Coping Mechanisms

What I’ve learned from 10 years of sobriety.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve had the privilege of starting a couple of successful sign shops. While I’m grateful for these experiences and proud of my work, I must admit that I did let the stress get to me. As the business grew, so did my stress levels, and I found myself drinking every night to just unwind from the day. What began as a way to relax gradually became a crutch to cope with the pressures of running my shop.

Late nights at the shop struggling to keep up, running behind on jobs, worried about how I was going to make payroll, and dealing with client and employee demands, drove me to drink more frequently and heavily.

Eventually, I was stuck in a cycle of working late and drinking excessively. Sitting at my desk until 9 or 10 p.m. working on schedules, quotes and whatever else needed to be done usually turned into four-five-six beers per night, or a whole bottle of wine. It was becoming increasingly difficult to function in the morning, so I was caught in the cycle of working late and drinking for years.

One evening sitting at my desk, someone from the shop confronted me about my drinking, and though I was initially reluctant to accept the assessment, I eventually listened to their concern. Encouraged by the support, I attended a recovery meeting, where I heard stories from others facing similar struggles.

It was then that I realized I needed help.

I had tried all the tricks to quit on my own—never drink alone, never drink at home, one drink and two glasses of water, dry January—nothing worked until I acknowledged the extent of my problem and sought help.

Today, I’m celebrating 10 years of sobriety, and grateful for the support I’ve received along the way.

I’m sharing my story with our sign shop community because I know firsthand how the pressures of work can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, and the toll it can take on your health, your work, your coworkers and your loved ones.

If you’re struggling with alcohol, please know that you’re not alone. Consider attending a support group like AA or Celebrate Recovery and reach out to someone you trust for support.

There’s no judgment or shame in seeking help—only compassion and encouragement.

Your Friend,


Joe Arenella: Sign Shop Owner turned Software Founder! With SignTracker (an Inktavo company), he’s making job tracking and sign quoting a breeze for sign shop owners everywhere. Plus, catch him on Behind the Signs Facebook Community and YouTube video podcast for free resources and industry tips!