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Substance Use Case Study

“I had been worried about my level of alcohol consumption for a while. As a nurse I knew I couldn’t keep on drinking at the level I had been, without compromising my health and drinking myself to an early grave. I couldn’t sleep without alcohol. I’d tried not drinking for a period of weeks at a time without success, so back to drinking.

My work performance was suffering, I was missing things, and not doing things that needed to be done in the normal course of my work as a midwife. This matter was raised with me but I just thought I needed a holiday, so took a month off and went overseas with my partner. However my work didn’t improve and my family were also noticing a change in personality, I began forgetting children’s birthdays, making arrangements to meet family and not turning up. At work I’d call in sick then turn up anyway, with absolutely no memory of having called in sick. Matters came abruptly to a head when my partner died and after about three months I fell in an emotional heap and was diagnosed as having depression. On reflection I believe I must have been depressed for about 6 years. I never thought of myself as a depressive type of person and found it hard to believe, as I could see no ‘black dog’ looking over my shoulders.

I was referred to a psychologist who, after two visits, suggested I consult a neuropsychologist.

The resulting cognitive testing was very damning and showed memory impairment as a result of my alcohol use. At a scheduled meeting with my employer and having those present read the neuro report. I can still feel the shame and hear the shock in their voices and hear them shouting the word ‘ALCOHOL’ as the cause of my problems, in the report. I was so ashamed as I had been a very senior nurse in my organization, a Nurse Unit Manager, Acting Patient Advocate, Acting Admissions Manager, as well as After Hours Nurse Manager all on a regular basis.

I am very fortunate to have such caring Managers. I was not reported to the NBV, as I had never turned up for work drunk. It was suggested that I self-refer to the NMHPV. I had my last drink on Feb 27 2009. I have not had an alcoholic drink since then, I feel very lucky not to have ever missed it – and long may that continue.

As part of my rehabilitation I was required to regularly see a counsellor at NMHPV as well as attend the Monday night support group. I have found empathy and comfort in my involvement with NMHPV. The program has helped me realize that I’m not the only one this has happened to, that I am not an awful person and that I am just a human being like everyone else. The Program has also helped me reflect on past behaviours that may have been detrimental to my psyche – eg the need to ‘care’ or ‘please’ which may have contributed to my depression.

I am back at work after nearly 12 months sick leave; I am once again a trusted and respected senior member of staff. My family are very happy to have their daughter and sister back. I find peace and contentment once again in my life and I am enjoying rediscovering hobbies and activities that I used to love.

Thank you NMHPV