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Experiences from a recovering doctor. Why I wish to return to doing clinical work
















Being a doctor, with other people’s lives in your hands, is a massive privilege.


Much like a person who receives a diagnosis of dementia, I experienced enormous relief at receiving a formal diagnosis of alcohol dependence syndrome.


For the psychiatrists, it was obvious. I was unable to stop at one drink. I would have to drink more to get the same hedonic effect. I used to drink to avoid the withdrawal symptoms.


This June was in fact the tenth year anniversary of my six week coma spent in the Royal Free ITU in a coma. It was after that I became disabled. I had been resuscitated in fact by a colleague of mine who had been at Northwick Park. I sustained both a cardiac and respiratory arrest on the same afternoon in June 2007, as well as an epileptic seizure.


It is no small thing, therefore, for me to say that I love the NHS.


I remember, however, being very ill at the time of my job in a certain London trust. It was later remarked to the GMC years later that I had ‘bloodshot eyes’ and smelt of alcohol. Curiously, that Trust never made steps to help my health at the time.


A consultant and his registrar never discussed these health issues at the time, either.


I was certainly in trouble for my life, not merely career. In 2006, I was struck off. I then spent a year in a pub with no disposable income nor job, and a sluice of hate stories in the media. My late father spent the last years of his life utterly disgraced.


I tried to rebuild my life again. I remember the GMC Fitness to Practise panel adking me in 2014 what I had learnt most from my time off the GMC Register. I explained that I finally felt I knew it what it was like to be a patient.


It had been the first thing which came into my mind. But I feel it’s very true. I remember the occupational therapists of the Albany Ward at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery taking me on a shopping trip to the local supermarket at the Brunswick Centre near Russell Square. My job was to organise buying groceries. The day afterwards, my session was making a cup of tea.


I remember the physiotherapy sessions – also in the community. I spent hours sitting on a rubber ball, while my friends who are now consultants and professors were beginning their specialist registrar rotations. I remember tiptoeing on a mythical line, to build up my pelvic muscles too.


I then went onto do my Bachelor of Law and Master of Law. I remember going to see a Professor of law to discuss doing a possible PhD in criminal law, in the law of insanity. I remember the disappointment of me and my late father as he advised not doing a doctorate in law.


I was then unexpectedly approved by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority to complete my pre-solicitor legal training. After a 3 hour viva, shortly after my father had died, I burst into tears and they offered me a box of tissues.


When I asked one of my other Specialist Registrars last week from that London Trust, now a Consultant in London, he said I would ‘hate clinical medicine’ because of the DATIX forms ‘used as complaints at Doctors’.


When 15 years ago at this London Trust, a dose of a medicine on a drugs chart was not dispensed because I wrote the wrong date on an overnight on-call, no “root cause analysis” was ever done. Instead, it became a big event in my GMC case. Notwithstanding, I have a wholly positive attitude to learning from mistakes for patient safety even today.


I can’t eliminate all the triggers for drinking unfortunately. Stress is certainly one of them, but I managed not to relapse when my dsability benefit was recently taken away, despite being clearly disabled.


I do remember the GMC asking me what I reckoned my biggest risk factor for drinking was. I simply replied: “Complacency”.


I actually do love patients and medicine. I have just completed three books on dementia, and I am doing two further on dementia and frailty right at the minute. My first book indeed won best book of the year award in 2015 for the BMJ Awards.


In 1999, I published a seminal contribution in dementia in the world. But I would be ineligible for jobs in academic dementia because I don’t have a ‘strong history’ of raising money in grants.


There are two schools of thought about people with mental illness becoming psychiatrrists in training – ranging from terrible to excellent.


But I would like to give this a go, flexibly, part-time, in an enjoyable environment.


My addiction psychiatrist, whom I adore, once warned me, “Shibley, you’re like one of these people who likes watching his favourite film, replaying the sad ending hoping one day it will be a happy one.”


I have no wish, of course, to ‘right any wrong’. I am in awe of the medical profession. It was with much reluctance I turned up at two interviews at Freshfields and Linkaters for training contracts in the law ‘magic circle’.


