You might consider contacting TPAPN to see if there are any support groups for recovering health care professionals (sometimes called Caduceus meetings). While some can be 12 Step oriented, not all are. It IS important to have friends in recovery who understand what we've been through. While family and friends not in recovery can be supportive, they have no idea what it's like to be triggered, have a sudden craving (yeah...it's that whole altered brain thing associated with the disease of addiction which gets better but never quite goes away), or to have professional colleagues who should be better educated about a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disease but aren't, and who tend to be judgmental (not all, but far too many in my book). Where do you meet other people in recovery? Well, unfortunately (or fortunately if you happen to be able to look past some of the things you don't agree with), one of the best places happens to be at 12 Step meetings. I know, some meetings can seem like revival gatherings (don't go to those kind). I know, you said you didn't like them. But the interesting thing I've discovered in almost 19 years of recovery is that I can choose to focus on the things that work and help me stay clean and sober while choosing to ignore the rest; or I can choose to focus on all the things that I don't like and be miserable and have no friends in recovery. I can also choose to remain isolated, or choose to begin to share my story of recovery with others in the profession who have walked this same path. I can also choose to reach out to other health care professionals in treatment and early recovery to let them know they are not alone. One of the things I love about recovery is I have all sorts of choices I am able to make today. When I was using, my only "choice" was to keep using...keep lying, hiding, isolating, in order to keep using. Today I can choose to be clean and sober, to work on becoming a better father, son, brother, friend, person. Today I can choose to reach out to the addict who still suffers...to pass on my recovery, to share those little things I've discovered about myself, my life, my relationships, and my connection with others, living a life of freedom and joy which I never thought possible almost 25 years ago. It took me going to treatment three times, over 5 years of intermittent abstinence, and facing 8 years in prison before I finally realized, and accepted, that I could make the choice to recover (which isn't just abstinence) and live a full and rewarding life, or I could continue doing what I was doing and be a miserable, white knuckled abstinent individual. A gentleman named Chuck Swindoll said it best, and I took it to heart:
The shame is understandable and part of the disease (and yes...it IS a disease). None of us asked for this to happen. I recommend the DVD "Pleasure Unwoven" to help understand the disease process. We are not bad people trying to become good. We have a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disease which alters our brain, and we are trying to become well. It's interesting, since the day I began speaking about my addiction, which began as a result of chronic pain from spondylolisthesis, my life has changed significantly. I went from someone who saw themselves as "bad", "stupid", "weak" and "evil", to someone who finally realized I had a disease which could kill me but could also be gotten into remission and kept there if I did a few simple (but not easy) things. the most important thing I did was stop hiding. It began accidentally when I was asked to speak at an anesthesia conference back in 2003. I spoke, not because I had a desire to change the world or to rally the troops. I spoke because I didn't know anyone where I was asked to speak (the shame thing), and because they were going to pay me an amazing fee and all my expenses to talk for one hour. I needed the money badly. I received much, much more, although I wouldn't realize it until much later. A series of events was started that day which led to me becoming a peer assistance advisor for Ohio's nurse anesthetists as well as the chair of the peer assistance/wellness committee (volunteer position). This led to a job as a consultant with a nursing license defense attorney, and eventually led to a career as an addictions counselor. Tomorrow evening I'm speaking at a church about the issues of addiction in conjunction with childhood sexual abuse. This happened because of a few brave souls in my family (my sister, Dad, 2 nieces, and a daughter) willing to speak out about being sexually abused as children, and seeking help. In the case of my daughter, she was abused at the age of 7, gang raped as a freshman in college, and is now dealing with the disease of addiction (in treatment through a drug court system). If I had not had my experiences I would not have been able to effectively assist my daughter and family members. Speaking out, sharing my story, and not hiding have been the things that not only saved my life, but changed it as well. You and all of our colleagues suffering with this disease and it's fallout are in my thoughts and prayers. Change is possible. So is happiness. I wish you well.