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April 2008

Doctor's Orders

I was at a point in my drinking where I was sliding down a muddy hole, furiously scratching at the sides to slow my descent and grabbing at anything that might hold me, if even for a short while.

I made an appointment with my doctor. I say "my" doctor, but I was new to the state, on assisted health care, and hadn't seen him but once or twice previously. We didn't know each other.

I was desperate and frightened enough to tell him something of the truth. Although I told him I drank far beyond what was normal, I didn't tell him just how much. I didn't tell him I was dumping empty liquor containers in the local market dumpster so that even my trash collector couldn't see the level of my consumption. I did tell him about the depression and panic attacks, the shakes and sleeplessness.

He began a program of sleeping tonics and antidepressants, eventually allowing me a short visit to the land of anti-anxiety medication. Our relationship was not smooth. I called often--sometimes in the middle of the night. Today, just thinking back on those two months gives me the shivers.

Eventually, my doctor became less enthusiastic about my medical solution and more insistent on counseling. Finally, after I had badgered and begged the unfortunate doctor on call one weekend for a refill on the anti-anxiety meds, my doctor called me on Monday and made an appointment for the next day.

I arrived and waited for what seemed like an eternity, hoping that my medicine man had found the perfect elixir to subdue the demons strangling the life out of me. Instead, when he opened the door and entered hesitantly, he quietly announced that he couldn't help me anymore. He said if I had a bad kidney, heart, or physical ailment, he would do what he could to make me well, but that my problem was beyond his means of healing. He gave me the phone number to Marion County Mental Health and left.

Just like that, he was gone and I was alone again. Marion County is where the state psychiatric institution is located, made famous by the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Even with that prospect before me, I was in such pain and fear that I went directly home and called the number. But it was a wrong number and I was devastated--completely without hope.

Not only was it a wrong number but a week later I received a bill for $76 from my doctor for the trouble of his dismissal. I had a new resentment and I was mighty thirsty all the time, only nothing I drank could quench that thirst.

After running out of all other options, I found myself in AA, and I believe God led me through that path. I just celebrated ten years of continuous sobriety.

When I was practicing the Ninth Step, I went back to see that doctor at the direction of my sponsor. I had avoided him for two years, probably at the cost of my health, and blamed him for his ignorance (not to mention the $76 slap in the face). When I saw him, I told him that I was wrong to expect so much of him and I thanked him for his efforts to save me from myself. I meant what I said and was freed of my burden.

When I left the office, I gave him materials on AA so that if anyone like me were to come see him with that terror in their eyes and heart, he might know a workable solution to suggest--along with any medical aids he might see fit.

He left the area not too long after that. When I met my new doctor, I also told him of my experience and brought him a packet of material our district chairperson of the Cooperation with the Professional Community (CPC) committee had assembled, which included the pamphlet "AA as a Resource for the Health Care Professional." Both doctors thanked me and gladly accepted the materials.

Whether they read them and used them is beyond my knowledge, control, or business. I do my part and let God do the rest.

I hope that the medical community has a willingness to read the materials AA has written specifically for them, so that they might suggest our solution to the next alcoholic patient who stumbles in their door.

I suggest contacting your local district, intergroup, or central office and getting a pamphlet or two to take to your doctor on your next visit.

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