Shock, dismay, disbelief—these were the feelings that threatened to overwhelm me when I was told that my husband, a dentist who had been in practice for over 27 years, was going into treatment for alcoholism for three months at the behest of the NCCDP. I knew that he had a problem with alcohol, but could not believe that anyone else knew. And alcoholism? That was a term that just couldn’t apply to people like us. After all, he never drank before going to work or during office hours! I was also convinced that, in spite of how much he drank during non-working time, his practice of dentistry was unaffected by his drinking.
I was not in denial about how my husband’s drinking had affected other areas of our lives. Our relationship had been deteriorating for years, and all of the joy and happiness we had shared before alcohol began to take over was gone. We were two people who shared a house but not a life. My husband’s relationship with our two college-age sons had also been going south for some time. So part of me was a little relieved to have a name, a disease, which identified what was wrong with my husband, and to hear that there was something that could be done about it. However, I was still extremely frightened. How would the practice be kept going? What if it couldn’t be? What would people say? Would our sons have to drop out of school? Where would the money come from?
The folks at CDP tried to reassure me, but I was unconvinced. Then we got on the phone with Dr. P., who kept a list of Locum Tenens dentists for such occasions. In what I can only describe as a direct intervention by my Higher Power, a classmate of my husband had just placed herself on the list. He called her on Friday, she came to our house on Sunday, my husband left on Monday and she took over the practice. She lived with me during the work week and went to her home for the weekends. It was an amazing solution on so many levels.
That was nearly five years ago. In that time our lives have been completely transformed. Through the help of many people, including the staff and mentors of NCCDP, my husband is in solid recovery from alcoholism. Our marriage is better than it has ever been, as is his relationship with our children. We share and enjoy life in a way now that I had given up hope would ever be possible for us. His practice survived his absence intact, and he is doing the best dentistry of his career. Though the beginning stages of recovery from addiction can be traumatic for doctors, hygienists and their partners, in my case the outcome was a second chance at a wonderful life.