As I sit here and think about what has gone on in the last seven months, I shake my head in disbelief. I am stunned, shocked, amazed, and angered at what has happened. If someone had told me seven months ago that I would be carried into a world I never knew existed, to be treated the way I was, I would have said that they were crazy. This is the nineties -- shit like that just can't happen.
It all started back in May 1998 when someone filed a complaint saying that they smelled alcohol on my breath while I was on my way to work. The company I work for refused to give me the details of the complaint. I was told only that someone smelled alcohol on my breath. My partner, who traveled with me for some hours on the way to work, and other people at work, stated that they did not smell alcohol on my breath or notice any changes in my behavior that night. From the time I left my home until the time I arrived with my partner at work, nine hours of travel time had passed, with no consumption of alcohol.
After the job was completed and I returned home (some two days later), I was called into the office for a meeting with our directors. They asked if I was drinking or drunk prior to reporting for work. I said no, I was not drunk and that I had drank a few beers before dinner and a couple with dinner, but did not work until some nine hours later. Our company guidelines are no alcohol consumption for at least eight hours before work, and I didn't breach that rule. I was then told that I had to go see the company EAP counselor for an "assessment," and if I refused to go, I would be fired. I agreed to see the counselor, for I had nothing to hide, and I wanted to keep my job. The following week I went to see her.
I had never been to see a counselor of any kind before. I was a little apprehensive about what was going to take place, so I approached the interview carefully. I thought the two interviews I had with her went quite well, but of all she said to me, what sticks in my mind the most is that she kept telling me that the process was completely confidential. The company would know absolutely nothing of what was going on. They would never use my name, even when billing. I could be assured that no one would know anything about his. She must have told me that a half dozen times, and I believed her.
At the end of the second interview, she told me that I was going to return to work. She thought everything was OK and that I was fine, etc. But, she said, first we'll get you to see our medical doctor because you need a medical certificate to return to work since you are on sick leave benefits. Dr. Baker, she continued, is very approachable and you'll like him She said it as though she was infatuated with Baker. I didn't care who he was, I just wanted to get my clean bill of health and get back to work.
I was to phone and make an appointment with Dr. Baker, so I phoned up Baker's office, explained who I was, and made an appointment. The receptionist gave me one for about three weeks later, then asked me to send a check for fifteen hundred dollars. Fifteen hundred dollars, for a medical exam!, I exclaimed. She also said I had to have blood tests and other tests, and the exam would take a couple of hours. I said, Well I'm not paying that; send the bill to my company, and hung up the phone.
I phoned the company EAP and said that the appointment to see Dr. Baker was unacceptable because I was scheduled back to work at the end of the month, and I wanted my medical exam done before that so I wouldn't miss any work. She managed to get me an appointment with Dr. Baker in two weeks by making a personal call to him.
Waiting for Dr. Baker on the appointment day, I was given a handful of forms asking various psychological questions. Dr. Baker came in, and I went in his office. He seemed like a reasonable guy; however, I felt uneasy about being there so I was guarded in my answers, not really offering any more than direct answers to his questions. He asked very personal questions ranging from those about drug and alcohol use to health, sex, and my family's health history. I was a little upset at the depth to which he was probing my family's health history and my wife's family's health, but I didn't want to seem uncooperative with him. I needed his approval (or so I thought) to return back to work.
He continually assured me of the complete confidentiality of my exam, and that no one would be privy to this information. Dr. Baker then performed a few medical examinations -- blood pressure, stethoscope stuff, etc., and asked if he could talk to some of my friends, co-workers, family doctor, and my wife. I reluctantly said sure, having really nothing to hide. Something inside me was telling me this is not right, but I figured I'd better agree if I wanted to go back to work. he also asked me to take a urinalysis test and blood test, which I did. He said he would send his results to me in a week.
This "exam" took about thirty minutes to complete, and I left his office feeling relieved that it was over, but also quite uneasy about the questions I was asked and the way I was blindsided by his inquiries. I also was somewhat intimidated by him. I answered his questions correctly and honestly, but divulging that much personal information to anyone felt wrong. But he was a doctor, and I had to do it, knowing that he held the keys to my return to work. I didn't want to screw that up.
