Fredericks, Michael. “A Doctor’s Confession: One Gay Man’s Memoir of Addiction, Loss, Recovery, and Hope”, Lightheart Publications, 2016.
Triumph Over Addiction
Michael Fredericks felt guilty about his sexuality because of his Italian-Catholic upbringing and the sudden death of his mother. He found himself with several addictions including vodka, Valium, cocaine, sex just as we was preparing himself for a career in medicine. He shares his journey with us and steps along the way involved detox and rehab, the struggle to maintain sobriety, the serial trysts and boyfriends and the eventual rebuilding of his life. We feel his sincerity and energy in almost every sentence as he recovers.
The book is fiction so it tells us in the disclaimer and it reads like a memoir and the title uses the word “confession”. I later realized that the fiction comes in having changed the names of characters and places.
The first five chapters are about a young gay doctor’s struggles with sex, drug and alcohol addiction. We immediately sense that the narrator is, highly intelligent and a competent, caring and compassionate doctor. We are reminded that during the eighties and early nineties, there was no specific treatment available for HIV infection in AIDS patients. It was not until 1996 that effective combination antiretroviral therapy was used thus making HIV infection a medically manageable condition. Some may be shocked to learn that a
young emergency room doctor would have sex in his on-call room at the hospital as he was treating patients. He was also using drugs at that time and shares that several of his medical and nursing colleagues were doing the same. The stresses and strains that come from the major responsibilities put on young doctors are difficult to cope with and drugs have been easily available. When his drug (and alcohol addiction) was discovered by senior hospital doctors, the young doctor’s license to practice medicine was suspended for a few years. He also had to undergo a long drawn-out period of rehabilitation, first as an in-patient and later as a constantly monitored outpatient. He shares all the details and describes well how he went about reclaiming his life and finally recovering his medical license. His resilience, determination and willingness to continue on in the face of this is amazing. He also shares graphic descriptions of sexual relationships with many men throughout his medical student days and early hospital posts.
He confesses himself that he is always wearing his emotions openly and in the Afterword the says that he wrote this “to help as many people as possible regain control of their lives and tap into their own limitless reserves.”
We gain insight into the lives that some gay men lead and become very involved in reading about the downward spiral of both drug and sex addiction. Because we also get the way the doctor followed steps to return to healthy living, this is an important read for those concerned about addiction. The focus is on both his healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Dr. Fredericks account of struggling with traditional Catholic/Italian values while being gay is a mesmerizing read. His fall into drugs and alcohol as a result and looking for acceptance is unforgettable and related with intimate details and we insights to what it is like to be a guilt ridden drug/alcohol addict whose only wants to be loved. He is very aware that he only one pill or one drink away from losing everything.