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Q & A / Dr. Michael Meyers

Addicted to Helping Others

June 09, 1991|SUSAN KING

Thursday's "The Journey Back: Professionals Recovering From Addiction" is the latest installment in KCET's "Lifeguides" series. The one-hour informational special focuses on the disease of alcohol and drug addiction among the professional community--including doctors, lawyers, pilots and police--and their recovery process.

Dr. Michael Meyers hosts "Journey Back." Dr. Meyers is medical director of the Brotman Medical Center's Chemical Dependency Treatment Program in Culver City, and has worked exclusively in the field of chemical dependency since his own recovery from drug addiction nine years ago.

Film buffs also will recognize Meyers as Ali MacGraw's dumb jock brother in the 1969 film "Goodbye, Columbus." He wrote the book "Goodbye, Columbus, Hello Medicine" and was medical adviser for the film "Wired."

Dr. Meyers talked about his "Journey Back" with Susan King.

Are there millions of professionals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol?

The statistics are that 10% of the general population are alcoholics or addicts, but it is felt, and some of the statistics bear this out, there is a higher proportion in the medical professions. At least 10% and probably closer to 15% to 18% of physicians are addicts. It's staggering to think that one out of six doctors has a problem.

When did you start using drugs?

I really didn't start to drink or use drugs at all until medical school.

Actually, "Goodbye, Columbus" came along right in that summer between graduating from college and beginning medical school.

I suddenly found myself as a first-year medical student who was scared to death whether I was going to make the grade as a doctor-in-training. I also had this fantasmagorical summer of being pampered and treated as this movie star.

After "Goodbye, Columbus" and after I successfully completed my medical school training and internship, I did all the talk shows and commercials and played the entertainment side of things.

There was still this very insecure little boy in a man's body who said, "Wait a minute, they are going to catch on. They are going to catch on that I am really not good enough to be a doctor and I am certainly not good enough to be an actor, and I am certainly not good enough to be somebody's boyfriend, husband or father."

The chemicals made me feel I could pull it off.

What finally drove you to seek help?

I was dying and I had no other place to go. I crawled into a hospital on my belly, helpless, hopeless and too chicken to kill myself, but feeling there was no way to go on doing what I was doing.

When did you start working with substance abusers?

It's not recommended at all for people in recovery to go back to work or do other things too early, other than the 12-step recovery-type program. I was forced by circumstances. My benevolent partners did not believe that I should be trusted back in the practice. I was forced to declare personal bankruptcy.

So I came into work in the treatment field 8 1/2 years ago and I really have built a reputation as a real specialist and expert in the area of chemical dependency.

"The Journey Back: Professionals Recovering From Addiction" airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on Channel 28.

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