Nearly thirty-five years ago, when I graduated from pharmacy school, I had no idea of the education that was waiting for me. Ten years later, by the age of 33, I had completed a yearlong course of study becoming a certified drug and alcohol counselor. Armed with my doctorate degree in pharmacy, as well as a deep understanding of recovery from addiction, I was prepared for a new beginning.
So, here it goes.
When I was in high school, on weekends I drank to get drunk. Beer, liquor, it didn’t matter. I was shy and alcohol helped me get over my self-perceived awkwardness in social situations.
On the other hand; I was on the honor roll, senior class president, participated in sports, and worked 20 hours per week at the local grocery store.
During my six years of college I continued to drink to get drunk on weekends, while also adding in a few weeknights here and there. My tolerance to alcohol, as well as my ability to masquerade my emotions, grew exponentially throughout these years.
Correspondingly; I maintained highly functional intern pharmacist positions, ran in 10K races on a regular basis, was named California Society of Hospital Pharmacists student of the year, functioned as a student advisor to incoming pharmacy students, and graduated pharmacy school on the deans honor roll.
As a practicing pharmacist, I steadily increased my use of opiates, stimulants and benzodiazepines over the course of seven years. My emotional availability to a loving family drifted as I became overwhelmingly consumed in self centered behaviors.
During those seven years, I practiced pharmacy in a hospital setting, performed clinical consults on a daily basis, developed policies and procedures for regulatory accreditation, participated in multiple code-blue situations and worked my way into a hospital pharmacy management position. In addition, I got married, had two children and moved my family three times.
The path I was on was getting steeper and increasingly more unpredictable. The further my pendulum swung into my addiction, the more strenuous and diligent my work would become to balance the powerful counter swing. Not much longer and I am certain I would have ended up either in an institution or dead.
With divine intervention, and the assistance of a loving wife, boss and family, I entered a drug and alcohol treatment program in March of 1996. With regular maintenance, the tools I learned have sustained me with uninterrupted sobriety for more than 25 years.
The point I am attempting to reveal here is the insidious nature of this disease.
It’s out there, every single day, touching everyone. Without a doubt, everyone who reads this will have a story to tell involving their own struggles, a family member or that of a close friend.
Addiction does not just live in dark rooms with dirty couches. You can find addiction all dressed up with a coat and tie sitting behind a computer, walking the halls of hospitals in a finely pressed white lab coat, treating patients, in the operating room, compounding medications, and yes, filling prescriptions behind the counter.
We work hard to try and cover up our advancing addiction. Late nights and early mornings at work, extra shifts, overtime whenever possible; these diversions are all just a counterbalance to throw off any suspecting coworkers or family members. How could a loved one, who works so diligently, possibly be doing anything unethical or immoral?
Our misguided intelligence leads us to believe we have everything under control. Inappropriate logic leads a highly-functioning addict to think everything is just fine as long as they continue to thrive successfully at work and maintain family responsibilities.
We neglect to notice the slow deterioration of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Co-workers and family members begin to show concern; however, we become very comfortable with not telling the truth.
Not many options exist for an individual who has come to this point. The fear of being found out is incomprehensible. Many will continue on in denial until they are caught up in a lie with the authorities and find themselves in jail. Others will continue until their bodies won’t tolerate another day and find themselves in a hospital.
Those of us saved by an intervention are the fortunate. Be it divine or friends and family, the result is the same, treatment and recovery. Yes, we do recover.
Please share your own experience, strength and hope in the comments.