different path. “I began to pray every day, sometimes every minute,” Shaffer said.

One Bistro chef Greg Shaffer works the lunch shift in Xenia. Shaffer is in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. TY GREENLEES / STAFF (Ty Greenlees)

He’s been in recovery for three and a half years now and has no desire to return to the kind of life he once led. That’s why he recently changed jobs.

“I was running a restaurant in Washington Courthouse and I was a bit frustrated,” Shaffer explains. “I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and a lot of the frustrations and stress that go along with it are part of the reason I made bad choices in the past. If I choose to go back to that lifestyle again, it’s going to end up killing me.”

Until he was hired to be the chef at One Bistro in Xenia, Shaffer was unaware that the non-profit aims to serve the homeless, those struggling with addiction and others as part of its mission to build a sense of community.

One Bistro chef Greg Shaffer works the lunch shift in Xenia. Shaffer is in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. TY GREENLEES / STAFF (Ty Greenlees)

That’s now Shaffer’s mission too.

“Part of having a good life and being addiction free is helping others,” he said. “I didn’t go through what I went through just for nothing. God has a plan and a purpose for my life and I think this is a part of it. To be able to help other people who are struggling now.”

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