You are here

Torn Together: Scott Magnuson & Shaaren Pine

April 3, 2015

Scott Magnuson & Shaaren Pine

Torn Together

Please give a brief description of yourself and your background:

Scott: I have been in the restaurant industry for the last 22 years, 15 of which have been here in the District. I started working in the industry when I was 14, washing dishes at a place called Anchor Inn in Virginia Beach, VA. It was at about the same time I started drinking and using drugs.

After working through the kitchen I decided to move to the front of the house.  At 21, I was the bar manager at Timothy Dean in the St. Regis Hotel, before moving on and bartending for the next few years all over DC. For the past 10 years I have been the Managing Partner here at The Argonaut.

Shaaren: I’ve been learning the ins and outs of restaurants (focusing on team management) since starting my first restaurant job at the Argonaut in 2005. Now, as a business owner, and with help from my Earlham College education, I am committed to bridging the gap between business and community, and changing restaurant culture.

I’m passionate about adoptee rights, and advocating for the families of addicts. I write about adoption from a social justice perspective, and about addiction through a spousal lens.

What was your process for this book?

Scott: My wife and I started working on the book a little over three years ago, after I had finished a residential inpatient and then a local outpatient drug treatment program. We came up with an idea for Restaurant Recovery and in the process of writing our bios for that, we found that we had a lot to say. What was supposed to be a couple paragraphs ended up being pages and pages long, and we joked that we should just make it a book! Then we realized that that might not be such a bad idea. We combined both our stories (alternating chapters) to give readers two completely different perspectives on the same events.

Because we were brutally honest, it gives readers the opportunity to not only see what goes through the mind of someone struggling with addiction, but also how different the events are to the outside world, and just how much chaos is brought into the family.

Shaaren: Because writing about living through Scott’s addiction was so emotionally taxing, the process of recounting six years took more than three years for us to work through. Despite its difficulty, it was very therapeutic for both of us. As we say in the book, there are things that Scott has not been able to acknowledge verbally about what he put us through that he can only convey in writing.

Aside from the beginning flurry of the first draft, we typically didn’t work on the manuscript at the same time. I’d leave it, unfinished, for months at a time, because it was so hard to think about.

And, there were chapters that, once written, we literally didn’t revisit again until it was time for the final read-throughs before publication.

Why did you start Restaurant Recovery?

Scott: The restaurant industry is a different kind of animal, one which many treatment centers don’t understand. In my experience, their standard advice is to push people toward a new career field. Counselors told me on a number of occasions that in order to stay sober I must leave the industry.

Peoples’ bottoms are much lower in the restaurant world than those in many other industries. We work hard and party hard, but when the partying becomes a problem where do you turn? There really is not a place. We set out to create a place someone can turn to for help. AA/NA works for some, but I found personally that it didn’t work well with my restaurant worker life.

Shaaren: Scott’s treatment centers were wonderful, but nobody ever called me for me. Part of that is my responsibility – if I needed help, I should have asked. But part of it is the nature of codependence. We’re so used to fixing everything and holding the pieces together that we don’t know how to take care of ourselves. I wanted to create a program and a space that is equally invested in the families. 

What inspired you to write this book?

Scott: The hope that our story might be able to help others who are struggling was a driving force. That, combined with Restaurant Recovery, made it a no-brainer.

Shaaren: To make sure people know they are not alone. This is the kind of book that I would have read cover to cover in one sitting when Scott was in active addiction. I didn’t know any other restaurant workers/spouses who had gone through it before, and it was very isolating.

Who is your target audience?

Scott: We believe anyone who knows someone or has struggled with addiction themselves will find this book helpful. So, pretty much everyone.

Shaaren: Restaurant workers in recovery, family members of restaurant workers who are in active addiction and/or recovery.

What are you hoping to achieve with this project?

Scott: We hope that people will find it helpful, and they will know that they are not alone.  We have been there and it sucks, but it’s never too late to change your life.

Shaaren: I hope more people start talking about their own struggles with addiction or their struggles living with somebody else’s addiction.

What have you learned from the process?

Scott: Change is possible. It has been a healing process. I was able to write things that I could not talk about openly with Shaaren. Writing was also extremely difficult for me. I’m a bar and restaurant guy, I barely graduated high school, I never thought in a million years I would write a book.

Shaaren: I’ve been learning to own my own story. It has given me the confidence to write more, and because of this process I was able to write two pieces for an online magazine, Masala Mommas, and one piece for the Washington Post Magazine.