About ten days later, a call came in the morning from Dr. Baker, waking my wife from a dead sleep. While she was still half asleep in bed, he started asking her questions about me and my drinking habits, as well as personal questions about her and her family. After five minutes of his questions she hung up the phone. A week went by and I hadn't heard anything from anyone. Ten days passed, and I started to wonder what was going on.
After two weeks, I called the EAP's office and left messages, but my calls were not returned. Twenty days after seeing Dr. Baker, the day I was to return to work, I called one of the company directors and asked if I was going back to work. He said somewhat emphatically, You're not going back to work!
What do you mean? I asked. Hasn't anyone talked to you? he asked. No. How come I'm not going back to work? He started to give me an explanation, then cut himself off in mid-sentence and said, I'd better not say anything until they talk to you, and hung up.
I put in a call to the EAP's office and left another message. I called a few more times and left messages, and I also called the EAP counselor and left messages with her answering machine. I didn't receive any replies to my calls until July 6th, when the EAP counselor called and left a message saying: If this is about Dr. Baker's report, I have read it. When I heard this I thought, What report, what is she talking about?
Amy T., the EAP counselor, called on July 6th. Dr. Baker has said you must attend a four-week residential treatment program because he has diagnosed you as alcohol dependent, she announced. This was to be followed up by biweekly visits to Dr. Baker.
I was shocked.
She went on to say that Dr. Baker recommends the Pacifica treatment center. We have a bed waiting for you on July 11th. I said, I don't believe this, what's this all about? I can't just drop everything and run into some treatment center for four weeks, I've got obligations to fulfill and a business to run. I asked, "Why do I have to go into a treatment center?
She went on to say that I was alcohol dependent and I had to go because Dr. Baker said I must. We argued for a minute about going into treatment and I said, I've got to talk to Baker on this, and hung up.
I put a call into Dr. Baker's office asking for him to call me. I got the runaround about him not returning calls; I would have to make an appointment and so on. But I just told the receptionist this was an emergency and he'd better call me back.
Dr. Baker called that afternoon from his cell phone. I asked him what was going on and why he was insisting I go to a treatment center. He said, Well, there's some evidence of dependency. He said I needed to go through an intense four-week program with a follow up of bi-weekly visits to him, and weekly AA meetings. He went on to say that if I was in any other job I would not have to go through this process. As I started to ask questions he just brushed them off and disconnected his phone. He did ask me one question before he hung up. He asked if I did do the urine and blood samples because he never received the results. I assured him that I had given samples the very day of our first meeting.
By this time I was pissed off, because I couldn't understand what was going on and I couldn't get any answers.
On the morning of July 8th, I met with two of the directors of my company. I am an equal shareholder in my company, and directors are also shareholders who are elected to run the company business. These directors are nothing more than equal shareholders and co-workers, not my employers.
In the meeting, I was confronted by two co-workers (who happen to be directors) and was asked questions concerning my not wanting to attend the treatment center. I said I thought this meeting was to discuss medical benefits. At that point the "meeting" turned into a series of threats, which included loss of employment. I was told my pay was cut off as of the last day I worked, back in May, and the money that I'd been paid in benefits was treated as a loan and would have to be paid back to the company. The loan would be paid by working it off day for day or paying it back in cash. I was also told that my license to earn my living would be suspended by the governing board, and I might never get it back.
I was calm and polite in dealing with their threats, but I felt I had to remain passive and compliant because I was very concerned that if I told them the real reason why I didn't want to go to treatment, they might threaten me with that as well. My wife and I were in the process of adopting a child, which was due to be born at the end of July. It would be the culmination of a very long, hard, and emotional journey which had begun 12 years ago. I was determined that nothing would interfere with our adopting this baby.
But as the threats and badgering persisted, I finally alluded to the fact that I was involved in an adoption and would be available to attend a treatment center in a couple of weeks. I decided to comply with going into treatment, fearing that if I became unemployed, and the adoption agency found out, our hopes of finally having our first child would end. That statement seemed to catch them off guard for a second, but as soon as their thoughts caught up with this new information, I could see wheels begin to turn, and some veiled threats about the adoption started floating out.
