When a physician has a problem with substance abuse or shows signs of a psychiatric disorder, it is, unfortunately, rare that he/she turns to the Committee for Physician Health for treatment on their own. The referral usually comes from a colleague or a hospital. In this case, however, the worried, distraught wife of a physician turned to CPH for assistance with her husband.
On a fateful day in 1996 that became a turning point, Mrs. B decided she had had enough. Her husband, a successful solo family practitioner in rural New York, had disappeared for three days. Colleagues and hospital administrators wanted to speak to Dr. B. Mrs. B found her husband at a local tavern and told him that she had already called CPH.
The following day, a CPH case manager called the couple and told them that Dr. B was clinically appropriate for rehabilitation. Of course, Dr. B wanted to stay home and get treatment on an outpatient basis. He finally agreed to go to a residential program specializing in the treatment of physicians.
Dr. B, who had been using drugs since high school, had been steadily increasing his marijuana use and then added Vicodin and Fioricet. When he got to rehab and detoxed, he realized that he could no longer practice medicine the way he had been. “His behavior was sometimes inappropriate and often loud,” said Mrs. B. While in treatment, he sold his practice to the local hospital. His wife and children, 9 and 11 at the time, went to visit him and joined the Family Treatment Program for spouses and children. After several months in treatment, Dr. B came home and continued treatment at a hospital outpatient program. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous and Caduceus meetings in his hometown. He then went back into practice with two other physicians, and according to his wife, “Life was better than it ever was.” For the first time, Dr. B had regular hours, as opposed to the 12 hour days he kept while active in his addiction.
In addition, Dr. and Mrs. B decided to remain in New York rather than move to the west coast, which they wanted to do, but were counseled not to while in treatment. This enabled them to take advantage of the strong family support systems they both already had in place in New York that was an important component of their recovery.
Another “first” upon Dr. B’s return home was he and his wife began taking their children on family outings – something he was too busy to do before recovery. Mrs. B said, “We also took a vacation alone for the first time in a very long time.” They also started exercising together, and Dr. B found a new positive behavior – running.
Mrs. B says their children are also doing very well. “We talk a lot about how things used to be. They remember very well and we have had some very touching moments when they have shared with us. They are always impressed that now when we say we are going to do something, we do it! Last year we all worked together to add a deck on the back of the house and this summer we are putting a patio and some flowers in the front.”
Mrs. B now looks back for an assessment of her actions. “When I first called CPH regarding my husband, he was angry. Eventually his anger subsided, and as treatment progressed for both of us, I became able to forgive him for the troubles he brought upon himself and the family. Forgiving him was easier because of all the positive changes he made in such a short time. It took much longer, however, for me to forgive myself for feeling guilty for referring him to CPH. Now, five years later, I can honestly say I’m glad I did it. The outcome has been so rewarding for him, for me, and our family. I would encourage spouses who know their husband or wife has an addiction to call CPH. Don’t hide and suffer for as long as I did. CPH can help your spouse to regain not only his/her practice, but their families and dignity as well.”