Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy birthday to me

This month I was very grateful and delighted to be picking up my 25 year medallion to celebrate my 25th sobriety birthday. On October 28, 1984 I had a near fatal overdose and was forced to enter treatment. Since that time I have been blessed to be able to stay clean and sober. As this birthday has come around it has got me thinking about why I have been so fortunate to be able to have 25 years of sobriety without any relapses. For me this is an especially interesting question, since I work with patients - many of whom have difficulty staying clean and sober.

It seems to me that I have been very lucky but I have also put in a lot of hard work. Some factors were out of my control and I was just plain lucky. At the time of my overdose I was a young medical family practice resident and in complete denial that I could have a problem. But fortunately I was forced to complete a 4 month treatment program so that I could continue to work as doctor. I didn’t want to go to treatment but it was the only way to save my career. During that time of very intense treatment, I learned a lot - about myself, the disease of addiction, and how to stay clean and sober. The treatment was long enough and intense enough for me to be able to totally believe that, if I stayed in recovery, my life would be very happy. After treatment, I was forced by the Board of Medicine to document my recovery. I had to go to 12 step meetings and have negative drug screens. I was forced to attend therapy and continue to grow and learn. This continued for about 3 more years, always with the reality that I could lose my license if I did not maintain my sobriety.

I didn’t try to short change my recovery. I followed advice and did what I was told. From the beginning I worked with a sponsor in my 12 step groups and also with a professional therapist. I sensed the importance of learning as much as I could about the beliefs and attitudes I had and how I could change them if they weren’t helpful. I was able to get feedback and advice on some of the decisions I needed to make.

I quickly came to believe in the disease concept that taught me that it wasn’t my fault that I had a drug problem but that it was my responsibility to take care of it. I also met a lot people who tried to give up one drug like opiates but keep drinking - they always failed and usually failed very quickly. I have not risked having even one sip of alcohol because I love my life now and I don’t want to take any chance of ruining it.

Early on, I decided that I would work with others who have addiction problems. It is very fulfilling when I see people get clean and sober and really turn their lives around. It also very quickly brings me back to reality when I see people suffer because they don’t take care of their disease.

Lastly, through my recovery I have been blessed to find a spiritual dimension to my life that I was always looking for. When I was using drugs I thought I had found happiness. What I found of course was just a short term pleasure experience in the brain that was never very fulfilling and always wore off. Now I have found a peace of mind, a sense of purpose and a road map for the future.

So, in all, I have been lucky. But it has not been all luck. I have taken my recovery very seriously. I have truly made my recovery the most important thing in my life. I have been, and am still, willing to go to any lengths to stay clean and sober. I have gone to meetings, worked on the 12 steps, worked with a sponsor and done all the things that people do if they want to maintain sobriety. I believe the path of recovery is actually fairly clear. It is a bit like riding a bike. After a while it is really pretty easy - but it is also fairly easy to fall off a bike if you take your eyes off the road. We have to maintain vigilance on this path of recovery, especially when there are road bumps or tricky spots.

And when we travel this path with friends and companions it sure is a fun journey. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Peter C.


  1. Thanks Peter, We have much in common
    and that is a good thing. Love Craig Duro

  2. Thank you for sharing that. I have almost 60 days clean now :) ~Christine S.