At that point my anger started to emerge. I surprised them by showing anger, which put them on the defensive. One of the directors, in attempting to quell my anger, blurted out, Well, Dr. Baker told us that you are only in the very early stages of dependency and you have a better than ninety percent chance of a full recovery! I looked at him and said, How did you know that? He said, Well the doctor and Amy T. had a meeting with us and told us that you were alcohol dependent and stand a good chance of full recovery.
What he said didn't really register because I was more concerned about getting through this little crisis and not jeopardizing the upcoming adoption. I wanted to question him further on his statement; the alarm bell was ringing in my head, but my instinct said let it slide. As it turns out, his statement is a key to this whole thing.
I left this meeting feeling scared, saying that I would get into another treatment center in a couple of weeks. I knew that I would have to stall them until we completed our adoption, but I was under tremendous pressure to go into the treatment center.
I called the directors on Monday and told them I wanted to go to another treatment center. I also asked what my liability to the company was going to be regarding the treatment, and how it would affect my future work. I wanted to know if I was going to be hauled in and go through a treatment center whenever someone suspected I was under the influence, or, if I was involved in a minor incident, if I was going to be subjected to testing and that sort of thing. I was fishing for some clue as to what they might have planned for me after I completed treatment, or whether they were going to leave me alone. I told the director I wanted to see one of the company lawyers to discuss my case with him.
The director became irate and defensive about my seeing a company lawyer, whose pay in part comes out of my wages. You can't see our lawyer, he said. I started to argue with him, trying to put a spin on it like it was for the benefit of the company. He was becoming more adamant about my not seeing our lawyer and tried to talk me out of it, saying that I didn't need to see a lawyer. Finally, he said, Well, if you want to see a lawyer you can pay for it yourself, and hung up.
I called our lawyers and made an appointment with a guy whom I heard was good. The next day I went over to see him. I discussed my situation and how it would affect my future employment, and other issues I was concerned about, including the treatment order. He was, I thought, sincere with his advice, and said he wasn't going to charge me for his time. We ran out of time, and we arranged to meet a couple of days later.
He called me early the next day and asked if I could meet him for lunch. He said there was someone he knew who could help and that he would meet us for lunch. I asked who this person was and my lawyer didn't answer. He said, Just get down here. I thought nothing of it, but felt elated.
We met his friend for lunch. I felt uncomfortable telling this guy about my situation, but was assured he was there to help me. I thought, Well maybe this guy was a lawyer at one time or was some union negotiator or something, but I absolutely was not prepared for what came out of his mouth. As I was telling him my story and how I was seeking assistance in protecting myself from any further sanctions or punishment, he didn't seem at all interested in what I was saying. I stopped talking and looked at him and my lawyer like, OK, what's this all about?
Then his friend starts on about being an alcoholic, about how he nearly lost everything he had to booze, how he found help through going to meetings, and how he'll take me to a meeting.
I was stunned. I basically said, yeah, yeah, and left, pissed off. After I thought about what went on, I became incensed. I had told this guy personal and confidential stuff with my lawyer sitting there -- someone whom I'd put my trust in and who is supposed to act professionally on my behalf. And he set me up. What the fuck is this? I brushed it off but filed it away to deal with it at a later date. I still was concerned about the adoption falling through.
Over the next week I called a few other treatment centers and did some inquiring. I also set up a meeting with someone at Pacifica and booked a spot for August 16th. Another center I inquired about wanted $6000, a six-to-eight-week commitment, and $150 a day if I needed more time. Another center was booked. I felt I had done my part to appease those who were going to extreme lengths to get me into a treatment center.
In the meantime, I was getting calls from Amy T. almost daily, asking me what I was doing about getting myself into treatment. I told her that I'd inquired about another center, which was listed in the phone book. She said that that center did not use the 12 steps, and Dr. Baker wanted patients in 12-step centers. I said, What's the difference what kind of a center it is? I didn't know there was any difference. She became very defensive and was adamant that I had to comply with Dr. Baker's orders.
