This is a personal story of a recovering addict and pharmacist in that order because whenever I forget that I am recovering addict I might as well forget being a pharmacist because I could be dead. This disease is cunning and baffling; the denial can kill before one seeks or gets help.
It will be a story of recovery, not a drug-a-log, and will highlight my life before introduction to the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and what I have now using the twelve steps as my daily guide to recovery. I will attempt to share my experiences, strengths, and hope for those who are still suffering from this miserable disease of chemical dependency.
There is a solution…I grew up in a functional family, loving parents, and a good relationship with my siblings. I was raised in a Christian home where both parents worked hard to support the family but were always available when needed for support and family activities.
My parents are positive role models, whom I love and respect very much, and cherish the unconditional love and support they have so willingly given me.
Early on in the first and second grade, I had the misfortune of having older, stricter teachers unwilling to take more time with me, not realizing that I was slower than or possibly not as mature as I should have been for these grades. Upon completion of the second grade, I had an overwhelming fear of failure, worthlessness, and not being accepted because in my young mind I just didn’t fit in.
I would agonize over the thought of participating in any activity involving a group of people (two or more). The thought of not living up to another person’s expectation was overwhelming. Therefore, I would isolate and stay away from any type of group involvement in order to protect myself from those fears.
As I entered junior high school I decided I would “pull myself up by the bootstraps”, and show people that I could be a success academically, and I buried myself in the books and became obsessed with studying. I realize today that I used the books instead of chemicals as a crutch in order to avoid dealing with life on life’s terms and face some of the fears and emotions I had.
As a result, I did make the honor roll through junior high and high school and graduated from pharmacy school with honors., however, I had a tendency to shadow my success with the powerful fear of failure and rejection.
After I graduated from pharmacy school and became a registered pharmacist, the fear of failure and rejection was still present, and the crutches I used in school were gone. I was very lonely and afraid. I recall the first time I took a codeine-containing product off the shelf for a headache. I had discovered a new feeling. This was how I thought I should feel for a moment — I could drug any emotion: fear, anger, sadness — that was present instead of dealing with the emotion in a healthy way.
As the drugs wore off the emotions were not gone, so the only solution I could rationalize was to continue to chase the first high I had experienced, and remain forever in a drug state 24 hours a day. This insane way of living continued for seven years of my life; these years I consider to be wasted.
Fortunately, someone recognized my drug-induced behavior and wrote an anonymous letter to the company I worked for, which started the intervention process on my behalf. At that time, I was very angry, but also very sick and miserable, and today I am grateful for the person who wrote that letter.
As events began to unfold, I kept on lying, cheating, and stealing the drugs to support my dependence. As I reflect back I guess it was a cry for help because I knew the company I worked for was on to me because the loss prevention department was auditing the control substances on the days I was off, but I did not quit stealing the drugs.
Finally, a loss prevention supervisor confronted me with the evidence, and I confessed to some of the drug shortages, but the denial would not allow me to confess to it all, even though I knew I was responsible for all of it. I remember the fear of what was going to happen to me followed by a sense of relief that the cycle had been broken. However, no suggestion for a treatment plan or no mention of the twelve steps or recovery was ever made to me.
The next month, after being terminated from my job where I had been employed for nine years, I detoxified off of the drugs without any medical attention. I was sick, in a lot of pain, was not getting any sleep, and was suicidal. However, GOD loved me so much that he allowed my nephew to stay with me, and I could act on my suicidal thoughts knowing that he would be the one to find me.
During the same month, an Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy investigator requested that I write a statement about my usage in which he came to my house and picked up. The statement was not accurate since it was full of denial which I am sure the investigator probably suspected, but he never made a judgment call on me that day, which I am grateful for. He did, however, give me the telephone number for Oklahoma Pharmacists Helping Pharmacists (OPHP), and told me that they could help me.
After receiving a certified letter from the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy indicating all of the shortages, and the charges against me, I realized I was going to have to take some action. They had my full attention so I called OPHP and was received with care and compassion. Arrangements were made to have an evaluation done by a counselor in Oklahoma City. The counselor diagnosed the denial and recommended four weeks of inpatient treatment.
At this point, I had to tell my family. Telling them was very emotional yet inspiring, watching them rally in my support. For years I had taken for granted the unconditional love and support they so willingly offered me.
Before I entered treatment I surrendered my pharmacy license to the Board of Pharmacy just as my counselor had suggested. I vividly remember driving around and around the Board of Pharmacy’s office just trying to get up enough courage to go in. Consumed with guilt and shame, I thought they would lock me away forever, but instead, the chief investigator/inspector for the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy talked with me and shared words of encouragement. I am grateful for his understanding of chemical dependency as a disease.
As I entered treatment I was met at the door with a hug instead of what I thought would be a straight jacket fit for me. Although the denial was still present, I was in a safe environment. Eventually, the denial was broken and I was able to admit that I am an addict.
During the third week of treatment, I was notified that a warrant had been issued for my arrest for larceny of controlled substances from my previous place of employment. The police had confronted my nephew, who happened to be at my house, with guns drawn indicating that if he was hiding me he could go to jail. Jumping on the pity-pot I could not figure out how GOD could do this to me, and I began to isolate and bring back old behaviors.
At this point in my life, I had completely turned my back on GOD. Fortunately, with the support of the patient group, counselor, and chaplain I began to have a spiritual awakening and became willing to start working the twelve steps. First, I admitted I was powerless over drugs and that my life was unmanageable, and with the new found willingness I turned my will and life over to the care of GOD.
GOD’s presence was felt in my room, and he made a promise to me that there would be nothing in recovery that we, GOD and I, not I, could not handle. Realizing that GOD was there and had always been there I began to recognize the GOD things happening in my life. Things I normally considered luck or coincidence.
First, as I left the treatment facility for a day to surrender to the authorities, spending an afternoon in jail, which was a vital part of my recovery because I had to hit a bottom before I would become 100% willing to start walking the walk and not just talking the talk (recovery, twelve steps). I will always remember my lawyer telling me that I hired him to worry. I know that GOD was working through my lawyer to show me how to turn issues over to him. It was effective because I experienced a level of serenity that I could only dream about while I was using drugs.
Although the charges were still unresolved, and I still had to appear before the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy, I felt for the first time in my life that there was hope. I was beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Within a month the courts ruled, and I received a three-year deferred sentence, where if I did everything I was supposed to in three years the case would be dropped, and the probation records shredded. In the same month, I appeared before the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy and received one of the greatest rewards in recovery: seeing all six members of the board vote in my favor. I was finally able to start dealing with the overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame.
I am very grateful for the second chance they so graciously gave me. The support I received from OPHP, and working a strong program of recovery, the Board of Pharmacy suspended my pharmacy license for ten years, but placed all of the suspension on probation as long as I was in total compliance with my OPHP contract and the terms of the probation.
I am now working as a registered pharmacist and I am truly the happiest and most fulfilled that I have ever been. By the grace of GOD I no longer have to lie, cheat, and steal and have been freed from the grip of chemical addiction. I live each day one day at a time, keeping it simple, and letting go and letting GOD. These concepts have afforded me a true quality of sobriety. My level of serenity is directly proportional to my level of acceptance and ability to live life on life’s terms. Although I can not dwell on my past, I must never forget the pain chemical dependency caused. If I ever forget this pain I will be in serious trouble.
If anyone has questions or needs assistance with a chemical dependency problem, either for a friend or themselves, please call Oklahoma Pharmacists Helping Pharmacists (OPHP)
There is a solution.
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