The Beast, the Angel,

and the Madman

Lessons from Twenty Years in Recovery

by Linville M. Meadows, M. D.

The book on which the website is based.

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“The fury of a demon instantly  possessed me.  I knew myself no longer.  My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence gin nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame.”

―Edgar Allan Poe >>

 

In each of us, Thomas suggests, lives a beast that is capable of anything—absolutely anything—from simply wreaking havoc in the lives of others to committing murder.  

 

Like Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde, the beast is completely without morals of any kind and lives only to destroy. 

 

There are those who would deny the beast they shelter.  Oh, I would never do that, they say, referring to the terrors committed by their fellow man, but they simply do not know themselves. 

 

The horrible truth is, under the right circumstances, like being stoked up on crack cocaine, the beast will out and have his way.

 “During these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank, God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course my enemies referred the insanity to the drink rather than the drink to the insanity.”

—Edgar Allan Poe

 

Drugs and alcohol scramble my brain.  They’re all neurotoxins, poisons.

All get-highs are depressants.  You get high but then you come down.  We end up with clinical depression.

Alcohol and drugs warped my brain in ways I couldn’t see.  My thinker was cracked—I couldn’t tell right from wrong.

 

 I had a broken filter eliminating anything I didn’t want to hear.  I had an overactive forgetter, which allowed me to instantly forgot anything that challenged my using.

I know I can’t use like Earth people but my mind finds a hundred ways to tell me I can.  Doing the same thing over and over, each time with a bad outcome and yet expecting things will go differently this time—that’s insanity.

 

  I think Einstein said that.

“I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me,

and my enquiry is as to their working,

and my problem is their subjugation and victory,

downthrow and upheaval,

and my effort is their self-expression.”

—Dylan Thomas >>

“I feel that there is an angel

inside me whom

I am constantly shocking.”

—Jean Cocteau

 

“I always found it interesting how many of us in AA and NA considered a life in religion, though usually with little success,” said my friend Willy.  “My sponsor was kicked out of divinity school for playing piano at music bars. 

 

My evangelist grandfather kept a still out behind the barn.  Strange as it may sound, in us boozers and junkies there exists a strong and unquenchable spiritual streak.”

“Today, I would tell you that in each of us there exists a spark of Divinity, a small piece of God.  The key to recovery is to let this goodness shine out through us and into the world.  We are the children of God and our inheritance as his children is a life that is happy, joyous, and free.”

“This is our saving grace.  This is our Angel.”

Around the time of my 49th birthday, I knew for sure that I was an alcoholic and an addict, but that try as I might, I could not quit

Fortunately, my nurses intervened on me and I was sent to a rehab in Atlanta for impaired physicians.  Over one hundred doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lawyers, and others were there with me. 

 

Like survivors clinging to a life raft struggling to survive, we shared our stories, our experiences, and our fears.  Under the threat of losing our medical licenses, we were forced to examine our own character defects and learned that the best treatment for our disease was not a pill, but a spiritual sea change. >>

 

I was so sick that they kept me there seven months

I wrote down the insights I took away from our conversations, from the lectures and AA meetings I attended, and anything else that I could remember.  These recollections form the basis of this book.

The story is told as a prescriptive memoir

It is a collection of short episodes that tell the story of our disease and of the path we found that led to its remission.  Each episode is a learning lesson containing a single pearl of recovery wisdom.  The episodes occur in sequence, leading to a deeper understanding of both the disease and its treatment. Everything here is true, even if I did have to tidy it up a bit.

What's in the Book

Almost 80% of impaired physicians who complete an intensive rehab program will be clean and sober (and practicing medicine!) five years later.  Yet, 28-day programs typically yield only 10% sobriety after a year.  The WHY and the HOW of this difference is the subject of this book.

Here you accompany a group of doctors so deep into addiction that they are threatened with the loss of their medical licenses should they fail.  Cast as a memoir of their time in rehab, the book is actually a collection of their conversations and experiences, as well as the lectures of their counselors.  It is a compilation of interwoven lessons they learned along the way:  lessons that changed their thinking and behavior.

The players:  Big Robert, the family doc hooked on crack, who never met a donut he didn’t like; Mike, the OB-GYN from New Jersey, who smoked too many cigarettes and hid his vodka in the clothes hamper; John the athletic ophthalmologist, who traveled with whiskey miniatures in his socks; Reggie, the preacher from Memphis who loved Jack Daniels and the ladies in the front pew, and Timmy, the pharmacist from Des Moines who like to shoot Ritalin and play doctor with his pretty sales clerk.  I was the bat-shit crazy oncologist who thought it was normal to shoot up cocaine, and who wouldn’t stop for lunch at a restaurant unless it had a wine list.

Their story begins in lockdown at detox and proceeds on a journey of self-discovery in rehab.  They learned what sent the noble physician chasing the dope man down a dark alley.  They were forced to admit that they were no longer the physicians—they were the patients!

In the rehab center, counselors pounded new ideas into their still toxic minds.  They had lived as if they were above the rules of life, but this idea no longer worked.  Neither did the God-complex.

 

They shared their experiences.  The surgeon who came out of a blackout standing over a patient in the operating room.  The neurologist from Hawaii who overdosed on heroin rather than cross his personal bed of coals.  The podiatrist and leprechaun from Dublin who was caught drunk, having sex with a patient in his office.  The plastic surgeon who put blue food dye in his vodka and hid it in a mouthwash bottle under the sink.  The nurse who left her infant in the car seat while she was in the hood scoring crack and came back to check on her—three hours later.

They found they were all in the same boat, and everybody needed to paddle.  They met the BEAST of their addiction, the MADMAN at the root of their disease, and they yearned for their ANGEL, the deep spirituality that could save them.

They learned that the key to long-term recovery was this:  that living by spiritual principles could solve all their problems.

The Problem is Addiction

The Answer is Recovery

Text and original photos copyright 2017-2018 by Linville M. Meadows