A Doctor's Story: Alcohol & Craving For Connection
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Just as with other doctors I was also busy treating patients and spent the majority of my professional career practicing in patient care with high standards and impeccable professionalism. My career had flourished, and everything seemed to be going well – For a while. I had an occasional glass of wine on the weekends and whenever I went out for dinner. Cautious by nature, I knew when enough alcohol was enough, and for a long period of time I had no problems with drinking – I certainly didn’t think that I would be the type of person who would ever develop a life-destroying addiction to the substance.
However, my own personal challenges with establishing a sense of relaxation translated into extreme difficulties with insomnia, and I eventually found myself tired and desperate for a good night’s sleep. Alcohol appeared to represent a solution to my over-arousal problem, where it helped to relax me in the evenings so that I could eventually fall asleep. However, I soon found myself engaging in a behavioral pattern in which the consumption of alcohol was deeply connected with my very personality – I identified with it. I connected with it. I longed for it. Alcohol and I became deeply intertwined.
Knowledge Is No Substitute
Although I was well educated and understood the importance of temperance and moderation, this intellectual understanding did not prevent me from becoming dependent upon this substance both physiologically and psychologically – Alcohol and I were becoming more and more connected. Linked. My father, also a physician, and my mother, a teacher, began to notice a shift in my behavior – My father was especially concerned as he saw what he considered to be my falling apart before his eyes. Everything that I had worked so hard to accomplish – My career, my reputation, and my personal character – Everything seemed to be at risk. As I perceived the risk to my sense of position in the world I became more nervous, and I calmed myself with more relaxation. More alcohol. The sense of relief was intoxicating, but I knew that I was beginning to slip.
My father provided me with a variety of mental health resources, but I didn’t want to make my challenges known publically for fear of losing my position at the hospital and perhaps losing my license to practice medicine. However, I knew that I needed help, and one of the most challenging steps that I took was the one that put me in front of the Department of Human Services to connect with an alcohol recovery center. Walking through the front door to their offices was immensely embarrassing, but I needed something to guide me. Initially I thought that perhaps I was different – Perhaps this was just a normal part of my life, and perhaps one day I would be able to drink normally, just as others do. However, after several weeks of working with the program I began to grasp the depth of my challenge, and I began to recognize that I needed to identify new strategies that would clarify my mind and body. The rehab center provided me with a nurturing and enriching environment, which assisted me with recovering. Meanwhile, my fears of losing my license to practice medicine or work at the hospital never materialized, and this helped me to see how deeply immersed in my own fearful and isolated reality I had actually become at that time.
One of the key lessons that I took away from this experience is that alcohol addiction recovery groups help to break-down the barriers that we place between each-other. Connection with others is critical, and although there was a long period of time where I believed that I was different than the others and so wouldn’t need to open-up and share, I am obviously no longer of the same position. The groups help us to open-up and experience vulnerability with a group of other authentic human beings who are experiencing a similar challenge, and they contribute to our personal and spiritual growth in unique ways.
After a while I began to appreciate the group processes and I actually began to crave that healthy and nourishing connection in the same way that I had previously craved the alcohol. It would seem that what was most missing in my life was a deep and thirst-quenching connection with other strong, vulnerable, and authentic human beings. I made the mistake of turning to alcohol to induce relaxation and assist with sleep, but that turned-out to be toxic when my true craving was for connection.