'From my early twenties I would always say, I’m not going to get past 30. I knew I didn’t want to live'

The Staff Canteen

In his twenties, Christian Sharp, was certain he would die from drink and drugs before he was 30.

The former chef has opened up about his addiction experience to explain why working in professional kitchens facilitated and at exacerbated the problem, but also with the hope that others, who may be on the same track as he was, can find recovery as he has.

Now 31, he admits the journey has not been easy and neither is recovery.

“It’s hard and it’s scary and my anxiety can be crazy. But it’s worth it,” he said. He currently works for Flying Fish but before that he worked in hospitality from the age of 12, starting at a bakery, before he became a chef in a professional kitchen at the age of 20.

He learned his trade under Michelin-starred Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall before heading to Outlaws at The Capital in London and then Cornerstone before he left London and headed back to Cornwall in search of recovery.

How he ended up in such a dark place is complicated, Christian says he always had excuses.

He said: “When I knew it was bad was when I realised I needed to do something about it. As soon as I was an adult, people told me that I had a problem [with drinking].

“I just shrugged it off and would say, ‘I work hard, I deserve it’ or ‘that is what 18 year-olds do’.

“From my early twenties I would always say, I’m not going to get past 30. I knew I didn’t want to live. I thought my time was up and thirty was it, the cut-off point.”

Christian Sharp and Nathan Outlaw


That first drink

Christian was 14 when he first had a drink. His mum was a single parent who worked in pubs and he and his sister would often have to go with her.

“I was brought up around pub culture. I was always around that environment so as soon as it was available it was problematic from the start - not that I realised that.

“By the age of 16 I was getting drunk every weekend.”

Drink took away being in the real world for Christian. It took away reality.

“Addiction is a fear-based illness and drinking just helped me deal with life. I am petrified of life, even now. But I don’t know what made me the way that I am.

“My dad is also an addict, he was a heroin addict and thank god I never got that far… yet, but I can’t blame him because my sister isn’t the same.

“I say ‘yet’ because if I pick up again that is where my addiction could go.”

Is working in hospitality a contributing factor to addiction?

Drinking wasn’t his first addiction, money was his first addiction.

“I was obsessed with money," he said. “It made me feel good. The goal was just to earn as much as I could which obviously benefited me when the other addictions came along.

“Working in a professional kitchen made drinking acceptable, but it didn’t fuel my addiction. I wouldn’t blame my behaviour on me being a chef.

“It just allowed it as it was socially acceptable to finish work and go for a drink – people still say to me now oh that’s what chefs do but they don’t. Yes, lots of them are addicts but lots of them aren’t.

“We’d go for a drink after work and most people would have one or two an dgo home, but I never wanted to go home.

“I was never comfortable on my own, I had no self-esteem, I had no self-worth and little confidence. Drink and drugs gave me that stuff."

Christian Sharp and Pierre Koffman


He gravitated towards that job because it offered a work hard, play hard environment – which fed his addiction.

“I didn’t even think I had a problem at the time when I was working at the hotel in Rock, but I would go and drink the flat beer we used to make the bread, in the walk in fridge, at midday on a Monday.

“I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at it.”

He was told many times by Nathan and head chef Pete Biggs about his behaviour but he was in ‘denial about it’. When he had a day off that’s when his drinking would be at its worst, he would drink 20 pints and even on a work day he’d have at least 10.

He says up until age 26 it was only drink which was a problem.

He explained: “I had taken drugs and they interested me but drink as my thing.”

Moving to London

Before he moved to London, he was 24, and was quite adamant he would never move out of Cornwall.

“I never wanted to leave. But when I got given the opportunity to move, I took it.”

He added: “It stopped all the consequences. My family were finding out about the drink driving and the bad shit I was getting up to. The spotlight was on me because I was getting worse.

“Moving to London gave me a guilt free pass. No one would know what I was getting up to and everything would be fine because no one would know.”

The move meant his addiction stepped up a notch – there were 24 hour off licenses, later opening hours for pubs; he never went without.

“My drinking went from bad to worse and it consumed my whole life”.

