I have a good feeling when I walk into the office and start my workday every morning as an Addiction Medicine physician
On a recent afternoon at the Athol, Massachusetts, center of CleanSlate, a national provider of outpatient addiction medicine, I met with two new patients who suffer from substance use disorder. One told me how badly she felt about herself. When I thanked her for the privilege of allowing me to work with her, she looked down at the floor.
“I’m just an addict,” she said softly. The other patient sat in silent agreement.
No, I corrected them: I don’t see “addicts” when I meet with patients. I see people who have a chronic disease, no different than other chronic diseases like diabetes. I see people who are battling not only addiction, but also the stigma of addiction, which only multiplies the obstacles to recovery.
“Can you talk to my family?” the patient asked. “They think I’m not anything. They won’t even let me in the house.”
I told this young woman that I’ve seen many families welcome back their loved ones after they had proven their commitment to recovery.
You’ll have to earn back their trust, I told her. But it’s possible.
“As we go through the process of recovery, you will rediscover hope,” I said. “You can reclaim your life. You can regain everything that you’ve lost.”
The patient started crying. I asked her why.
“You’re the first person who ever made me feel like I was worth anything,” she said.
This is why I do what I do.
I am an addiction medicine physician. The American Board of Addiction defines that as a physician who is trained and certified to provide comprehensive care for addiction and substance related disorders, including the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of such health conditions. I define it as a doctor who treats addiction with the evidence-based practices that every disease requires, and who treats patients with the same compassionate care that every person deserves.Read More