Despite all I have felt about the General Medical Council, I am eternally grateful to them that I do have a second chance. I try my best to look after my elderly mum, with whom I live, but even she wants me to give it a go.


I have a great support network now. I feel relatively resilient, but as I keep saying to friends of mine with dementia: “anything can happen to anyone at any time.”






Remembering my late Father

I think my late Father would be proud of me now.

Here he is having his breakfast after a day of fasting.

I hope to have turned my life around. I have now been in recovery for 5 years. I am approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, after full explanation of my past and a two hour interview. I am very proud to be half-way through the Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School, London.

I am proud that my latest medicine textbook was yesterday no 10 on Amazon, meaning that it is one of the most used books by junior physicians in their training in postgraduate medicine.

He went to the Royal Free Hospital for an operation for crippling back pain due to osteoarthritis – he died as his heart packed in. However, that hospital 4 years ago saved my life. I was admitted having had an epileptic seizure and cardiac arrest, due to acute meningitis.

I have now been in recovery for 5 years. Although I am now disabled, I was awarded my LLB(Hons) in May 2009 having studied much of it through broadband from a hospital bed. Earlier this year, I was the only one of a cohort of over 50 to finish his MBA after successfully completing all the modules at one go, in one year, full-time from BPP Business School. And, a month after I had my interview with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, I submitted my LLM to the College of Law, and the following month, January 2011, I was awarded my LLM with commendation.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! I’m proud of you still, and whilst I let you down massively, I’ve now been in recovery for 5 years. I love you.

(PS This video still makes me cry.)



Amy Winehouse reported dead

Very few things indeed shock me. I have been in recovery for just over 4 years now.

I knew things were still bad for Amy Winehouse – I called her recent performance ‘disgraceful’, as it reminded me of all the things you do during your alcoholism which you are ashamed of. You never feel as if you get rid of that guilt or shame, but the 12 steps is a way used by many to get to grips with the personal inventory, and to try to live with this knowledge.

I never knew the reason for the performance, of a concert available on YouTube. However, I have always thought that this problem she suffered was impossible to resolve, unless Amy embraced recovery.

This is incredibly sad, and upsetting for people like me who understand the true uphill battle of recovery. You must live in abstinence, and thereafter somehow learn to live in recovery. I feel very intensely sad for Mitch, her father. I have never cried so much, except for my own father’s death.

May she find peace now.

A real shock.

Truly heartbreaking.


Excellent meeting

This evening, I had a wonderful meeting. I have now spent 4 years and 1 month in recovery, and I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in that time. I am having a wonderful time with my work professionally. In fact, I am completing a book review for a prestigious economics journal on the economics of happiness, which will take up most of the night and tomorrow morning.

Finally, I had a brilliant time in my recovery meeting this evening in North London. We discussed again what it meant to be living in a life of complete recovery, once you have overcome the initial challenge of maintaining abstinence.

We have a wonderful time, and indeed they have all gone off to one of the group members’ house for dinner to socialise; I have come back to have dinner with my Mum, as they appreciate; we live alone in Primrose Hill. I have a delivery coming tonight shortly, including a Lamb Chop Balti and Chicken Tikka (made with olive oil of course).

It is a massive privilege for me to be able to continue my legal training next year. I love the law, and I will maintain my interest in the operations, systems and leadership of business through my MBA tomorrow. My work experience is still going well, as well as my professional commitments, including being a Senior Partner, and other big projects in progress or pending. I think my “lease-of-life” arose from coming top in the MBA economics and marketing examination here at BPP Business School, and doing very well in the MBA overall so far.

I love the City

I actually love the City! My father used to wonder why I loved the City so much, during those dark days when I was working 80 hours a week for the NHS and hated it. Sure – the guys work hard in the City, but it’s just so much my kind of work. I am fully committed to my dementia research work, but I am very lucky I can do it ‘from a safe distance’. I am internationally well respected as one of the only experts in frontal variant frontotemporal dementia, and I wouldn’t change that in the world!

