On Retirement

When I was younger, I was a pretty good dentist. I knew a way to fix most dental problems that my patients presented to me. Silver amalgam was my king and gold crowns were my queen. If that was too expensive, we’d pull it and make a partial…

Dental insurance came along and started telling us what they’d pay for. A good half of my patients had dental insurance. I had to adapt and learn. I hated that. I learned what I was good at, and what I wasn’t. Wisdom teeth and molar endo got sent out to the specialists. I did OK for about sixteen years, but as you probably know, my entrance into the field of addiction dentistry caught the eye of the State Board and the local news. I was arrested for stealing drugs and had to face some major consequences. I faced them and recovered. Thank God for the CDP!

I had to learn to integrate recovery principles into my practice. I told my staff what my triggers were and they supported me when I was triggered. I learned self-forgiveness. I learned that I need to continue to be a good dentist, but that perfection was a trap. Today I am grateful for my path out of addiction, but I am not proud of it. I am very grateful for the 24 years since my arrest that the State Board allowed me to continue my practice.

Frustration leads to aggression. Unresolved anger creates resentment. Resentment is the bane of my existence as a recovering person. The insurance companies found ways to trigger me. I couldn’t be the empire builder that my father expected me to be. I couldn’t make enough money to satisfy my wife’s demands. Two divorces. Diabetes. Essential tremors in my hands. I couldn’t get enough “blue sky” to get away and relax. When I did get away, I couldn’t relax. Sharks were circling my little recovery lifeboat.

I admitted I was burned out. My blue sky became retirement. I had been burned out for a decade, and had not been able to retire due to age and alimony, second mortgages and credit card debt. As a matter of fact, I have been in debt for all of my career.

I lived one day at a time. I had no plans but I did have a goal. I used a lot of patience and paid off the alimony, married a person who loves me for who I am, sold the house and moved in with her. I offered the practice for sale in April of 2019.

Practice sales are a process, not an event. It took a year and two months. But here I am: debt free, retired and with a small nest egg for retirement. I made sure that the continuing needs of my staff and patients were not trivialized and chose a group whose practice philosophy was much like my own. On closing day, the silence was deafening.

Now what? I don’t know. Everyone has suggestions to combat boredom. I am not bored. (Yet.) I am full of gratitude for those who stood by me in my times of need. You guys saved my life! As to the future: Stay tuned…with Covid19, I feel as if I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Respectfully submitted by a very grateful dentist.