Success Story: A Personal Story of Addiction

I am a Massachusetts physician who is specialty board certified by the Board of Family Practice. I have always treated my patients to the best of my ability, and fortunately, I have never provided less than optimal care to any patient at any time. However, shortly after establishing a solo general practice in 1986, I began using the drug Serax and developed a dependency on the medication. Over the next few years, my use increased until I was taking up to 2,000 milligrams of Serax each day. Naturally, my judgment became impaired as a result of my use, and my practices reflected this. In 1988 and 1989, I was charged with filing false claims. At first, the charge was surprising to me, but eventually it allowed me to recognize the reality of my addiction. In September of 1990, I voluntary suspended my practice, and in October of 1990, I voluntarily sought treatment for my chemical dependence by entering an inpatient detoxification program.

In March of 1991, I pled guilty to the charges brought against me and began making many positive changes in my life. I accepted full responsibility for my actions, was placed on probation for a period of three years, and was allowed to make full restitution to the Commonwealth. I am thankful that I was sentenced to  probation rather than to a jail term, and that the Court recognized that my chemical dependence had  impaired my judgment and represented a serious aberration from my usual standard of behavior. Immediately upon completion of treatment, I entered into a PHS monitoring contract and began taking advantage of the support resources the program provides. I attended peer support group meetings, had a therapist available to me, and was able to immerse myself in the recovery community. I voluntarily disclosed my chemical dependence and related conviction to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BRM) pursuant to the Board’s “Chemically Dependent Physician Policy.” The policy’s intent is to encourage physicians to voluntarily disclose chemical dependence so they will receive treatment and rehabilitation while practicing under monitoring arrangements designed to protect the public. In December of 1992, the Massachusetts BRM revoked my license, but because of the substantial mitigating factors (that I accepted responsibility for my actions, voluntarily entered and successfully completed treatment, and was actively participating in a PHS monitoring contract), they granted me the right to petition for reinstatement of my license after only one year. In 1993, the BRM granted my petition for reinstatement subject to a probation agreement, and allowed me to return to practice as long as I was involved in substance use monitoring, individual psychotherapy, group counseling, and behavioral and clinical monitoring. I complied fully with the terms of the probation agreement, and in 1998, all restrictions were removed. Despite the fact that I was no longer required to be in a monitoring program, I chose to remain under a voluntary monitoring contract with PHS until 2007, when I successfully completed all monitoring.

Now, I feel assured that I have acknowledged full responsibility for my chemical dependence and the offenses I committed when I was actively using. I have taken all the appropriate steps to obtain effective treatment and to rehabilitate myself. I voluntarily performed more than 1,000 hours of community service as a detoxification counselor so I can help others who face the same challenges I did. Most importantly, I have demonstrated that I am now a capable and trustworthy physician. Even though more than 19 years have elapsed since my active use and improprieties, I continue to value my recovery every day as well as my ability to serve my community as a physician. To this day, I participate in daily 12-Step recovery  programs. I have been fully reinstated and certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and I have now also been certified by the Board of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. I am the medical director of the chemical dependency program at our local hospital, and I feel that — with the help of PHS, my treatment providers, and my colleagues — I have fully rebuilt my life.

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