But I love the way the City thrives on teamwork to get results. The law has some extremely bright, charismatic, people on it who can understand the competitive advantage of their transactions, and can understand how to make them work even considering complicated extra-jurisdictional issues. When I travel to my Business School, I have an enormous sense of pride – especially so on a hot summer’s day for some reason. Indeed, the City reminds me of my happy days at Cambridge as a student (I was there for a decade), and especially my father.




My life is brilliant – from Cambridge to the City and corporate law

I thought to myself how beautiful the City of London is this morning. It represents all that I respect in London, hard work based on genuine commitment and intellectual talent. The City exudes this in abundance, with some exceptionally bright people. The sun is shining, as you’re bound to feel good about it, as London represents the competitive advantage of finance in the world for me.

It reminds me of that other great place, Cambridge. I have fond memories of Cambridge, as I obtained the second highest First there in Finals in Natural Sciences (Neurosciences) in 1996. I loved my Ph.D. there, and, like the City, there’s a real buzz to the intellectual energy and personal warmth in Cambridge.

As I sit here studying for my MBA, doing systems and organisations in the morning and leadership, I think, despite the challenges which I have faced which have been numerous and serious (including a 2 month coma in 2007 which I was extremely lucky to survive), I have an extraordinary fulfilling life.

So there! I am looking forward very much to my ultimate career in corporate law. I am merely a student, but as I’ve nearly finished my eighth degree successfully at the age of 37, I can genuinely say not for long!

Dr Shibley Rahman

Amy Winehouse: a disgraceful performance whatever the reasons

I don’t know the reason for this disgraceful performance. All I can say, it is abysmal, and reminds me, rightly or wrongly, why it is important for people with problems to get help in abstinence and recovery. I have been in recovery from a severe alcohol dependence syndrome for 55 months, and is the best thing has happened to me. People do not need moralistic judgments; the performance is a disgrace for somebody so talented. People with addiction problems need medical help to save themselves from a slow death. I hope that Amy Winehouse’s health is very good currently though; presumption of innocence is extremely important in the law.

38 years

On June 18th this year, I will be 37.

Today, there is a slight holiday feel to Primrose Hill in the cafe/restaurant I was in. Quite fitting really, as it is a Bank Holiday weekend.

Somebody I met today, Michael, for the first time who remarked that it felt a bit like the King’s Road in the 60’s. Then I reminisced about my AA meetings off King’s Road in 2005. I expressed my regret that I had only ever been there while under the influence, but, as characteristic for true alcoholics, thinking I was hiding it successfully. He said that he had been there too, but AA etiquette prevented us from discussing the personalities involved. AA would have been proud of our professionalism. Then he explained how he had been in recovery for 38 years, putting my 50 months into the pale. We got on well, and discussed how if we had another drink it would kill us. Far from being a depressing conversation, it ended up being a very enlightening one!

Thank you, Michael!


I did a period in rehab once. It didn’t work. I have been in recovery now for 45 months. You have to have to understand addiction of alcohol to make it work. Unless you have a willpower and fully acknowledge that alcohol addiction is a lifelong medical condition you have to learn to live with, you can’t make it.

I even tried equine therapy when my late father, my mum and I were really desperate. Don’t ask me what this involved!

Here’s the brilliant track from Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”.

The 12 steps of alcohol recovery

I personally don’t do the 12 steps programme for alcohol recovery, as they practise thoroughly in the Alcoholics Anonymous.
However, all I would say is: do whatever works best for you in recovery. In my recovery, I share some of the beliefs. In other words, you are genuinely powerless over the fact you cannot individually cope with alcohol. Many ‘normal’ people can cope – you are not one of them, if you are alcoholic. I have now been in recovery now for 45 months, and I am very open about it. I attend my recovery meeting mostly everu Tuesday in North London.

You cannot do it alone, but in a sense only you can totally cure yourself – this means a life-long programme of recovery. You have to let go, confront the issues, and live life in recovery – but it is an exacting and worthwhile process, and one which I continue to enjoy.

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