Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Breakfast You Can Tolerate

This is a story about a factory. It’s not the best job in the world, but it’s not the worst job either. After several years, the factory starts to have some success and increases its profits. The owner of the factory decides to enhance worker morale by providing free plain bagels in the morning for breakfast. The factory workers are immediately pleased with the free bagels and it becomes a treat to look forward to every morning. The workers happily praise the factory owner for his kindness providing the delightful free bagel breakfast every work day.

After a few weeks since the bagel breakfast experiment is going so well, the factory begins to provide a variety of types of bagels for the factory workers including various flavored cream cheeses. The factory also provides coffee and juice for the factory workers free breakfast. The workers are even happier. Not much later, again since the breakfast program is working so well, the owner hires a part time breakfast cook to make eggs and bacon for deluxe bagel sandwiches. Soon, a variety of flavored gourmet coffee choices are offered as well. As expected, with each added improvement, the factory workers are more and more pleased with the free breakfast program and all of the positive changes.
After a while, the factory gets another huge contract which increases profits even more. Since the free breakfast program is going so well, the owner decides to provide a full breakfast buffet every morning with a full omelet station, as well as added choices of waffles, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit, fried potatoes, hash browns, with many choices of drinks, flavored syrups and toppings. The factory workers are ecstatic with this amazing breakfast program which increases morale, attendance and gets workers to work early every day.

After several months at the factory however, things start to change. For one thing, the factory workers attitude declines. The free breakfast buffet was once viewed as a special luxury and treat but soon is viewed as a necessity and some less grateful workers begin to complain about various aspects of the buffet. Other factory workers start treating the breakfast buffet with less appreciation by wasting food and leaving a huge mess behind in the morning.
Around the same time, the factory’s profits start to dwindle due to problems in the economy and the breakfast buffet becomes too much too for the factory owner to afford. As a way to trim the budget the owner goes back to just providing basic bagels and coffee for the workers in the morning. The workers respond with the “Great Bagel Riot” in which several employees end up getting fired for throwing bagels in anger and protest. Some workers even quit in anger and they could be heard grumbling about the owners “cheap, lousy breakfast” as they walked off the job. The owner thinks to himself about how just a few months ago, everyone was so happy with the free bagels and coffee and how things had really changed for the worse rather quickly.
What is the moral of the story? It has nothing to do with breakfast. This story is an illustration of a common substance use related phenomenon of tolerance. Most people are quite familiar with tolerance:

Tolerance, n. – the power of enduring or resisting the action of a drug (Usually occurring over time with regular use)

Questions for Discussion:
Can you explain how the breakfast story illustrated tolerance? (Think about how it took more and more to get the effect desired by the owner) – How can you compare this with substance use?

How has tolerance come into play in your life particularly with substance use? (If you had a high tolerance, please explain without bragging about it)

How does tolerance play a role in the process of substance use progressing to substance dependence and then even possibly addiction in some cases?


  1. Hi there Kenneth!
    I got the point of tolerance,while half way reading is so recognizable!
    It is a great tool,this story and I am going to use it.As a social worker I am also working with mentally limited guys in their 20th"s,in a shelter house my family and I started a few years ago,because we do not agree with the way the regular caretaking organizations work in this overruled country.This house is an extension of our familie,to give fall-outs of the regular caresystem a fair chance...and we don"t do it for the money!!
    I think I also can use this story to tell my neighbours,friends and all other people who so called "made it in live"..It seems for most people "enough is never enough" ,when they are given something extra not asked for,they expect to get it for the rest of their lives,claim it and start a riot when it gets less,or stops...
    Empathy is hard to practice in action ,instead of just talking about it,but can be learned!!
    The connection with substance use as you describe it , is obvious.The bagels could be someones drugs of choice.
    I think the character traits of people using drugs or recovering from it ,are the same of those of people who do not have this issue.
    Addicted people can try to turn the bad manners(done in bad times),into good manners and turn their weakness into powertools...and ALL people can learn that sharing is not only abuot the good things,but also the bad things.To do that,you have to do efforts,that are also called WORKING!Meaning showing understanding and together working to get the good things back-I hope you know what I mean.
    So...while telling this story in a group,I will try to make them think and talk about it,filling in the gaps when silent moments are getting too long.It must be a dialogue and not a discussion and each one of the group should be aware of his/her feelings during this session.Including me of course.
    If you have questions because of my grammer(I am a dtuch guy..),please ask me and I will answer you.
    Thanks for the insperation you give me so early in tha day:it"s 10 am over here.
    All my best,
    Peter Hardijzer