I had no idea what "12 Step" meant or what it entailed. This was the first time I had ever heard the term used, but I didn't question it. I had decided that I better go along with this whole thing because the adoption was the primary goal. I convinced myself to view the process that was taking place with the doctor, my fellow workers, and this treatment order as an inconvenience, even though it turned out to be much more.
A few days later I received a call from a director, and he asked me in a somewhat sarcastic manner, Don't you realize you have a problem? I said, Is that all you called for? He said, Well don't you? I said, Go fuck yourself and hung up. I immediately called the EAP counselor, Amy T., and verbally tore a strip off her about this taunting phone call from the director, and all the phone calls from her. After that, neither one called again. I felt better that I'd unloaded on her, but I was pissed off about the way I was being treated, and I still couldn't figure out why. Inside I kept telling myself that I was OK and didn't have a problem.
On July 22nd, I had an interview with one of the Pacifica treatment center counselors to see if I would be accepted for admission. The counselor started by asking a few questions about my drinking habits and use, but when it came around to questions about my family history involving alcohol, drug use, or drug abuse, she became perplexed that I had no family history of abuse of any kind. She looked disappointed, and her voice relayed that. Are you sure?, she asked. Do you have a drinking problem? She also asked, Why are you here? I answered, To keep gainfully employed, I am required to attend this facility for four weeks. At that point the interview was over and I was accepted to be a client of Pacifica starting August 16th.
The next week we were on pins and needles waiting for the baby to be born. We met the birth mother who had picked us as the parents-to-be, and asked when she was due to have the baby. She said, I think this weekend. This was Wednesday and we didn't even have a diaper. Hopefully, she would be late, but not too late for my date with Pacifica. It might get tricky to juggle all this at once, but I had made up my mind that baby came first.
Friday morning, two days before I was to begin treatment, the baby was finally born. A boy. I have a son. Great, this might just work. I could get the paperwork done on Saturday and make it in on Sunday. But we found out we couldn't do any paperwork until after the weekend. They don't work weekends. Shit! I phoned the treatment center and gave them a song and dance about my son having problems, and asked what's the latest time I could show up. They gave me until Monday midnight. If I wasn't there Monday by midnight, my spot would be gone. It wasn't much time, but it was better than Sunday night. On Sunday morning we got a call to come over to see the baby as soon as possible, the birth mother had left the hospital. It was a three-hour journey, but we got there on Sunday afternoon and saw the baby, our son. With all this shit falling around us, it didn't matter, because we were as close as we had ever gotten to a child in the last 12 years; he was in our arms. The plan was to sign papers on Monday, get the baby home, and show up at the treatment center.
On Monday morning there was a snag. The birth mother, although she'd left the hospital, didn't want to release the baby just yet. Someone had to stay in the hospital with the newborn. So I had to fly back home. I left my wife by herself in a strange city with a new baby, who may or may not be ours, while I sat through four weeks in a treatment center. I was not pleased, to say the least.
I dragged my body into this "treatment" center 15 minutes before my deadline Monday evening. What the fuck am I doing here? I asked myself as I walked through the door. I found myself asking that question often throughout the stay at the treatment center. I had no clue about what to expect. I was pissed off about letting things get to this point, but since I had no choice in the matter, I was committed to getting through it, because if I didn't, I knew I would be unemployed.
Somewhat curious to find out what treatment was all about, I was astonished by the number of repeat customers who were attending this treatment center. Some of the other clients were telling me that this was their second time through, third, fourth, sixth, and for one young woman it was her eleventh time in a treatment center. They all seemed like normal people to me. They just looked like they were having problems dealing with some aspects of their lives. I figure about 80 percent of the 33 people that were there had been through this process before. I thought to myself, Why aren't these people getting this? Why are they coming back? After about the third day in there, I had it figured out -- and my perception of treatment got progressively more negative. Of the 33 people who started, 12 either left or were thrown out for drinking or using during treatment. When I arrived, I was given a rah-rah talk on how this treatment center boasts a 95 percent success rate, and how great and helpful their program is. What bullshit. If it's so great, then why were these people coming back all the time?
