Help. I seriously need some advice or input, as I've been stuck in a bad situation for nearly 5+ years. Maybe it's my fault for not being more selfish and acting sooner. I try to not place blame on others but I also recognize toxic situations when I see them.
It's important to put down the back-story, as it plays an integral role in this whole thing and is actually what complicates my ability to make a choice.
In 2010, I landed a line cook job with the hopes of being able to pay the basic bills while pursuing my interest in music and potentially start some secondary education. There was me, the owner and the kitcher manager who had moved out from the East coast with him to open the restaurant. I worked dilligently under them, taking it upon myself to always go the extra mile and help them build their business. Around fall of that year, the KM (we'll call B) started showing signs of what I originally thought was burnout but turned out to massive alcohol and drug abuse. I believe the work load expected from the owner played a big part in this being that we all worked 60-70 hours a week, especially B. Push came to shove and B was no longer in the picture after he completely caved into the substance problems and left LA. I was offered the KM postion in a state-of-emergency sort of way and agreed, despite being underqualified and not having much of a choice other than to leave him without any kind of leadership in the kitchen. Another year goes by and I'm drowning in the stress. I told the owner he needed to find another KM as I just couldn't fulfill the needs of the business. He brought in another KM and I stepped down as a line cook but once again, after about 1.5 years, the same thing happened. The guy became a total drunk and became to incompetent to stay in the picture. Boom. I'm back in the saddle for just under a year before the next guy (who we'll call J) came in to take the position over, while I stepped down as his assistant KM. Now J was a much more skilled, level-headed guy coming from fine dining and a well-rounded background. We worked well together for about 2 years, during which he and the owner formed a side catering company aimed at high-end clientele. Problems began to boil up between them and I was informed that J would be leaving to work exclusively on the catering company. Leaving a vacancy once again. Now this is where things got hairy...
I specifically told the owner I had no intention of taking over this position again. Especially since it was never my desire to do so in the beginning. He told me he would hire out for the position but before that could ever happen, their catering company landed a huge account and J departed much earlier than anticipated. I reluctantly stepped in, with no other options on the table and was once again the KM. Meanwhile, all other activity outside of work came to screeching halt. This has had a profound impact on my mental health and overall happiness since I moved to LA for specific reasons outside of being a jaded burnout workaholic. Time passed and it became clear there was no intention of hiring a new KM. Between a massive turnover of my kitchen staff and the much-needed menu overhaul, there was simply no way for me to pass the torch. The closest I came was with my most recent assistant KM who is now giving us his notice (most likely due to being overworked and the vitriolic nature of how the owner relates to his management team).
So here I am. Almost 6 years in this place, and no benefits, no stake or invitation of ownership, still pulling 6 day weeks (around 65 hrs per) and utterly miserable. I've never found the work as straining as the mental baggage the owner somehow attaches to everything and everyone that comes through our doors. Our turnover rate in the last 2 years has been staggering, with most people quitting in spectacular fashion or just dropping off the face of the planet with a no call-no show. He started a relationship with one of our FOH staff, having her move in with him and being placed in a preferential FOH management position. (This is hilarious because our FOH staff consists of THREE PEOPLE). There was even a brief time when our financial situation became very dire and the owner pulled us into a gut-wrenching "meeting" where we were informed that the business was on the brink of closure due to lack of business, situational factors and of course, our incompetence. I personally believe this led to my assistant KM leaving the picture. Suddenly, things started taking off and we got busy again and instead of feeling relief, I felt dread. I was once again imprisoned in my job because I knew there were no chances of me getting a clean break from this after seeing how other people had left, especially people in management positions. My two strongest cooks are on their way out the door, with the second strongest beginning to show signs of discontent.
This has led me to a couple possible conclusions: (see poll)
I have spent the last 5.5 years convincing myself it was #3 and that notion has faded with time. It's hard to really give the full scope of everything but there's already a lot to read so please... Give me some perspective and maybe past experience to help me form a well-rounded decision.