Working as an addict

Although it affected his job he aways turned up because he ‘was scared to have no money’.

“I’d finish work and I’d go straight to the off license, then I’d get high and I had to somehow come down within a short period of time to try and get some sort of sleep before the next day.

“It got to the point where I never wanted to go to sleep because I didn’t want to wake up and face the next day. I didn’t want to get through another day living like this.”


He added: "My behaviour was off the wall looking back on it. I was self-obsessed, and thought I had the right to do whatever I wanted because I’d had a shit day or because I’d had a good day. 

“It was me against the world and I didn’t need anyone. And no one was there for me in the end because I pushed them all away.

“If I was ever asked if I was ok I would just say ‘I’m fine’. I didn’t want the help at that point.”


Drugs became a massive problem in 2018. They were more readily available then, more people were doing them around him – wrong time, wrong place.

“I was drinking heavily, and I was taking a lot of class A drugs; coke, ketamine, mdma - plus smoking weed, all in the same day.

“No one intervened, it was the thing to do in East London. There was no getting out of it because that’s what I surrounded myself with. When people started realising the extent to which I was using, I'd soon realise and I’d make an escape plan. I was still in denial that it was the drink and drugs that were affecting me - I would blame my mental health or where I lived or my job.”

Hitting rock bottom

Christian attempted recovery several times, often telling those closest to him what they wanted to hear just to keep them off his back. In 2020 his relationship broke down after his girlfriend at the time moved in and ‘saw the carnage that I was living’.

“It became isolated, it was me with the curtains closed on my own in my bedroom – just me and my drugs, I was happy. I was using drugs behind her back, sneaking off to the toilet, going to the shop – using any way and means to get what I needed.

“The way I treated her was ridiculous. And I hold a lot of guilt and shame around the way I treated her.”

There were occasions where his family and his friends would come and pick him up from London, take him back to Cornwall but within weeks he’d be drinking behind their backs and heading back to the city.

"I didn’t know how to live without it. I was drinking to black out every day, there was no work so I was on furlough, I was finding other ways to fix my feelings – I used prostitutes, I just wanted to change how I felt.

“If I’m honest I hit rock bottom in 2018 and I never got up, I just scraped around on the bottom.”


Finally, back in Cornwall, he got a new job at Flying Fish away from kitchens and started 12 step meetings on zoom and although he got a taste for recovery he still had moments where he drank again because he ‘hadn’t engaged with recovery and he hadn’t changed’.

Christian is now 22 months clean, using 12 step recovery which he describes as a ‘spiritual programme’.

“I know I’m not on my own, I have my sponsor and people I can ring any time of the day to talk my thinking through because it’s warped. Look where my best thinking got me in the past?

“I did a lot of bad stuff. It’s different this time because I realised no one was coming to save me, I knew I needed to do it for myself.

“I didn’t want to die and that’s where it was ending up. The reason it’s different today is I continue to put recovery and my life first.

“I’ve changed as a person. I realised the world didn’t owe me anything.”

He admits he would like to go back into a professional kitchen and says when he left he had lost all his passion.

“I miss cooking and working in a restaurant, I feel ready to go back into a kitchen. I want to learn again.” 

Christian says life is incredible without drink and drugs. He’ll do anything he has to, to maintain his recovery.

“If that’s going to a meeting every night, I will. If it’s calling my sponsor I will. My life is unrecognisable, and I have a life worth living today. It’s purposeful and filled with love and happiness.”

Being out of kitchens has helped Christian to get clean. He says he had to change his routine, and said: “It meant I could get to the meetings and I had time to work on myself and uncover the baggage I was carrying.

“Recovery gives me gratitude for life and for so many things – I spent years looking at the floor thinking I was a piece of shit.”

He added: "You're not on your own, if you think you have a problem, you do. Talk to someone, anyone. You're worth giving yourself a chance, what have you got to lose? No one is going to judge you."

If you have been affected by this article there are organisations available to help:

The Burnt Chef Project

Hospitality Action

The Samaritans

Alcoholics Anonymous


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th October 2023

'From my early twenties I would always say, I’m not going to get past 30. I knew I didn’t want to live'