Addiction Bites. I Should Know, I’m a Dentist in Recovery.

My story starts as many others do. I had my wisdom teeth out when I was 17 and had a prescription for Vicodin. In my case though my father was dentist. I had been given half of a Vicodin when I was 13 years old for a headache. I thought to myself, “this is the way I should feel all the time”. Wisdom teeth came out and I had as much Vicodin as I wanted for pain or not. Thus began a bad habit.

I grew up in Central Wisconsin where the drinking culture can best be described as “binge”. I abused alcohol in high school and then in college while at the University of Wisconsin. This continued while I was in Dental school in Milwaukee. I always had the thought though, why I should I drink all night when I can just take this pill and feel much better? Looking back it’s just sad to think I thought this was normal. Then though came the time where I would have easy access to opioids should I choose to break the law. I would prescribe for myself feeling much guilt, and then shame. The euphoria I desired would always win out.

My drug of choice eventually went from hydrococdone to oxycodone. Many more blurred lines were crossed until one day a man and woman approached me in my office parking lot. They were detective from my county and and agent from the DEA. I decided then and there I was going to lay it all on the table and let the chips fall. I gave a two day interview but was not arrested. I spent the next year trying to cope but ended up relapsing several times. One month before I was to appear in Federal Court I decided to go to rehab in Chicago where I stayed for two months. There I would mildly detox, but most importantly learn how live.

It was not my first introduction to various 12 step programs but indeed it would be the first time I committed my life to one. After leaving rehab I appeared in the Western District of Wisconsin Federal Courthouse where I would plead guilty to two felonies (obtaining and distributing). The United States felt since I wrote prescriptions to individuals outside the scope of my practice whom would return them to me for money or a portion of the pills that I was a dealer. Seeing it from the other side this is somewhat true, though I never profited, I only made myself and other individuals using the drugs “sicker”. I plead guilty to the charges. I was remanded into custody. I went to jail immediately to await sentencing. I received a 36 month sentence in Federal Prison.

I then traveled on the prison bus up to FPC Duluth. Here I would learn to implement this new way of living while completing the Federal answer to drug treatment called “RDAP”. After completing this program I received 12 months off my sentence and was discharged to a halfway house for 60 days, then spent ninety days on home confinement. But I was home with my wife and daughter. Things were coming back to me as long as I did the right thing. At the end of home confinement I would begin probation…and also appear in front of the Dental Examining Board in the State of Wisconsin. They would reinstate my license and I began practice in 2013. Though my license has been monitored for the past four years life and my practice have been a joy.

My wife and family have been incredible support. My staff and patient have been so very kind. It’s amazing what happens after you decide to change and ask for help. In the last few months I’ve gotten my DEA license back. I have another daughter. Life is good. I am very proactive in the dental community concerning recovery. My 12 step group has seen me through it all.

They are there for me, and I’m there for them.