Are you and alcoholic / addict


Good Morning Everybody:

Last night was a rare departure from what is usually my worst night of the week. My weekly "nurses support" meeting which is usually 1 & 1/2 hours of tedious "check in" where people talk about the complete minutia in their lives in amazingly boring detail as to make that short period of time seem like it lasts a week. Last night we actually had a pointed discussion whereas we were given a topic to think about during the week to discuss.

As you may guess that topic was "are you an alcoholic or addict". It amazed me the criteria that people applied to this definition & I can see why. If you look at the internet, have been to rehab or any 12 step meeting you will get a dizzying array of definitions that honestly look more like opinions than anything else. Last night we only had a few people there and the polarization of opinions were kind of broke down on drug of choice lines. The people who diverted (2 of them) immediately admitted they were addicted to opiates. I don't doubt this is true as admittedly and objectively their addiction took them to a place where they were diverting meds from patients who needed them and simply stealing to feed their addiction. Three more nurses admitted to opiate addiction years ago (10, 7 and 5 years) that they sought treatment for before they went to nursing school who had many years of clean time (none went to 12 step meetings anymore on their own). They all had the misfortune of admitting these past problems to the board going through the licensing process and were sent to monitoring land despite multiple years of clean time. One was sent to the program because she failed a drug test in a job application process when she took and old Vicodin from a prior prescription to deal with some chronic pain issues who flatly said she wasn't an addict and this whole process was ridiculous in her case (I agree).

This brings us to the DUI crowd of which I'm a part. All stated that they were not alcoholics but merely made a bad choice and were now stuck in a program they had no use for. Interestingly (to me anyway) this brought a spirited response from both the therapist and the folks accused of abusing opioids. Essentially they all said you must be an alcoholic because you got a DUI. It seems that the folks who were accused of diverting were much more invested in this process and 12 step recovery than us DUI offenders. This back and forth went on for a little while arguing the definition of addict / alcoholic and was varied and interesting. Finally, I brought out the DSM 5's definition of alcohol use disorder and all the DUI folks were found to have a "mild" alcohol use disorder and that seems to quell the debate somewhat.

What I really found interesting was the divide between the people who were admitted addicts and invested in their recovery and the people who were just doing this because they have to. I have respect for those folks. They are fighting for their lives and having a tough time whereas the attitude of the people drug into this program and who only subject ourselves to this process to save our careers could honestly care less about the stuff that is spewed at us by therapists and 12 step devotees. The people who are fighting for their lives talk about how recovery has made their lives better on every level. We talk about how this process has made our lives worse on every level. There are clearly people who need this program or something akin to it. They should not be subjected to what those of us who got caught into the "big net's" collection truthful opinions and experiences. Now in my group those poor people in recovery are in the vast minority and the rest of us are not going to be mute to our outrage. Perhaps these groups should be divided between the folks who need / want help and the rest of us or better yet maybe the whole process needs a through review using things like the DSM and medical research instead of the Big Book and the opinions of people's whose only qualification for giving advice is that they were high / drunk most of their lives. Have a great day all!!!

Specializes in OR. Has 15 years experience.

Have I ever said I really like the way you you think/write? This harkens back to a particular moment where I was still trying to figure out why the blazes I was sitting in a drug/alcohol rehab ****hole. (This was before I was permitted to speak with family and had had my phone, keys etc taken away and before I had figured out the it was all about the money. Hind sight is an interesting thing.) I said To another nurse (this lady had been diverting and identified as an addict and was gung-ho 12 step) I don't understand this stuff, I'm sorry, I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I'm not an addict I don't belong here? Her response? Well, you've had weight loss surgery so you must be a food addict. What???? This from a person who should know that obesity is not necessarily due to a daily bucket of KFC. Mind blown.

But yes....I do agree by mushing everyone into one group it is a disservice to both those who are benefitting and those who are counting the minutes until done. Unfortunately by taking the initiative to consider who is on which side of the fence, it would involve time, effort and actually looking at why a person is (and possibly if they even need to be) in a program in the first place. That ain't happening.

Of course you are right. It ain't happening but its a pity. Thank you for the compliment & I like KFC

rn1965, ADN

514 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, Women's Health, LTC. Has 27 years experience.

Although I do identify as an alcoholic (in my opinion, it is a self-diagnosed disease and not for others to bestow upon you), I do feel for the folks caught in the web of these "catch all" programs. Especially those with one DUI (many years before nursing) or those who made one error in judgement, DUI or drugs as a youngster. I can hear all the people saying "well, if one bad judgement, then likely more in nursing". I do not think that is the case.

Please believe me when I say, I, too, think the programs the boards stick people in are too rigid and demanding and do more harm (at times) than good. The cost, the humiliation, the time away from work and family, to attend classes and meetings, and UDS, break a person and set them up for failure. I am lucky enough to have a sponsor that understands when I am sick, or exhausted, I just cannot make a meeting. She knows that part of a recovery is taking care of myself, as well. That means being able to support myself financially, work when I have to, or need to, and stay home when I am sick.

What shocks me, is when someone has demonstrated several years of sobriety and good choices, the board still decides to throw them into 3 or more years of monitoring. That baffles me. Why not cut it down to 12 months or even 18, but 3 (plus) years seems excessive to me.

I am still awaiting my fate. I had license revoked in 2003 and recently applied for re-issuance. I know I will get at least one year probation after a refresher course. I have my fingers crossed it is not more than that. I have 12.5 years of documented sobriety, clean UDS, letters from counselor stating I completed a year long program, letter from current (non-nursing) employer, letter from sponsor, etc. I have such a fear the probation will be longer. My revocation was from AZ. I currently live in Texas, and hope to only have one year to do in AZ, so I can come back here. I also hope that TX does not make me also join a monitoring program, once it is complete in AZ.

But, I will wait and see what happens.

I do want to thank you all for being here on this forum, so we can help each other through these difficult times.

I agree with your sentiments. First, this site had provided me with more support than I ever got from any other experience in this monitoring hell that many of us have been subject to. I thank all of your for your support and input. It has been invaluable to me. Second, the fact that the monitoring net expands to catch people with a decade of sobriety pretty much says all it needs to about the wrongheadedness and separation from any sort of reality that these programs embody. These programs attempt to punish what they consider bad behavior (to hell with the whole disease concept) and you may get caught up in that garbage. I hope and pray that you don't and they allow you to pursue your rightful place in the career you have earned. God knows we could use more nurses with an actual sense of empathy. Good luck to you!!!