The "program," I felt, was presented in a very seductive, peaceful, and mesmerizing way. On about the third day, when we were getting a massive dose of a seminar on denial and all the traits associated with it, I started to clue in. I thought, Hold on a minute here, this can't be. These counselors are stripping people of their personalities and beliefs, making people shit scared about themselves and their surroundings. Then the counselors were trying to install some off-the wall personality trait, which clients were desperately trying to understand but just couldn't.
I heard it over and over again from other clients: I'm going to get it this time, or, I was told I better get it this time, or just plain, I don't get it.
I consider myself somewhat intelligent and educated, and I couldn't get it. There were so many twisted meanings, so many cliches, so much warped thinking. No wonder they keep coming back! I made up my mind I was not going to be any part of this.
I started writing a chronological journal of the events which led up to my sitting locked up in there. Something was wrong. I didn't have time to think about it before, but when I had time to put things down on paper and see what had actually happened, I didn't like it. I was going to deal with it when I got out. I didn't know how, or what I was going to do -- but I'd find a way.
When I returned home in mid-September, I greeted my wife and brand new son. We spent some dearly missed time together and I was very glad that this ordeal was over.
Ten days after I was released from the treatment center, my company's EAP called and told me to go see Dr. Baker to get a return-to-work certificate. I made an appointment and saw him on September 23rd.
When I saw him, he started to play a little hardball with me. He began ranting in this concerned tone that I was supposed to see him within 48 hours of being released from the center. He started on about the very high percentage of relapses immediately following treatment, and how very lucky I was not to have relapsed. I thought, Well then, why do people go to treatment if they relapse as soon as they get out? I knew why, but I didn't say anything; I just sat there all meek and mild, just smiling away like I was so very grateful to him for saving me.
After a brief conversation, he said that I must enter into a contract with him and one with my company. I said, What contract? He aid, It's a therapeutic contract between me and you and you're going to do certain things for me. If you are in violation of our contract then the employer will be notified and you'll have to answer to them. This is what you are going to do for me:
First you will attend at least three AA meetings a week. You will be involved with a weekly step group and a weekly home group. You will get yourself a sponsor. You will provide us with urine and blood samples on a regular and random basis at my lab. You will see me every two weeks until I feel you're doing all right, then we'll increase the time in between visits. Oh by the way, you are responsible for all the associated costs. this contract is for two years, and you're lucky because there are some who get five-year contracts.
I asked, When am I supposed to work if I'm going to all these meetings? He said, You can average them out, if you miss two meetings one week you can go to three meetings in one day or do five or six meeting the next week.
Where's this contract? I asked. Well they're still working on it, he said. Fax it over to me when it's done, I said. I asked him for a copy of his medical report on me. He said he couldn't give me a copy because he didn't own it. I said, What do you mean you don't own it? He told me someone purchased his service and whoever that was owns my medical report, and I would have to get it from him or her. I said, Well who owns the report? He said, The person who referred you, probably Amy T. Really? I said, and left his office. I called the EAP counselor, Amy T., that afternoon and left a message on her answering machine saying I wanted the medical report as soon as possible.
The next day I received a fax from Dr. Baker's office. There was a copy of the contract that he had outlined during his visit. The other was a contract with my company, which dovetailed with Baker's, but had sanctions added to it for noncompliance. The bottom line was that if I signed Baker's contract and was in noncompliance, then I would become unemployed. I could be dismissed for as little as missing an AA meeting. But I couldn't go back to work unless Baker OKed my return, saying I was medically fit.
I went to see a lawyer who worked with contract law. He reviewed all the material that I had collected along with company policies, and we drafted a letter asking for a number of things, including a copy of Dr. Baker's medical report.
While my lawyer was working on our letter, I received a phone call from one of the directors. In a very aggressive manner, obviously trying to intimidate me, he blurted out, Amy T. just called and said you wanted the medical report. I said, Yes. He shouted, You can't have it! It's not yours, it's ours and you can't have it! We own it and you can't have it! I was going to unload on him on the phone, but I thought I would play stupid so as not to tip him off about doing any more inquiring. I just said I wanted to look over the things that Dr. Baker and I had discussed. He was somewhat eased by my explanation but still refused to give it up.
The letter from my lawyer hit the office on October 3rd. An acknowledgment of the letter was received on October 7th. I waited and waited for a response.
