IDAA is my favourite professional meeting of the year. It’s addiction medicine, psychiatry and spirituality for me. There’s people who just come for the Addiction Medicine, and others who have had their own problems and lots who come for loved ones too.
I describe myself always seeming to be flying on fumes professionally then I come in for a landing at IDAA. Whatever holes the Red Baron has in my Sopwith Camel Biplane that year seem to be repaired in this extraordinary gathering of soul mechanics, druids, priests, and friends.
This year it was my brother’s cancer. I have yet to reconcile that with God. I want a miracle for my brother.
Another was a patient who complained to the College of Physicians and Surgeons I'd diagnosed him as suffering from alcoholism and addiction. He wanted me to ‘erase’ his ‘history’ which went back decades before me, DUI’s, hospital and detox admissions. When I said I couldn’t (by law I can’t) he said I didn’t care and wrote a slanderous rambling diatribe against me and everyone else dripping with venom and falsehoods. Then he began to send emails threatening to kill me and kill my dog. It’s been 4 months of continuous threat and living under a cloud and feeling the hypocrisy of the authorities and their claim to care while I daily wake to the threat that faces my little guy and me.
My last dog had been killed by a drug addict who’d threatened he would if I didn’t lie about his marijuana positive urine test so he could keep his job and keep smoking dope. I am beginning to shake now as I recall burying that little white scotty terrier whose only fault was loving me. My colleagues reassured me I was right to fear and to be angry at the callous disregard.
I fear anyone who gets close to me gets hurt. Now my little guy, Gilbert and I have lived three months with fear and threat.
I go to IDAA desperate. I find a reason to carry on. Sitting with dozens of psychiatrists we talk mainly about the insanity of the world our patients and we struggle in. We share our personal stories. Several other are struggling with family members with cancers. We also attend CME, brilliant presentations by the likes of Dr. David Smith and Mel Pohl.
We laughed together at politics. Dark side humour.
I get to visit exotic places in the USA. I can’t recall all the IDAA I’ve come to. The first was Toronto, Canada. Then there was Phoenix, 2 or 3 times in Palm Dessert, Buffalo, Mobile, Boston, Portland, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Keystone, Tucson, San Antonnio, Scottsdale. I love that the meeting has AA and Al Anon and various other 12 step meetings running alongside the conventional CME education. Mostly I love the friends I’ve made over the years. I love the smiles and hugs. I too often feel like I’m Captain Picard caught by the Borg and when I see the IDAA crew it’s like I’ve been rescued. it’s all going to be okay.
I visit churches. I like to pray. Mel Pohl did a guided mindfulness meditation. I remembered a psychiatrist professor teaching that meditation was ‘dangerous’ and ‘bad for the brain’. He was wrong. I’ve been meditating since the 70’s but suffered public humiliation raising the issue back in the 80’s. We’ve grown old together and laugh at some of the ideas we learned. So much is good. We’ve been thankful for all the gifts and tools but each of us finds another to share our professional and personal frustrations. Mostly it’s between meetings. I love the cyberdocs meetings, faces and names attach to the emails and stories we share through the year.
I ran in the 5k. Cheryl inspires me every year to get off the couch. I know the couch is supposed to be for the patients but I like the couch too. I didn’t win the race. But I ran more than I walked this year. I haven’t run 5 k since last year. It’s such an uplifting experience to be with doctors having fun. I know too many seriously scared and uptight doctors especially those in administration whose fear is distinctively odorificious and contagious. By contrast here were docs who ran marathons and just had fun with the 5 k which annually nearly kills me. At Keystone it was the hikers I loved. I rode in on a motorcycle and hung with a couple of other crazy chopper riding doctors. Tommie cracks me up. We came in on motorcycles to one meeting and this time she’s driving an advanced car that avoids collisions and pretty much talks to her.
I learn to love doctors again. I don’t feel alone.
Traci, my wilderness loving buddy of many meetings always talks to me about trucks, hunting and fishing but this time she has bought a fabulous house. She and her Bill are almost embracing civilization. We ate jambalaya and gumbo together in a sidewalk cafe. She introduced me to Bourbon street where she’d once been on New Year’s Eve.
Art always rocks and it was great to see Nathan and Steve again. I don’t want to list names because there’s a thousand people each year and I believe I’m close to dozens. Pretty good for a guy who’d only wanted to be a loner with a dog. Each year someone becomes special, like Adam. One year you meet and then a few years later you warm up to each other and next thing you know you’re hugging and there’s tears at leaving. I never knew my heart could hold so many people in it. Yet each year it seems to stretch a little more. The older guys and gals do that for me.
The banquets are great. Fine times to clean up. I feel almost normal. I can actually ask if that’s my water glass or yours.
I’d not have known all these places were it not for IDAA. I really did want to come to New Orleans and I really wanted to walk down Bourbon Street. It’s always been one of those places I’d heard off. The Mardi Gras and movies and tv shows filmed here. Well, another american city I’ve so enjoyed. I don’t think I’d ever have visitted the US so much were it not for IDAA. I’d be holidaying in northern Canada, Africa, Asia or Europe. But I’ve loved these US destinations. This time I was there for the Satchmo Summer Jazz festival and sat outside listening to incredible jazz music.
I visited St. Louis Cathedral too. Hundreds of years of hallowed ground and a place of prayer. I loved the food and music and what one person simply called the ‘energy of New Orleans’. The Mississippi is one of the greatest rivers of the world. I loved being here. I ate alligator and loved it.
I’m so thankful to have been able to come and enjoy this magical place. I do hope I can return to New Orleans. But next year if all goes well I’ll be in Utah with my IDAA friends yet again.