By the end of this entry, you will have an understanding of how I arrived at my present place of recovery. In How This Registered Nurse Went From a Rising Star, to a Hopeless Addict. (Part 2) I described my battles with addiction that have helped me be able to identify a number of character flaws that have contributed to my propensity for addiction, including, poor coping skills, inability to communicate needs, bottling up emotions, and lack of physical and emotional self-care. We will cover these topics and many more in upcoming entries. In Part 1 , I began my story with the events that led up to my addiction. Please follow the link above to read the beginning entry in this three part series.
As I rode home in the back of a cab, having just been terminated from my job, and confronted about diverting narcotics, I tried to think of what I would tell my wife. It was midnight, she would be in bed, and we were two thousand, five hundred miles from home. Her and the kids had joined me for the summer at my current travel assignment. It was to be an adventure of a lifetime for her and the kids, and a working vacation for me. Now, I was fixing to drop a bomb while she had no family nearby to comfort her. She had endured the same loss of our son that I had. Furthermore, she almost lost her own life, and had not had the crutch of opiates to numb her pain. I feared the burden of my sins would be to much for her, and wondered what the consequences would be. Once again, I underestimated her.
I sat on the stoop of our rental property and watched the sun rise over the mountains. I wondered if this would be the last sunrise I would see as an RN, and a married man. Finally, around six-thirty am, I found the courage to wake my wife and tell her the news.
Surprisingly, her first reaction was to reach out and hug me. I had blubbered like a baby through most of my confession, consumed by guilt and shame. She found the courage to assure me that she would be there to help, as long as I sought help for my addiction. I readily agreed, and began to search for resources for addicted nurses. What I found was a hodgepodge of opinions, advise, and mostly failure. After a week of scouring the internet, I was more confused and scared than ever. It seemed there was no way to find help and preserve my livelihood. As much as I felt like I deserved whatever bad things befell me, I could not condemn my wife and children for the sins of their father.
Ultimately, we decided to return home to the security of our hometown where family was near, and support could be found. Upon arriving home, I found an addiction counselor and promptly made an appointment. I spent my first session relaying my torrid love affair with opiates. But there was one key detail I left out of my confession. I denied ever using any medication from work. My thought process was that if he knew my history of diversion, he would report me to the board. So, when I asked if it would be okay for me to return to work in a hospital setting, his answer was, “ If you feel comfortable with it”. I have a feeling if he had known my history, his answer would have been different.
I took a position with the local hospital, and continued to go to appointments with the addiction specialist. I still had the mind set of “I can do this myself”. But my resolve only lasted four shifts before I returned to my old ways. The shame and guilt over my failure was overwhelming. I felt complete despair. I now had created another secret to keep from my wife, my therapist, and my job. After only a couple of weeks, I began to daydream about overdosing. I felt like it would be a relief for my wife to not have to worry anymore. My children would be better off without me. I was in violation of my own moral and ethical standards. I could see no way out of the downward spiral I was in. I was defeated.
And then, I walked into work one evening and saw the nurse manager, and unit supervisor waiting at the nurses station. I felt a twinge of fear in the pit of my stomach. I knew it was to late for them to be here. And the guilt of my actions was never far from the surface. As I walked to the time clock to punch in, I heard my supervisor call my name. I turned and looked at her. She said, “I need to see you in my office”. I felt the twinge turn into a crashing wave of fear, but there was something else there as well. It was relief, mixed with resolve. I knew this was the time. I needed to end this now.
So as I sat down, I heard the words “Diversion of morphine”. I looked up as the next phrase “ Video evidence” left her mouth and found my ears. Finally, I heard “We can offer help”. At this, I looked up and met her gaze. And in her eyes, I saw a genuine sorrow that touched me to my soul. I realized that I was not the first. That she had sat in that seat and looked across her desk and said these same words before. To another nurse. And I knew this was the time. And I confessed.
Once I started talking the words, and tears raced each other for the lead. I spoke of the origin of my addiction, of my attempts to control it, and my ultimate failures. Finally, I spoke of the ethical and moral standards I had trampled during these dark times. When I finished, I sat with a feeling of humiliation, but also, relief. I knew things would have to change now. I finally had no more secrets to tell. And as I sat silent, my supervisor began to speak.
She began by telling me that I was not the first, nor would I be the last to sit in this position. She then told me of the friends, of the colleagues, and of the peers, she had been through this with. She then offered words of hope rather than condemnation, which I was not expecting. She told me her hospital did not believe in punishment, but offered treatment. That I would have the opportunity to report myself to the state agency responsible for monitoring nurses, and after doing so, would be absolved of any punitive action by the hospital. I gladly accepted her offer, and walked out with no job, and no idea of what the future held, but I possessed something I hadn’t had in a long time. I had hope.
I entered drug treatment shortly after my conversation with the monitoring professional. After thirty days of intensive treatment, I was allowed home for a weekend visit. I encountered my neighbor within minutes of arriving. He proceeded to tell me that sheriff’s deputies had been at my house looking for me within the last couple of days. I felt my extremities going numb, and my throat tightened. There was only one reason I could think of for the authorities to be looking for me.
I immediately called the local jail and asked if I had warrants. I was stunned to hear the person on the other end of the line respond, “Yes, you have been charged with three counts of Larceny of a Controlled Substance, and you should turn yourself in now.” My blood ran cold. I called the treatment facility and asked if I could come back until I could sort out my legal trouble. I left my family, alone and scared, while I drove back to rehab. Monday morning, I drove from rehab to the jail and turned myself in. I was booked, fingerprinted, given a mugshot, and spent hours in holding. Fortunately, I was able to retain council and bond out. I could not believe,after forty years of living and being a person that believed in a high moral standard, that I was now facing felony charges. If convicted, I will more than likely, never be a practicing nurse again. The outcome of these charges are still undetermined. Thankfully, I understand that I am responsible for my actions, and will face the consequences with courage and grace. I will be a role model for my children moving forward.
I spent a total of two months in inpatient treatment and I am continuing counciling. I practice physical and emotional self care, and I am working towards the future. As I continue on this path to recovery, I have added many tools to my kit. In the coming posts, I intend to cover the steps I, and others, have taken to break the throes of addiction. And with help, others will recover also.