A Nurse's Story
Addiction Recovery Resources for the Professional
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Dear friends and coworkers,

I am so afraid. I think I'm going to die soon if I don't get help. I feel so alone and confused. I know now that I need help desperately but I can't tell anyone. If I confide in anyone I'll lose everything in my life that still has meaning. I have heard it said that what is wrong with me is a disease, but most of the nurses and doctors I work with say that people like me have no willpower, that we are weak, bad people. Of course they don't really know me, not the weak, bad me anyway. I have kept that part hidden for years. I'm am sure if they knew what was wrong with me they would hate me. I can understand that. I hate myself. I am so ashamed. Maybe it would be better if I just died. Now I'm just feeling sorry for myself. If I really wanted to get better I could, couldn't I? I have tried many times but I always fail. I should just ask for help, but if I do, I'll lose my family, my nursing license, my job. I'll probably get arrested, make the newspaper and maybe even go to jail. I have lied to everyone including myself. I have betrayed my friends, coworkers, and most importantly, my patients. How can I bring myself to tell anyone? I am so afraid.

That was my reality six years ago. I am a nurse. I am also a drug addict. I was raised as the only child of two alcoholics. I learned early to hide my feelings. What I didn't learn was how to cope with anything, including daily life. I saw alcohol used to celebrate, to cope with sadness, anger, depression. I swore as a child that I would never become an alcoholic. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to fix people that were hurting.

It was a noble goal. Unfortunately, I was destined to follow in their footsteps. What started out as social drinking in college soon gave way to trying the drugs that were so popular in the late 1960's. As time passed I was less able to deal with anything and used drugs to cover my feelings which seemed so out of my control. The harder I tried to control my life and my feelings, the more unmanageable things became. I was so depressed and in such denial that I really believed that the drugs were the only thing keeping me sane. I was no longer using drugs to feel good, I was using drugs just to feel normal. I wanted to stop. I hated lying to everyone. I was going against my own moral values, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't do it alone, and I was terrified to ask for help.

Luckily, for me, the hospital where I worked did see my problem as a disease and wanted to help me. One morning after working the night shift I was asked to come to the conference room by my supervisor. When I arrived I found two of my coworkers, my supervisor and two people from employee assistance. They said they knew I was sick and they wanted to help. They said they cared about me. They wanted me to go to treatment. Although I was still terrified I was also very relieved. I left for treatment several days later.

Although some of my fears did come true, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My nursing license was suspended while I was in treatment. I did make the front page of the local paper several months after returning. That was hard. It hurt mostly because of my daughter who was in junior high school then. Kids can be so cruel and she hadn't done anything wrong. I didn't lose my job. My hospital continued to employ me as an attendant. I was assigned a monitor through PACDN (peer assistance for chemically dependent nurses). PACDN is a committee of the Virginia Nurses Association. My monitor (who was also a recovering nurse) worked with me for several years. She provided support and guidance in my recovery, went with me to my hearing at the nursing board and continued to help me as I reentered the profession after my license was reinstated on probation. The help and support I received was unbelievable. I spent two years in counseling after treatment which helped me deal with old issues and learn better ways of coping. I still attend AA regularly. It is wonderful, for me, to be around people who are working on recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. I no longer feel alone. I also attend Caduceus meetings every week. Caduceus is a support group made up of health care professionals recovering from chemical dependence.

My life is so different today, it is difficult to put into words. I no longer have deep, dark secrets. I no longer stuff my feelings. Today I try to express them in an appropriate way. I try to no longer blame others for my problems, but today accept responsibility for my actions. I try to live in the present instead of constantly worrying about the past or the future. I try to stay grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow from the things that life brings my way. I don't do these things perfectly, but I look for progress in my recovery, instead of demanding perfection from myself. All of these changes have brought me a happiness and serenity that I never knew was possible.

I will always have my disease but with the help of so many caring people I now know how to keep it in remission, one day at a time. I have told my story to nursing classes, medical school classes and at drug abuse conferences. I also now work with other chemically dependent nurses and try to help them find the recovery that I was helped to find.

It is my hope that the new legislation will make it easier for other health care workers who are suffering out there alone to be less afraid to seek help. These people are our coworkers and our friends and they are sick, alone, and afraid. They desperately need our help and support.


Linda K.

P.S. Remember, there but for the grace of God......

Addiction Recovery Resources for the Professional
[ ARR Home Page | A Diagnosis of Addiction? | Phelps-Nourse Test | Book Store | Resource Links | A Nurse's Story ]
Hannah Lloyd, BGS CSAC
221 Albemarle Ave. SW, Roanoke, VA 24016
Email: Hannahlloyd@mac.com
Telephone: (540) 815-4214, fax (888) 497-9479

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