A Non 12 Step Approach for a Surgeon with Cocaine Issues – A True Story
Getting The Help You Need With Confidentiality
In 2014 I met a world renowned surgeon. His life was about to take a turn for the worst. We will call him Jed. Jed called me looking for an answer to his secret habit with cocaine. He had developed a liking for cocaine over the previous three years, and although he had been able to keep this a secret, certain key hospital executives and support staff were starting to sniff out trouble.
When I got the call that fall, Jed asked me if there was a way to “go to treatment” without anyone knowing. Obviously, as a well known surgeon, his cocaine habit, should it become public, would have massive implications on his career and his lifestyle in general. The answer was simple; people are entitled to get help in total confidentiality, but it’s important to know that not every facility can guarantee the level of privacy he was looking for. This loss of privacy does not occur because there are a lack of laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, but because the funding streams for treatment programs from health insurance reimbursements to private pay lay a financial path to said facility. In addition, within those facilities are many people whose lack of competence has sunk more than one professional’s career by inadvertently spilling the beans on the professional being present in their rehab. So how does one go about getting the help they need and not risking decades of professional experience?
First off, I explained that he did not have a disease. Being a physician, he wholeheartedly agreed with this and understood the difference between a habit and a disease. He knew what disease pathology was, and that his cocaine habit had no pathology whatsoever. He had already done his research and homework so our conversation was productive. He had recognized that St. Jude’s was the only facility in the nation that offered a true non 12 step/non disease approach. This fact also allowed Jed to come to our retreats without a paper trail labeling him diseased for an “addiction.” He was massively relieved.
Jed came to the retreat and as he put it, “hit the reset button” on his life. He needed a break, and the time to analyze where his life was headed. He was ready to see his drug habit from a completely different perspective. We helped him review his options: was he going to continue his heavy use of cocaine, or moderate, or abstain? In his case he chose to abstain, but was really encouraged that we did not take adjusting his level of use off the table as an option. This impressed him, in that, we were not afraid to look at every real option available to him. In his case, any use would end his career, and he was simply getting bored with the high anyway. As he kiddingly would say – “Like the blues legend once said, the thrill is gone!”
And so Jed got his life together, chose to abstain from use, and moved forward. His privacy was held true, and he has no record of being treated, because you cannot treat a non-disease. He is still a top notch surgeon, but now is one without the burden of living a double life.