I’ve been a nurse practitioner (NP) for over 25 years and was an OR nurse for 21 years before that. My mom was a nurse and my father was a doctor — both were alcoholics. Neither ever sought treatment.
I struggled with the effect that all of this had when I was growing up, but it did come in handy once. While I was working the day shift at a family practice clinic, a patient dressed in biker gear walked in. I’ll call him Mike.
Mike was big and tall — and reeked of alcohol.
“What can I help you with today?” I asked. He said he’d been on a three-day bender, and it wasn’t the first time.
“I need help. My kids hate me, and I’m going to lose my job. I’ve been through rehab before and can’t last a day,” he explained.
I heard the painful voice of my inner child and took a deep breath. I shared my background with Mike and told him that I could get him into an inpatient program covered by his insurance. He wouldn’t lose his job if I wrote to his human resources department — but he needed to show up at the facility, which was more than an hour’s drive away, by 5:00 p.m.
I understood this disease and Mike’s struggle, but my main concern was for his children. I knew the effect it has on kids when they have a parent (in my case, parents) who seems to prefer a relationship with a bottle more than with them.
I didn’t mince words. I told him if he showed up and I received verification of admission that I would take care of HR. I’d also be his biggest supporter. Or I could be his biggest enemy if he didn’t show up or left early.
He was an inpatient for two weeks and then stayed at a halfway house for six months. At times, he would come into the clinic for checkups, and we would get a chance to talk. He told me he rode his Harley daily to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, did therapy, and took his meds. He came to visit me every three months to show me his sobriety chip.
When he reached one year of sobriety, we had a cheer fest! The office staff applauded and whooped in celebration of Mike’s milestone. Tearfully, he lifted me off my feet and gave me a bear hug. I was as proud as a new mom, and I told him so. He had accomplished something my parents never did.
Mike has stayed sober for over nine years now and sponsors others. Experiences like these are why, at 71 years old, I still practice. I love nursing!
Share your nurse story with your colleagues. Submit your story today!