From Prescription Drug “Samples” To Addiction: One Doctor’s Journey To Hell And Back- As Sick As Our Secrets

One Doctor's Journey To Hell And Back

One Doctor’s Journey To Hell And Back, the painful truth: Physicians are not invincible when it comes to drug addiction. Approximately sixteen percent of the medical profession suffers from alcoholism or some form of substance abuse or addiction.

Doctors are human just like the rest of society. They are prone to physical illness and emotional distress. If anything, the often unbearable daily stress put on physicians, especially in training, leads to depression and early burnout, which, in turn, leads to the use of alcohol and other chemical substances. Unfortunately, people often believe that medical professionals are superhuman. Unfortunately, they can’t leap tall buildings in single bounds, and they shouldn’t be expected to do the impossible. Everyone in the medical field deals with the constant, unrelenting stress of dealing with acutely ill patients. Nurses are also prone to the same problems as physicians, sometimes even more so.

I was at the top of my career as a respected cardiologist when, suffering from professional burnout after twenty-five years of taking care of acutely ill patients, I discovered medicated bliss through prescription drug samples of Xanax that were constantly being brought to my office. This escape eventually turned my life upside down. After losing my medical license and experiencing the death of a friend from an overdose, I finally hit rock bottom. I threw away everything that I had worked hard for, while also alienating myself from my family.

Now imagine your worst nightmare … the doctor who is to perform your surgery is traveling on the same destructive path during the hours leading up to your operation. Make no mistake, it happens. When you consider that doctors and nurses have very easy access to prescription drug samples, it’s not surprising that addiction is an epidemic that is rarely spoken of in medical communities.

In As Sick as Our Secrets, perhaps the most candid book ever written about addiction, I take you on a journey…my journey. My recollections of addiction’s darkest days are powerful, but the most powerful message of my book is one of hope….of freedom from addiction and the problems that cause it.

Addiction to prescription drugs is responsible for more deaths in our country than traffic accidents. Furthermore, half of all adults over eighteen have a friend or family member who is suffering from alcoholism or addiction to illicit or prescription drugs.

The numbers are astonishing. According to Sanjay Gupta, MD (CNN), “Every 19 minutes, a person dies from prescription drugs.” In addition, data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirms that deaths from narcotics have quadrupled over the last decade.

The majority of people don’t understand that addiction is a complex problem rather than a curse or a moral judgment. It is a disease that affects the majority of us in one way or another. Most of us have an addiction to something, whether it is alcohol, sex, drugs, shopping, eating, gambling, smoking, or a variety of other things. It is an infirmity that cripples us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The problem may be complicated, but the solutions are simple and straightforward.

Craving is a physiological process that involves neurotransmitters in the brain. When a person becomes an addict, they no longer have a “choice” about whether to pursue their addictions. That person becomes powerless over whatever satisfies their craving. Addiction
is also a disease of the mind that involves a lack of proper perception about who we are and how we fit into the world around us. It is a symptom of a spiritual void which we try to fill with what turns out to be an illusion. We try to palliate a pain that is unrelenting and
unreachable deep inside of us.

The first step in the solution to alcoholism and addiction is to admit that we are powerless over something that has taken control of our lives. I had to reach a point of desperation where I had no choice but to look at myself and my life and ask myself: Do I want to live or do I want to die? Am I sick and tired of being sick and tired? Here I was, a well-respected cardiologist in my community for twenty-five years, reduced to crawling on the floors of dingy hotel rooms looking for shards of crack cocaine at the age of fifty-five. After all of those years, I had everything, yet I had nothing.

I was in the darkest days of my life without a spiritual compass or a relationship with God. All of my material possessions were gone in a heartbeat. I was an absentee father, and when I was present, I was under the influence of drugs that changed my personality radically. I was no longer the understanding father, friend, or doctor. People didn’t know who I was, and worst of all, I didn’t know who I had become either. I began to lead a Jekyll and Hyde life, hiding my addictions from the world, that is until they caught up with me, which they eventually will. It was as if an alien had come down from another planet and invaded my body. I was a different person. I had changed from being moral and responsible into someone who did things that I knew were wrong, unhealthy, and downright dangerous, not only to myself, but to those I loved. I exposed my own children to dangerous situations. That is the power of addiction.

As Sick as Our Secrets is the compelling description of my journey to hell and back. Some readers will see themselves reflected in its pages and identify with my feelings and experiences. This could be your story or the story of a friend or loved one.

This book is meant to hit the reader in the gut. It is important to understand the destructive forces of addiction and its deadly impact on our society. Addiction affects millions of people every day, and we must tackle it head-on and not sweep it under the rug until we read about the Michael Jackson’s and the Whitney Houston’s of this world.

“Addiction is the voice of desperation. It is a cry for help from millions of people who are being tormented by their demons. There is no end to suffering in the dark shadows of the cave if we isolate ourselves behind veils of secrecy. There are only false promises and the illusion of happiness. Yes, the temptation of darkness and its hidden secrets will always be there. It wages a war within our souls every moment of every day, and we must be vigilant in order to recognize its presence and resist its destructive nature. We should live as if every moment is our chance for happiness, while recognizing that every speck of time is precious, and life is short. My recovery has enabled me to take responsibility for my actions and has given me the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. My past has been a blessing because it allows me to see that isolation is not the answer to my pain and suffering and that I no longer have to fight the terrible battle against addiction by myself.

You see, all of us need the help of others who are struggling and they need our help as well. The battle against addiction can be fought only one day at a time and one moment at a time.”

-Excerpt from As Sick as our Secrets

Read as Sick as our Secrets if you want to discover the solution to the epidemic that is destroying our society. Miracles happen every day around us and within us. We just have to learn how to change our perceptions, not only of ourselves, but of everything around us. In the process, we learn how to escape our darkest hours and find the light of love and forgiveness.

Steven H. Farber, MD, received his medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital. He completed an internal medicine residency program and cardiology fellowship at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He founded a non-profit organization called HEART of Montgomery County to improve access to affordable healthcare for the community’s indigent and uninsured population.

In 2003, Dr. Farber published Behind the White Coat, a personal memoir, and then co-authored Stepping Stones to Success with Deepak Chopra and Jack Canfield in 2011.
As Sick As Our Secrets is available at, and