A Dark and Stormy Dentist

My life had become a stream of dark and stormy nights and days. It was like having a bad dream without any hope of awakening. (I’m still baffled that my solution to this perplexing problem was to console myself with the very substance that caused the problem — more and more alcohol.) Rather than being the caring professional I’d always hoped to be, I had become a man of dark moods and stormy personality. I sought happiness through the only means I thought possible — by constantly trying to control the people and environment around me. When my unrealistic expectations went unmet, I would ruthlessly criticize those who had, in my mind, failed me. I unleashed the storm on my staff, my family, and even my patients. Alcohol, which I believed to be my friend, was my only relief from all the problems I blamed on others. My interests in formerly enjoyable activities declined, and I planned my leisure time around the availability of alcohol. I isolated myself emotionally and became a person who was present, but not really there. Alcohol left me in a constant state of depression.

My path toward recovery from alcoholism began with an intervention initiated by caring friends and co-workers. They contacted Dentists Concerned for Dentists (DCD) and, working together, both groups were represented at the intervention. Friends and co-workers gave examples of how my behavior and character had been adversely affected. Dentists from DCD shared their own experiences and how they had recovered. Their message was decidedly one of hope.

I was also informed of the consequences I faced if I elected to continue drinking. It was made very clear that I could not continue my career. A treatment program was strongly advised, indeed already arranged, and was to begin for me that very day. The DCD advisors correctly anticipated my reaction to this; that I would try to delay, would blame other factors in my life, or would promise to quit on my own. I felt trapped, afraid, and, because deep down I didn’t really want to quit drinking, these were my very responses.

They, of course, would hear nothing of it. So, reluctantly, off I went to treatment with the resolve not to quit drinking but to save my career. I thought I would learn how to control or better hide the effects, but certainly never completely give up alcohol. I was entrenched in my denial, but thankfully the treatment program broke through to me and saved both my career and my life.

The Dentists Concerned for Dentists program, sponsored by the Minnesota Dental Association, has continued to contribute to my ongoing recovery. I truly look forward to our monthly meetings. Issues that would be inappropriate for in-depth discussion in a typical AA meeting, those pertaining to work and the profession, can be openly discussed there. The main benefit, however, comes from the personal sharing that takes place. We gain and give hope and strength by sharing openly and honestly with each other.

I’ve now learned that the professional consequences I feared would have paled in comparison to the other predictable effects of my chronic alcoholism – physical, mental, and spiritual decline followed by an agonizing and lonely death. Addiction is a form of bondage from which I’m thankful to be free. Now, far from the storminess of the past, I’m happy to be happy, and grateful to all who have been there with me and continue to care about me and help me in this daily reprieve we call recovery.

DCD member

For confidential help, or to ask any questions you may have concerning DCD, please call (651) 275-0313 in the Twin Cities area or (800) 632-7643 toll-free out-state.

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