See One, Do One, Teach One
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
So, I'm a doctor, and I've quit drinking. I work in a busy academic hospital in a major American city. I have two kids in grade school, a supportive spouse who's also my best friend, a satisfying, rewarding career, a wonderful group of close friends, and also a drinking problem. I was an average drinker in my 20's (average among my circle, anyway), became a heavy drinker in my 30's, and now, having just crested the hill in my mid-forties, I celebrated my birthday with 71 days of sobriety under my belt. (I'm not in AA, but as an internist I can't help but count and measure things.)
Depending what you read, physicians have either average or above-average rates of alcohol use disorder compared with the general population. In either case, lots of us drink lots. We've all seen the red-faced, sweaty, vomiting patients in our ERs, obviously intoxicated or withdrawing. We see patients with falls, bruises, and fractures, elevated liver enzymes, and otherwise unexplained heart failure. But do we notice the colleagues who seem a bit bleary-eyed in the mornings? Those who were previously fitness nuts, now getting soft around the middle? And how would we even suspect a problem in our high-functioning, hard-working, hard-playing fellow physicians? For health care professionals, there are obvious impediments to discussing substance use. I hope this site may serve one day as an anonymous online forum for support.
For several years, I've been contemplating the decision to give up the drink, and have dipped my toe in the alcohol-free waters of an occasional Dry January or Sober October, always feeling deprived and counting the days until I could once again uncork and unwind. Along the way, I have discovered "Quit Lit:" a whole genre of sobriety memoirs, self-help books, and self-hypnosis manuals (who knew?), all of which have contributed something to my arsenal of motivation and skills to give up alcohol for good. For me, reading others' stories has been tremendously helpful, and so, in the vein of See One, Do One, Teach One, I've decided to share mine. Maybe it will help you.