After seven years working in the Emergency Department, and many awards and recognitions, I was asked to review some charts with administration. On February 12, 2013 I was terminated for diversion of narcotics. I did not believe I had a problem, so of course this came as a complete shock to me. After asking "Will I be able to work again? What do I do now?" I was told by the roundtable that the Board of Nursing will contact me, and I should enter an inpatient rehab . I went home that night to watch my daughter at dance practice, eat dinner with my family, take my son to his boy scout meeting, and tuck the children in bed. I then told my wife "Honey, I lost my job today. I think I may have a problem with pills, and I need to go to rehab." She curled up against the wall in disbelief and began to cry.... The next day I went to rehab. Little did I know although it seemed like my life was falling apart, it was really falling into place.
There's a What?
"You need to call this number right away." I was dumbfounded. "There's a what? What is RAMP?". All the education, in-services, conferences, and competencies I had taken or been a part of over the years never included anything about the alternative to discipline program (ADP) for nurses in New Jersey, RAMP (Recovery and Monitoring Program). I replied, "I was told the Board of Nursing will contact me". She said, "That could take months, call RAMP as soon as possible and start the process.", somehow I believed her. I did not hear about this program for nurses that have a substance abuse problem at any point during my seven years of nursing, or at any time while in nursing school. I did not hear about RAMP after, not one, not two, but three nurses I had worked with were terminated for diversion of narcotics. I heard about RAMP from this nurse, that is now my nurse, in rehab. How did she know about it? Well, she was in the program as well. She explained the rigorous five year program to me, and although I was overwhelmed at the requirements, I finally had some hope. I was ready to turn this horrible event that had occurred in my life into my greatest blessing. I just had no idea how I was going to do it.
Refusing to be accountable and blaming others was always easy for me. Being terminated from my job, and being told to go to rehab did not change this. My first night there is a blur to me to this day. It was an absolute nightmare, with my eyes filled with tears continuously. I made a decision to shut up and listen. I spent every second I could listening. While others sat around joking, watching TV, and goofing off I was in my room reading, and working on "step work". I thought to myself, "If I am going to be here, I am going take full advantage of it." Although I had a long, long way to go I became accountable, surrendered to the fact that I had a problem, and ten days into my stay, I decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power.
"I was in shock as I was escorted out of the hospital. I did not know where to go. I did not know who to go to. I did not know if I would ever work again as a nurse. Worst of all, I had no idea I was an addict."
Guilt. Shame. Fear. Resentment. Self pity. I was broken, unaware of what lied ahead. How would I regain the trust of my family? Will I lose my nursing license? Was I really one of them? Is this real? I was in shock... A few times over the years a fellow employee was terminated for diversion of narcotics. In hindsight, the signs of using were often obvious, however, education was never provided to the staff regarding substance abuse in nursing , or on what would happen to the nurse and their license after being terminated. We never thought that it could happen to one of us, and besides, it was not any of our business anyway.