Finally, on October 20th, there was a phone call from the company lawyer to my lawyer. The company issued an ultimatum through their lawyer. (I, as a partner, happened to be paying a share of his bill.) I also received a fax copy of a letter from the company president to Amy T., the EAP counselor, releasing to me any information I required. I called Amy T.'s number and said that I wanted Baker's medical report ASAP. She didn't call back.
The ultimatum was to sign the contracts with Baker by Monday or face a disciplinary hearing under our company articles, which could lead to expulsion from the company. To make things worse, my lawyer told me he was changing jobs and was unable to continue with my case.
With a deadline over my head, I ran around trying to find another lawyer. I found one who works for the union I belong to and made an appointment to see him the next day.
I dropped everything into his lap and told him what had been going on. He couldn't believe what was happening to me. He thought that someone was out to get me. My first lawyer had had the same feeling. To a great extent I also believe that someone was trying to screw me. We discussed the fact that to fight this thing to the end would become extremely expensive. We also discussed the possibility of negotiating another contract with another doctor, which would not include any mandatory AA participation. The company was trying awfully hard to paint me into a corner, but as my lawyer pointed out, the most important thing was for me to get back to work.
I phoned Rational Recovery and talked to Lois Trimpey, who gave me the name and number of a coordinator in our city. Through him I found Carol Francey, an alcohol and drug referral specialist. She was a tremendous help in supplying me with names and numbers of people who could assist me. After numerous calls to people I didn't even know, I got the name of a local doctor. I was very relieved. Without Carol's help I would have been dead in the water.
The doctor I found had considerable experience in the addiction field and was not an AA member. He was against AA and any 12-step group for a number of reasons, including having seen serious disorders caused by AA attendance. He had seen over 12,000 patients over seven years as head of a detox unit, as well as hundreds of patients with substance abuse problems in his own private practice. he was more than qualified.
I saw him on October 23rd and October 26th, and drafted another contract with him. It was similar to Baker's, but substituted a secular recovery group meeting one time a week for the five meetings a week Baker wanted. He did his own assessment of me for alcohol addiction and unsurprisingly did not find me "addicted to alcohol." I was not, in his judgment, the sick and diseased person that Dr. Baker had said I was. I wasn't even close. I now had to have Baker's report. My lawyer contacted the company lawyer to inform him that I was prepared to enter into a contract with another doctor.
In the meantime, the first deadline passed. The company lawyer was adamant about keeping the deadline. My lawyer was getting pissed off at the tack the company was taking. I was too, but I'd been pissed off for five months now.
Two days later, on October 28th, my lawyer received a letter from the secretary-treasurer of my company. Another deadline had been imposed. I had to sign my contracts by 4:30 p.m. that day or I would face the disciplinary committee, which could lead to expulsion from the company. The deadlines and threats were all designed to coerce me to sign this contract with Dr. Baker, since they didn't know I had another contract already in place. It was Baker or else. My lawyer fired back a letter stating I had already entered into a contract with another doctor and copies were on their way to the office.
I called Amy T. first thing in the morning. To say she was surprised to hear from me is an understatement. I asked where Dr. Baker's report was. She gave me an excuse that she had just returned from out of town and knew nothing of my request. I reminded her of the order from the company president to release the report to me, and she said she would mail it. I told her I wanted it now and to fax it. She then said she didn't have it, that it was somewhere else, but she would be able to fax it over to me after 4:30 p.m. I said fax it to me today or we'll meet before a judge, and he will decide when I should get it. I hung up.
The I thought, after 4:30? What a coincidence! Just happened to be after the deadline that was imposed. She was stalling, thinking that I would be signed with Baker before the deadline. Baker's medical report was faxed over at 5:00 p.m.
I looked over Baker's medical report and saw why he didn't want me to see it. I sent a copy of it to my lawyer along with a list of inaccuracies, misstatements, and outright lies that were contained in the report. I couldn't believe it.
I also contacted psychologist and attorney Stanton Peele, who agreed to view the material I had and to evaluate Baker's report. Peele's expertise, from what I have read, is unmatched in the addictions field. I sent Stanton all the material I had to date, including the legal correspondence.
