Good Dentist- Bad Disease

“I found Dentists Concerned for Dentists the hard way. I first heard of DCD a number of years ago, and over the last couple years I thought about them a lot — not because I was seeking their help, but because I feared I belonged there! I am a cocaine addict. I knew I had a problem, but I always thought it would just go away. I thought I would grow out of it, but of course that didn’t happen. The nights of at most three hours of sleep eventually caught up with me, and one afternoon at work I laid down for a two hour nap and could not be awakened. I wasn’t near death, at least not yet, but my body was determined to get some much needed rest. My staff had seen enough of my self-destruction. They could no longer endure my poor appearance, tardiness, and numerous “sick days”. They decided the downward spiral must come to an end, so they called my wife, and together they all confronted me.

Like any good addict, I came clean (so to speak) and promised to quit using. These were, of course, false promises, as I had no intention of stopping. My plan was to control my drug use and be more cautious. Had I been of clear mind at the time, I would have seen that my career and marriage were in jeopardy, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t.

I managed to sneak in an unhappy week or two without drug use here and there, but eventually, as is always the case with chemical dependency, things got worse, and the negative behaviors and patterns became visible again. Within a few short months I had reached a dead end. My office staff made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: Either I report myself to the State of Minnesota Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP), or they would report me to the State Board of Dentistry. Under the circumstances, I chose the former.

HPSP enrolled me in their case monitoring program. I could continue in my practice, but there would be random urine screens, and my case manager required me to enter and complete a chemical dependency treatment program, as well as enter treatment with a psychiatrist and therapist. She also recommended I contact Dentists Concerned for Dentists, which I finally did.

So, you see, I found DCD the hard way. I had a great deal of fear about the stigma of being a dentist with a drug or alcohol problem. I was afraid to open myself up to fellow dentists. But DCD exists because of these fears. We do not gather to cause trouble for dentists, we gather to keep dentists out of trouble. These types of problems do not go away. They only get worse. DCD is a support group. We are not “bad dentists”. We are dentists who have struggled or are struggling with an illness. With the proper guidance and support, we can enjoy fulfilling careers and happier lives.

I should have contacted DCD a long time ago, but because of my progressing illness, I lacked the understanding and courage to do so. Having finally gotten here, I am so grateful that DCD exists. We in DCD, who know and introduce each other by first name, are not only available to other dentists, we sincerely want to help. If you think you or someone you know might belong, it doesn’t have to be done the hard way. Just give us a call. You’ll be glad you did.

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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