Sep 28
  • Written By Scott Drochelman

  • Nurses Series – How Do I Get Sober As A Nurse?

    How Do I Get Sober As A Nurse?

    How Do I Get Sober As A Nurse?

    Welcome to a special series dedicated to the unsung heroes of our healthcare system: nurses. Through my journey, I’ve encountered numerous nurses, each grappling with their own set of unique challenges when it comes to seeking sobriety. From demanding schedules to the weight of societal stigma, the path to recovery for nurses is often filled with hurdles. And yet, their significance in the healthcare landscape is undeniable. They are the backbone, often stretched thin due to an overwhelming demand that far exceeds the supply.

    Recognizing these unique challenges, we are proud to unveil a series tailor-made for our friends in the nursing and broader healthcare community. At Lionrock, we’ve crafted specific treatment tracks, drawing from real-life experiences of nurse clients who’ve bravely shared their stories. In this safe haven, they’ve found a space free from judgment or shame, empowering them to transform their lives.

    Dive into our inaugural episode, whether you’re a nurse in the midst of your own recovery journey or someone looking to support a nurse you cherish. We’re here to listen, to share, and most importantly, to help. Let’s embark on this journey together.

    Tune in To Learn About:

    Nurses in Recovery: Join us for a special series dedicated to the unsung heroes of healthcare – nurses. Discover the unique challenges they face on their path to sobriety and the importance of their role in our healthcare system.

    Hurdles on the Road to Recovery: Explore the demanding schedules, societal stigma, and other obstacles that nurses often encounter in their journey towards recovery.

    Recognizing the Signs: In this episode, we’ll also discuss the crucial topic of recognizing signs that a nurse may be struggling with alcohol-related issues. Learn how to identify these signs and gain insights into providing support and assistance to those in need within the nursing community.

    A Safe Haven for Nurses: Delve deep into the experiences of nurses in recovery. Whether you’re a nurse on your own journey or someone wanting to support a nurse you care about, this episode is for you. 

    To find other similar episodes by topic, click here.

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    About The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

    Welcome to The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast, ranked in the top 10% of podcasts and one of Wired Magazine’s Best Podcasts of 2023.

    We are a community of recovering people who have overcome the odds and made monumental life changes. We don’t shy away from the nitty gritty – we like to laugh, give inspiration and remind you there is hope. Come join us no matter where you are on your recovery journey. Together, we have the courage to change!

    The host, Ashley Loeb Blassingame has been clean and sober for 17 years, she’s a drug and alcohol counselor, interventionist, and the co-founder of a telehealth company called Lionrock Recovery that provides online substance use disorder treatment and, a worldwide peer-support recovery community and experience connection with people who’ve been there.

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    Episode Transcript

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    You are listening to the Courage to Change a Recovery Podcast. We are a community of recovering people who have overcome the odds and found the courage to change. Each week we share stories of recovery from substance abuse, eating disorders, grief and loss, childhood trauma and other life-changing experiences. Come join us no matter where you are on your recovery journey.

    Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to the Courage to Change Recovery Podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blassingame, and I am here with my producer Scott Drochelman. What’s happening, are we doing Q&A?

    Scott Drochelman:

    We’re doing a Q&A.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    We are going to overthrow the podcast government.

    Scott Drochelman:

    We have a Q&A today. The Q&A today is an important one. It’s how do I get sober as a nurse. This is a profession where there’s so much trust involved, there’s boards, there’s all kinds of things. How do I get sober as a nurse? Ashley, I’m not a nurse, but what would-

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Scott Drochelman:

    Don’t have me do anything medical for you outside of band-aids.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:


    Scott Drochelman:

    I can do that.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    You can. Okay, good. So a lot of nurses struggle with substance use, and everything from just a little bit out of control to full-blown alcoholism. It is very, very common. We see it all the time. We have a very high population of all different types of nurses who come wanting to get help.

    There are, more or less, two typical paths to getting help as a nurse. One is through the board, with the board basically some sort of discipline, and then they follow along and there’s accountability, et cetera, et cetera, and you are at risk of licensure issues. By the time you get there, typically you have done enough to get their attention. They have evidence, so it has to be pretty escalated to get to that point. The other path that is much kinder and smoother is getting help before you get to dealing with the board.

