Reasons to Give – An Alcoholic’s Story

Hi. My name is Steven, and I’m an alcoholic. My associate director asked me if I would write a short article describing my experience. I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous that if I do the right thing, good things will happen in my life. Every day for the past three years, this is what I have learned through my experience in recovery.

I think perhaps he wanted me to describe the process — what happens exactly when a physician such as myself is referred to PHS.  What happens at the intake interviews, how and why I was referred to treatment, the monitoring contract, the urine testing, the physician support groups, the monthly meetings with my associate director. That is, the nuts and bolts, the recovery plan. It’s important. It made me well again. 

But all I want to do is thank the caring, professional people who were there for me. When I was referred by my physician group to PHS, my life was unmanageable. I was powerless over alcohol, although I didn’t believe that at the time. PHS helped me save my career, my sanity, and maybe even my life. The physicians there knew what was wrong with me when I didn’t have a clue, and they knew I needed help when I didn’t want it. Today, it is no exaggeration to say that I have the life of my dreams, second to none, and they set my feet on that path. And for three years, they kept me on the path, until, with the help of a higher power and my recovery community, I decided I can do this myself. There are so many people to thank in this story. 

So what’s my story? How did this happen?

In the spring of 2007, I was the chair of my department and the director of a very successful fee-for-service group. I lived in my dream home in a beautiful seaside village.  My family drove three BMWs, and I had three antique BMW motorcycles. I was also suicidally unhappy. I was a terrible husband, a cheat and a liar, an absent father, a poor excuse for a brother. I had few friends who could still put up with my antics and lying. I felt like a shell of a man, empty inside, with nowhere to go. Actually, I wasn’t any kind of a man at all. I was a kid who had gotten old.

How did I wind up here? Who cares. By this point, the only thing that still made life livable was alcohol. I loved to drink, and I loved to drink until it didn’t hurt anymore. I liked to drink by myself at night so no one would know how much I was seeking oblivion. As they say, alcohol was not my problem, it was my solution.

By the fall of 2007, my physician group saw, as I could not, that I was in trouble and needed help. I was never drunk or hung over on the job, but my friends had seen how I was drinking — and how I was acting. I brought the “isms” of alcoholism to work with me. So I was “advised” to make an appointment to see the director at Physician Health Services. I had spoken with him many times before in my capacity as director of my physician group. I had referred several of our docs to him for a variety of issues — anger management, conflict resolution, that kind of thing — and he had helped us out. I knew he was a reasonable man and a professional. He would see that I wasn’t really an alcoholic. Maybe he could help me, too. I was definitely going through a rough spot in my life and could use some help. I was depressed, I was so afraid, I was angry, I was confused. I didn’t know it, but I was in deep trouble.

What happened next was the beginning of my new life, my real life, the life I always dreamed of but didn’t believe I would ever have.

In talking with the physicians at PHS, I was able to let go of the facade I had been living. I was ready to take suggestions. They listened to me. I felt that they heard me and understood what was up with me. They’d seen cases like this before, and they knew what I needed. I felt really safe and well cared for. I am still amazed at the time and care they put into saving a drunk like me!\

Next came 100 days of inpatient treatment in a treatment facility for physicians and other stubborn people. Since my livelihood depended on my participation, I participated. I just was not interested in quitting drinking, or going to support meetings, or service to my fellow man. All of that changed. Everything changed!

After discharge from treatment, staying sober was not easy. I needed a lot of help. After treatment, I undertook a three-year monitoring contract with PHS that involved frequent urine testing, weekly physician support group meetings, monthly meetings with my associate director, and quarterly written reports to PHS. The urine testing did help me remain aware of the danger of relapse. I never objected, and in fact, it made me feel safe and cared for. After three years, I felt safe to do without it.

I looked forward to my monthly meetings with my associate director. New to the recovery community and to living without alcohol, I could count on my associate director to listen and provide suggestions, guidance, and reassurance. I miss those meetings.

The weekly physician groups are just another miracle at work. It is a chance for me to rejoin the human race. They don’t know it, but I love those docs.

I am looking back on these three years in utter amazement and gratitude. I still get to labor in my wonderful profession. I have more friends in and out of the recovery community than I ever imagined possible. My children talk to me. My grandkids, too. I have never felt closer to my family. I am enjoying life, one day at a time. The beautiful promises of recovery are being fulfilled in my life, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. A guy like me!

Thank you to everyone at PHS. Thanks to the docs in my group who didn’t give up on me. Thank you all. You guys do good work. I think maybe you do God’s work. God bless you all.

I’m Steven, and I’m an alcoholic.

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PHS is actively recruiting for a Medical Director. This is a unique opportunity to be an important part of a mission driven non-profit organization that supports the health, well-being, and effectiveness of physicians and medical students in MA. PHS is currently accepting applications, through the job posting here: MMS website. Please review the job description and apply. You may also contact a member of the search committee: Mary Anna Sullivan, MD, Chair, PHS Board of Directors; Glenn Pransky, MD, Director, PHS Board of Directors; Booker Bush, MD, Director, PHS Board of Directors; Dustin Patil, MD, Director, PHS Board of Directors; Bara Litman-Pike, PsyD, Executive Director PHS.

PHS is looking for great candidates to apply to this important position. We welcome your interest. The job is posted on this link on the MMS website.**


PHS is sad to announce that Dr. Steven Adelman has decided to step down from his current position as Medical Director of Physician Health Services, Inc at the end of February 2021. During his eight (8) years of service his efforts have touched the lives and helped the careers of more than one thousand distressed physicians and medical students. He has brought a commitment and passion to the pursuit of PHS’s mission, while expanding the breadth, depth and quality of its services. His success is our success.

Dr. Adelman is planning to pursue other professional interests and opportunities. As PHS begins its search for a new Medical Director, Dr. Adelman will be an important part of our search team, and he will work closely with PHS’s Executive Director, Dr. Bara Litman-Pike.

PHS is very grateful for Dr. Adelman’s leadership and service. His work and that of his staff has been a source of pride to all of us at PHS and MMS. The medical profession and its patients are the ultimate beneficiaries of his tireless efforts.

PHS is looking for great candidates to apply to this important position. We welcome your interest. The job is posted on this link on the MMS website.

The 23rd PHS Annual Dinner Gathering, originally scheduled for May 6, 2020, will be postponed and rescheduled for a later date in 2020 due to the current COVID-19 healthcare crisis. PHS looks forward to seeing everyone and will send an announcement once a new date has been determined. Please contact 781-434-7404 if you have questions. Thank you for all you do.

As you may know, the Board of Registration in Medicine has enacted new regulations for Massachusetts licensed physicians.  Please be assured that PHS continues to provide confidential consultation and assistance, without change, to MA physicians, medical students, and medical leaders. Please feel free to call PHS (781-434-7404) with any questions. 

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