Dentist Concerned for Dentists - September-October 2009

Dentist Concerned for Dentists - September-October 2009

The Editors:

The thing is, I never thought I had a problem...


Twenty years ago I was working hard during the week at my dental office and partying hard weekends on the Mississippi River. Little did I realize that it wasn’t normal to have failed marriages and financial disasters, one after the other. I thought I was having a great time, but today I see those times as the “dark ages”.
It was just that my ex-wife was out to destroy me, and she did so in part by telling the Board of Dentistry that I was partying a bit too much in my free time. There were no complaining patients or colleagues with concerns, no DWI’s, just an ex-wife with an anger problem. Of course, the Board of Dentistry saw it otherwise. They conducted a thorough investigation that included a chemical dependency evaluation at St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis. They then determined that I should abstain from use of alcohol and attend monthly DCD meetings for a period of at least two years. That was not my idea of a good time, but of course I complied.

At first I thought of the DCD meetings as being beneath me, because I didn’t think I had problems like the others in the group had. The meetings weren’t totally unpleasant, but they seemed boring nonetheless. They certainly weren’t a match for the parties on the river! So I sat in those monthly meetings and thought about how I’d get back into partying once the Board was off my back. Then something odd happened... I started to enjoy them. I certainly hadn’t planned on that! I started to notice that the others in the group had hope in their eyes, and I began to make new friends. This new-found meaning flowed back into my practice too. I began to recognize the gifts that came each time I attended. The false pride I had initially felt was now being replaced by a more humble understanding that the members were guiding me to a healthier and happier life.

One of my worries about leaving the partying lifestyle had been that the laughter would end. I had reluctantly taken a chair at each monthly meeting prepared to endure another couple of hours with a bunch of “stuffed shirts”. But as I slowly entered into my personal recovery, I began to realize that these other dentists were intelligent, caring human beings who still had their healthy senses of humor intact. As a matter of fact, I gradually found it was the few remaining “friends” from the partying days who were the boring ones!

It has now been more than 15 years since the Board lifted its requirements that I abstain from drinking and attend DCD meetings. Nonetheless, I continue to attend, though on the third Wednesday of each month, usually about 3:00 in the afternoon, I still begin to think of the numerous excuses to not travel the 40-something miles it takes to get there. I have long since learned it is best that I ignore these internal pleadings. I have learned that as long as I dutifully attend the meetings, I always come away with new wisdom and joyous reflections on what it really takes to make something of this life. I always go, and I am always rewarded with new insights into life, living, and even this profession of ours. My fellow members are dentists, human beings, and recovering alcoholics/addicts just like me. Together we lay open the windows to our lives, revealing both our successes and our failures. It is continuing education that can’t be purchased, a thing of priceless value. Humility is an ideal not often fully appreciated, but with DCD it can be.
Anonymous DCD Member

Dentists Concerned for Dentists (DCD) is a group of recovering alcoholic and/or chemically dependent dentists concerned about other dentists who might have problems in their relationships with alcohol and/or other mood-altering drugs. Although we receive our funding, for the most part, from the Minnesota Dental Association, we are a completely separate organization in all other ways. We function under a strict code of confidentiality. No information regarding the cases we become involved with is shared with the Minnesota Dental Association or the State Board of Dentistry. There are some cases that come to the attention of the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) before we are ever involved, and in those cases, and only with the written consent of the dentist concerned, we will provide limited “progress reports” when requested to do so by HPSP as part of their on-going monitoring program. Our primary purpose is to be available to afflicted dentists, help them effectively address there alcohol and/or other drug problems, and provide supportive services and educational resources to them, their families, and their colleagues.

For confidential help, or to ask any questions you may have concerning DCD, please call (651) 275-0313 in the Twin Cities or (800) 632-7643 toll-free outstate.