Meanwhile, the communication between lawyers was fast and heavy -- they never expected that I would find another qualified doctor and have another contract drawn up before their deadline. My lawyer and I were both mystified as to why the company was exerting so much pressure on me to sign with Baker. When any telephone conversations took place between lawyers, the company lawyer became extremely defensive when questioned about the heavy-handed tactics being used.
A letter came back on October 30th from the company lawyer. Without going into great detail, they essentially accepted Rational Recovery as an alternative in one sentence and discounted it in the next sentence. They also said that the doctor I had selected simply wasn't qualified. They rejected him and the contracts. They simply discounted any alternative proposed, which would leave me only the option to sign with Baker.
Most importantly, they stated in the letter that I had a diagnosis of "addiction to alcohol." How did they find that out? I wondered who had released that personal information to them. They also included a list of ten doctors that the company regarded as experts in addiction medicine. Along with the list was the customary deadline to sign with one of those doctors within two days. Two days! It took me two weeks just to get in to see Dr. Baker. We fired back another letter asking who had given them the information on the diagnosis and stating that I wanted all relevant material so that I could properly defend myself in the disciplinary hearing.
In the meantime I took the list of experts down to the doctor I had just signed the contract with, hoping he would know one of them. He said he had heard of most of them, but said all but one were 12-step members. The other one, he said, was doing good things, but he added, You don't want to go see him, he runs an open clinic for injection drug users and AIDS patients down in the dregs of downtown.
I said, Then that's the guy I want to see. He called the doctor and set up an appointment. I went down to see this doctor that afternoon. It's true, he has a clinic for IV users and AIDS patients in a very tough and dangerous part of town, but I didn't care. Anything would be better than AA meetings five days a week. We had a talk and he said he really wasn't set up to do this kind of work for me. I literally pleaded with him to draw up a contract that would save me from the 12-steppers. He finally agreed. My lawyer drew up the paperwork and faxed it down so we could sign it the next day.
This new doctor questioned me about how I managed to end up on his doorstep. He was floored by my ordeal. But most importantly, he was amazed by the fact that I was labeled as addicted to alcohol. He said, You don't need to be here. I told him that his was necessary for me in order to return to work, because I had run out of money.
The next day we signed the contracts and sent them down to the company lawyer. We made the deadline with some breathing room.
As I expected, there was no response from the company lawyer for four days. As I found out later, Dr. Baker had supplied the ten names of "addiction specialists" that the company had sent to me. Nine were 12-step believers, and half of them worked for Baker. They all worked in nice, modern offices with pretty receptionists. The one who was not a 12-stepper used motivational interviewing and harm reduction with his patients, and worked in the asshole of the world. The company had taken a chance by including him in among the 12-steppers, just to show that they had made an attempt to have all forms of treatment available, in case the matter ended up in court. I don't think they believed that in a million years I would have found the one diamond in the rough.
But I did. Now they were fucked. Not only had I beaten their deadline and had a contract in place, but I did it with one of their doctors and it didn't include AA. Now who were they to question one of their own recommended experts? I finally had something to smile about. It was nice having them scramble for a change, as I knew they were.
We didn't hear anything for nine days except an acknowledgment of the receipt of the contract. At that point, as I expected, they tried to manipulate the contract. They tried to get us to change everything back to the original way that Baker had set it out.
Out of money, and seemingly out of luck, I dug my heels in. I had come to the point where I was prepared to go to court.
In hindsight, I should have gone to court at the outset. On November 14th I received a copy of Stanton Peele's evaluation. I was truly shocked. His summary of Dr. Baker's so-called assessment was incredible. Dr. Baker's assessment didn't prove anything other than that he'd talked to me. His diagnosis of alcohol dependence appeared to be a case of deliberate misdiagnosis, a case of deliberate malpractice.
I now had some ammunition. On November 17th they sent a letter back saying the agreements were in order and I would be cleared to return to work when all the documents were signed. Just over six months to the day after my ordeal began, I returned to work. I have to keep my head down for a while until the adoption goes through, then it'll be my turn.
I won. Now it's time to deal with the conspiracy to deprive me of my livelihood and the deliberate medical misdiagnosis.