    Nurses are first responders and they are often experiencing a war zone on a daily basis. They see people at their worst moments of their life. They are asked to support emotionally the chaos that is going on with patients, more so than even the doctors are, who are in and out. It is completely understandable and reasonable that nurses who have limited time, they have crazy schedules, are looking for quick relief and a way to decompress, and they don’t have a lot of time to do that. They don’t have a lot of time to decompress, so the easiest thing is a substance that helps you decompress. And often it starts off very, I use the word innocently in the sense that everybody’s just having a drink, a cocktail here or there, whatever. But then it starts to become more and more of a tool, a necessary tool to decompress, and then it becomes the only tool to decompress.

    Now, in a lot of these situations in that first path, your close friends and family may not even know that you’re over drinking, or they would say, “Oh yeah, she drinks heavily,” or, “Oh, she’s partying,” or, “She goes out with the nurses every night,” or whatever it is. There’s a lot of bouncy language that we can use to justify the fact that the drinking is increasing, and that there are these cravings for it, and it occurs in your head and you think, “Oh, I could really use a drink.” It’s more often you’re waiting until the end of your shift kind of deal. You look forward to that day every day, or that time, so you’re becoming more and more reliant on that as a coping mechanism. It’s highly unlikely that it’s causing major problems at work.

    Scott Drochelman:

    So if that’s the case and I’m in that situation, how do I even identify that I might have a problem with this? Because it’s not affecting my work yet, nobody knows about it, so obviously I’m covering. It’s not a problem yet. What would be indicators that would tell me that maybe things have progressed to a different level?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    Major indicators would be when you feel huge emotions about stuff that happens at work that your brain automatically goes to, “Oh God, I can’t wait for a drink,” or I can’t wait for whatever it is. The messaging in your brain from, “This was so painful, this was so overwhelming, this was so emotional,” to, “I need a drink,” it starts to get faster and faster and closer and closer together. That association is the thing that starts to increase, and then it becomes reliant, and then it becomes a need, and then it becomes an addiction. Some of the signs would be you think to yourself, “If I stopped drinking, I would have no joy in my life. I would never have fun.” Hangovers at work, forgetting things, finding yourself making shortcuts or things like that so you can go early, less ability to invest and care in your craft, and an overall sense that the most enjoyable part of your week is the time you get to drink too much.

    Scott Drochelman:

    What if there’s a social element to this? It’s really important that I get along with the people that I work with in the milieu on the floor or on the wherever. How am I supposed to operate with those people if I’m having to go down a path that is so different from them, and I’m doing something that is taking me away from that group? How is that supposed to work?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    Well, there’s often a social aspect to it. It’s kind of how we tend to get started. Usually that can be very confusing for people because they’re comparing themselves to the people they’ve opted to drink with, and that’s not always a good representation of a healthy relationship with alcohol. These are skills that one learns and dissects in treatment, but the reality is that each situation and set of tools that somebody learns in treatment matter.

    So I’ll give you a quick example. Let’s say that you have somebody who has an incredible group of nurse friends, and they like to drink but they’re not problem drinkers. You’re struggling with that, but this group is not, and they do lots of other things. In therapy and treatment, and through discovery of and picking apart what coping skills you would use, you might discover that you can organize activities with these same people that they’re willing to do that don’t have drinking. You may be able to change the activity or plan a new activity that allows you to stay in that social group.

    Sometimes that social group all have problem drinking, and so being a part of it is unhealthy, and so there have to be changes there, but not always, and so I think that’s where the individuation and the working with someone on figuring out what would be best for your particular recovery. And it’s not permanent in the sense that you never are going to go out again. You’re never going to have fun, you’re never going to go to the bar, you’re never … A lot of the time it’s taking a break and figuring out what’s what. And when you take 30 days off drinking and you notice, “Oh my gosh, I’m really reliant on that to do my job. I can’t function with this level of trauma and stress if I don’t have this,” or, “I really don’t like this group of people unless we’re drinking.” You can go down the list of things. You’re info gathering by taking the time to stop drinking and evaluate and see how you feel, see what your life looks like, see who wants to hang out with you, so on and so forth. That is part of the info gathering that you do that leads to great and healthy self-care decision making.

