The pills - he had to find the pills. Running from his house to his leased car, he yanked open the front door and reached for the fuse box. The stash he kept there was gone. Frantically pushing his hands under the front seat, he poured through the car before ripping off the dashboard.
Unable to find his bag of sleeping pills, Scott Davis, M.D., endured a long, sleepless night. Lying awake, he wondered if his wife had found his stash when she'd had the car detailed earlier that day. He didn't dare ask, and at any rate, she was sound asleep.
In the morning, Davis stopped at a pharmacy on his way to work, writing himself a bogus prescription as he had many times before, only mildly concerned that someone would notice the fictitious name on the prescription. Logging a normal shift at the HMO clinic, Davis stopped working only once that day to pop a handful of Vicodin in the bathroom. Knowing it would take about an hour for the drug to take effect, he returned to his office. The clinic director was waiting for him, accompanied by another physician.
The bogus prescription had been tagged by the pharmacy and the clinic director asked Davis if he'd written it. Davis lied and then recanted, admitting to what he had done. He was immediately terminated. Walking Davis to the door, the clinic director said simply, "Scott, get some help."
It was September 1999 when Dr. Davis, who has since become the Certified American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Physician at the Betty Ford Center, entered a rehab facility called Springbrook Northwest (now called Hazelden Springbrook) in Newberg, Ore. Finally facing his prescription drug addiction, Davis also came to terms with the life and death of his identical twin brother.
Davis and his twin brother Jonathan grew up in a middle class family in New Jersey, a fairly typical American family with the normal ups and downs but nothing out of the ordinary. Although Davis felt particularly close to his twin brother, Jonathan was intensely private and didn't share much about his personal life.
Davis first learned about his brother's battle with AIDS when he found a small blue pill in Jonathan's car during one of their visits together. Devastated, he was convinced that the pill belonged to someone else until he found the letter confirming Jonathan's diagnosis in his room. Still, Davis chose not to mention it.
In the years leading up to Jonathan's death in 1993, there was no magic cocktail of drugs to combat the effects of AIDS. Jonathan quickly deteriorated, eventually moving in with his parents so his mother could care for him. In the prologue to his book, "Living Jonathan's Life", Davis writes, "The day I watched my twin brother die before my eyes, I experienced a loss that was devastating and without comparison. With his passing, I lost much more than a best friend, a confidante and a brother; I lost a human mirror, a reflection into which I had always been able to look and from which I could gain strength. When Jonathan died, that once radiant mirror turned black as stone. His disease had claimed me too".
With the death of his twin brother, Davis dove deeper into his work as an internal medicine physician. But he couldn't sleep. Sleeping pills helped temporarily but brewing inside his body was a physical pain that wouldn't go away. Davis was diagnosed with chronic abdominal pain, but not source was determined. The pain worsened until one physician suggested a morphine pump. Surgically inserted into his abdomen, the pump delivered a continuous stream of morphine.
In rehab at springbrook, Davis was still convinced that he didn't have a problem. When he finally broke down and admitted his deepest fears, the excruciating, chronic pain began to subside, and within days, it was gone. Davis says, "It was painful going to the depths. There were issues that I had surrounding the events of my brother's death. I had a lot of survivor guilt related to that as well. With the added pressure of being the doctor in the family, it became a desperate situation for me."
According to Davis, escape is at the heart of drug or alcohol addiction - escape from reality. Whether it is emotional or physical pain, the user escapes from the real experiences of life. "The goal of recovery is to allow patients to begin to live and experience an authentic life that will have its challenges, but healthier ways of coping and living," says Davis. "It's not the drug that's the problem. The drug is the drug. It's the behavior around it. Usually it's the problem going on inside of someone that causes them to take drugs in the first place."
Alcohol addiction in America has risen only slightly over the years, but prescription drug addiction has climbed exponentially. Davis is more direct. "It's literally an epidemic. Laws to regulate these drugs are slowly being tightened but unfortunately there's still so much access. There needs to be more education on the part of primary care physicians, including psychiatrists." Davis explains the natural effect of these drugs quickly leads to higher dosages, and in some cases additional drugs and alcohol. The hallmark of drug and alcohol addiction and substance abuse is the loss of control around the drug which leads to the escalation and use.
Davis acknowledges that his own recovery included giving up the ghost, revealing the source of his pain and talking about it. It is a key part of recovery. "It's walking through...engaging in a process. We have to learn to lean on other people, to trust and to be honest. It means being as transparent as possible. It's part of the 12-step process.
Davis' book, "Living Jonathan's Life," which he completed in 2006, tells the story of his relationship with Jonathan, his addiction and his recovery. The book is available through Health Communications, Inc. (www.hci-online.com), Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and all Borders stores and online. Introspective and cathartic, Davis' book gave him a different relationship with his twin brother. "I have a lot more hope than I used to...I know myself much better and I'm more open and honest now," says Davis. "Even though my brother Jonathan died, I have a better relationship with him today. That helps carry me and translates into my relationships with other people as well as with my family."
Davis' marriage survived his drug addiction and he and his wife have two young daughters. Davis is optimistic about his life. "I've been with the Betty Ford Center over four years now and I love working here. I feel like there's so much I can do, not only working with patients in the clinical setting but teaching and educating.
Scott Mitchell Davis MD, MA, FASAM is a Board-Certified Addiction Medicine specialist and Internist. Formerly the lead Addiction Medicine Physician for the world-renowned Betty Ford Center, he has been regarded as a leading expert in the field of Addiction Medicine, garnering requests from numerous professional organizations and government agencies. Dr. Davis currently serves as Medical Director of the Residential Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Liberty Bay Recovery Center, the Women's Residential Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Ginger's House, and the Outpatient Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Behavioral Health Resources of Maine, all in Portland, ME. He is also an Addiction Medicine Physician at Evans Management Services in Westbrook, ME.
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