As a physician, I thought I knew all about alcohol, substance abuse, and mental illness—but I did not see it ever impacting me and my family. I was educated, respected, and highly skilled. I had a family, house, and successful practice.
I started drinking when I was a kid. Most of it was normal. Then after many years of practice, I started using alcohol to treat my stress, anxiety and insomnia. Over 9 years, I became addicted. I never drank on call or drove after drinking. Since I wasn't hurting anyone else and was successful, I thought I was drinking normally, like my friends.
I drank alone at home, and progressively became depressed and suicidal. My wife divorced me and my children refuse to communicate with me. That was two years ago. I am estranged from my family and my children. The shame and guilt are overwhelming. I relapsed into depression again.
In AA, I found out I was an alcoholic. I met some other physicians with the same story as mine. With their help, I was able to enter into recovery. Since then I have found many physicians and healthcare workers addicted to alcohol and other substances from the stresses of work. They don't know where to go to get help. Colleagues are reluctant to diagnose them as it impacts their professional careers. Many don't even screen or know how to make a substance use disorder diagnosis. State medical boards and societies have cut back on recovery programs due to limited resources. Our country shuns these hardworking providers and threatens their livelihood. They live in fear and hide their mental illness and substance use.
We need to do everything to remove the stigma of substance use disorder. We need to educate about screening and therapy. We need to teach that this is a disease that has effective medical and behavioral treatment. Let’s stamp out the stigma of substance use disorder and help the thousands of other families suffering. I joined Shatterproof to share my story in the hopes that it will help the many suffering in silence.