    Scott Drochelman:

    Let’s say that I wanted to explore this a little bit. I guess my biggest hesitation, my biggest fear maybe if I was putting myself in the shoes of somebody who is doing this work every day is, “How could I possibly find something that would replace this? There’s some level of numbing that I have to do to myself in order to do this work. I have to have some detachment in a way in order to continue to do my job effectively.” So how am I supposed to do that? What could I possibly put in place that would give me that kind of relief?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    Well it’s a great question, because the answer is that you learn tools and you work with people to figure out how to do that. It’s super normal that you wouldn’t know how to manage that level of stress and trauma and emotional upheaval on a day-to-day basis. It’s not a normal circumstance. And so what you’re asking is how do emergency room doctors, how do firefighters and police officers and prison guards and soldiers, what you’re asking is how can one possibly go through what all of you go through and not drink on a daily basis? And the answer is many, many of them do, and there are lots of different ways to decompress and find time, but it requires you to ask for help. It requires you to learn therapeutic skills to deal with trauma because you’re watching trauma, and so it’s called secondhand trauma.

    Secondhand trauma is real, and so if you’re watching trauma and you’re having secondhand trauma on a weekly basis and you don’t have any other skills but alcohol, then I get it. That’s why you’re doing that. But the fact that you don’t know the skills and it’s not intuitive on how to handle that does not mean that they don’t exist. And learning those skills is part of the therapeutic process and going and asking for help. “I have this stress, I have this trauma. I see this on a daily basis. I need support and skills for how to manage it.”

    Scott Drochelman:

    What would be my first step if I were considering this?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    So I would look into outpatient treatment, because that would be something that is going to address both the substance use and the mental health aspect, and you’re going to learn skills and how to replace alcohol and figure out what it is that your life in particular with your particular profession, specialty, et cetera. What will work. I know for us for Lionrock Recovery, when you call the main line, our admissions counselors, almost all of them are in recovery themselves or have some sort of very close experience, and they have worked with so many different types of nurses and can talk about what it is they’ve seen help and can help them figure out what the next steps are. But the first step is picking up that phone and making the phone call.

    Scott Drochelman:

    Okay, so I have to imagine that another piece, another problem with this is oftentimes the shifts are kind of strange hours. I might be in a second shift type situation. I might be overnight. How am I supposed to just put aside a very stressful career, a lot of expectations? How am I supposed to just put that aside and go get help? When is that supposed to happen? When am I supposed to have time to be able to do that?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    Totally. So I can’t speak to a lot of the other programs. I’m sure there are some, but I know that at Lionrock we have such amazing flexibility. So we have, for every time zone, for every schedule, I think we start at 5:00 AM and go till 9:00 PM and that’s the starting time of every single day, including on the weekend, and you’re able to access group and individual and all the assessment stuff from your home computer and have privacy around it. We have some people who they don’t tell anyone that they’re doing it. They don’t tell their husband or wife. They do it after their husband or wife goes to work or in the middle of the day. They are able to make the schedules work for them. It works for emergency room doctors, it works for pilots, people who have these schedules that are ever-changing.

    Scott Drochelman:

    What’s one last thing that you wish people would know who find themselves in this situation?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

    I wish people knew that all of us learn coping skills, and we are not born with them. We learn them. And it’s okay if you don’t know how to process these wild and crazy things that happen back to back to back to back to back. Even over-drinking or causing problems in your life. If drinking is causing problems in your life, then you may have a drinking problem. You don’t have to worry about the label of alcoholism. If drinking is causing problems, then you may have a drinking problem, and it’s okay to go and seek help and support for that problem. Many, many nurses are doing it and they’re not talking to other people about it. I hope that our first responders, our nurses, our healthcare workers, our police, and our fire become more and more willing to seek help, because there’s so much help out there for them and there are so many of us who want to help.

    So reach out. You can find us at, or you can call 800-258-6550. Give us a call. Everyone is wonderfully nice and the worst case scenario is that you have a nice call and you hang up and you do nothing. You can also live chat with the admissions counselor for free. Check it out, just have a conversation. I think most people are afraid to take that first step to even having a conversation, and that’s everything. So please, please reach out. We want to help.

    All right, friends, I’ll see you next time. This podcast is sponsored by Lionrock.Life. Lionrock.Life is a diverse and supportive recovery community offering weekly over 70 online peer support meetings, useful recovery information, and entertaining content. Whether you’re newly sober, have many years in recovery, or you’re recovering from something other than drugs and alcohol, we have space for you. Visit today and enter promo code Courage for one month of unlimited peer support meetings free. Find the joy in recovery at Lionrock.Life.

    Scott Drochelman

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