My name is John ... and Im an alcoholic

April 1, 1998
My name is John. I am a 36-year-old general practitioner with one of the highest producing, single-dentist practices in my state. I also am an alcoholic.

My name is John. I am a 36-year-old general practitioner with one of the highest producing, single-dentist practices in my state. I also am an alcoholic.

When I was growing up, I never had any aspirations of becoming an alcoholic. It wasn`t like Jimmy wanted to be a fireman, Suzy wanted to be an accountant and John wanted to be an alcoholic. I actually wanted to become a dentist from the time I was in the ninth grade. The alcohol began playing a major role in my life four years after that decision.

At first, I used alcohol in a recreational manner (if, in fact, there is such a use). But, as time went on, my disease progressed and I used alcohol to anesthetize the emotional pain I felt because of my inability to deal with life on life`s terms. I`m not entirely sure why I traveled that road: possibly my controlling father; possibly a genetic predisposition; possibly because I was very overweight and self-conscious ... but I also know that I grew up a very resentful fat kid with very low self-esteem. I always felt I had to excel at everything to prove I was worthy.

After I lost the weight in high school, I was pretty much able to achieve my goal of excellence through both high school and college. I had to be the best at sports, music, drama and academics, and the most popular so I could show everyone that I was special. I hid my low self-esteem in the attention I received from being popular. I was driven to be everything at once: the star actor, the director, the producer and the playwright. As my popularity increased, so did my drinking. And although I was raised a devout Christian, I began to turn my back on God.

The problem gets bigger

Dental school came as a shock! No more big man on campus who breezed through school ... It was hard! Drinking now eased the anxiety that professional school presented. Although I was president of my dental school class, the competition dredged up that low self-esteem and I was no longer special. Drinking was no longer fun - it was necessary to ease the stress.

I realized in my second year that I had a problem with alcohol, but I hid it well (we alcoholics are good at deception). As competition for class rank grew, so did my alcohol use. The facade I had built was crumbling. Relationships were deteriorating. I was strung as tight as a guitar string. Somehow, I graduated 12th in my class, but my life was in total chaos. I was saddled with a DUI, nervous as a cat, estranged from my family and, from my perspective, friendless. I felt physically sick all the time.

I was accepted into a very highly regarded residency program, and I was able to fool everyone there for almost a year. I was confronted with my problem (which I denied) and I landed in treatment. I snowed my way through that first treatment by pretending to be walking the straight and narrow. Although I cut back, I continued to drink.

Upon completion of my residency program, I began a practice search. I became distressed with the search and my drinking again began to accelerate. I was no longer able to fool my family and, after a confrontational intervention, I ended up in treatment again. This time, I had good intentions and did make somewhat of an effort. I was able to stay sober for almost a year. Almost. I then found that Valium didn?t leave an odor on my breath. I had found an easier, safer way.

Other drugs added

By this time, I finally had purchased a failing practice and, feeling the overwhelming stress of turning it around, I began using alcohol, Valium and hydrocodene to ease the pain. This time, my staff members saw the changes, such as irritability, tremulousness, agitation and, of course, the drugs themselves.

I soon was contacted by the Caring Dentist Program (I think I was a charter member). I ended up in treatment again ? a third time ? for three months, 300 miles from home. I hated life and myself. Returning to work was like a toddler taking his first steps. I was scared, cautious and paranoid, but humbled. Rumors were plentiful: some true, some fabrications. It was all I could do to just hold on; to Olet go and let GodO ? one day, one second at a time.

At some point during the following year, while I was doing what was suggested in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (walking the walk), something happened. I?m not sure what ... Maybe the fog lifted from my head, but some metamorphosis took place. I began to like myself again. I began to trust myself again. I was enjoying sobriety! I felt better physically, spiritually and emotionally. I stopped dreading each day and looked toward a future with hope. Not everything was great, but it was much better. I had done a lot of damage in my past, but now I was able to pick up the wreckage, piece my life back together and move forward. I had a whole, new outlook on life. I was grateful to be content with my life and myself.

A second chance at life

I attend AA meetings, regularly speak at AA and nonAA conferences on addiction, have a wonderful relationship with my higher power and I give back to others what the program has given me ? a second chance at life!

Not every day is a bed of roses. I certainly don?t mean to paint that picture, but my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk. God has granted me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. He has given me the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I truly am a grateful recovering alcoholic.

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