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What to Lose, What to Gain?

Every day didn’t start the same, but they all were the same.  From the time I woke up to some point in the morning, my thoughts were consumed with remorse, regret and self-loathing.  It didn’t matter that I had patients to see; they were inconvenient and were treated as such.  It didn’t matter if I had business to manage, that could be postponed.  It didn’t matter if I had a personal commitment, that could be rescheduled.  For all my best intentions at other times on other days I was simply nonfunctional until the effects of the night before went away, and from that point in the morning until later that day, it was a race to catch up and try to get ahead again until the night.  Every day I tried to put off the night.  Every day I swore to myself this night would be different than the last.  But the night would invariably come, and it ended the same as before.  

Every night I promised myself that it would be different.  I would make time to read; I would write letters to lost friends; I would call family again.  These were all things I used to do but did no more.  I vowed to make positive plans, write out timelines to complete them and take definitive action towards them, but I never could move past the thought of them.   At some point every night and despite all the distractions that I created to keep it away, the thought always came that I needed a drink.  Once I started, I didn’t stop until I couldn’t continue, but I had no choice.

My family left me.  My wife took our child, walked out the door and never came back.  Friends left me.  My staff complained. Patients complained.  Doctors left my practice and it suffered. I was alone, and then the NCCDP called.  

The year was 2003 and for the next 18 months my life’s work was to get my life back.  I came to realize that once I lost control of my drinking all parts of my life were similarly affected, and that was the first Step for me.  Other dentists came to me with histories like mine, but their current situations seemed far different.  The common theme was that they had listened to others who had recovered from similar hopeless states and followed their Good Orderly Direction.  They all had found peace with their past while I still hated mine, but I longed for what they had.  They promised if I followed their path, my life would change too.  So, I decided to listen to their words and let them lead my actions.  Through these recovering professionals, I found hope.  It was my second step, and in time this hope for their process turned into faith that my life could be turned around and I made the commitment to this new way of living.  With this third step of recovery, alcohol gave way to a new order and a god of my understanding.  For the first time in my professional career, I finally felt I had some control of my choices.  

I wish I could report that by continuing to take and practice the 12 steps my life has been unchallenged; my behavior, consistently exemplary, and my choices never included alcohol.  On these and other issues I have fallen short; however, I have the tools to recover from these missteps and to get back on track with my life.  I admit my faults and I own my mistakes and my new family supports me for doing so.  My staff understand and love me for how I now make them feel. My patients take the time to thank me for my care.   I now can accept that I am human and will always fall short of perfection.   Yes, after recovering from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body I can now trust my thoughts and predict my actions and so can others around me.  I have freedom at night to do almost anything I want (especially if I receive prior approval from my wife!) or not and I live at a level of happiness I could never have imagined.  However, those men who cared enough to share their stories of recovery and how it changed their lives, knew then the possibilities for mine.  My life today is really their promise coming true and if you can relate to any of my experiences, I promise your life can change too.