Sick As Your Secrets

A small-town doctor who buys a daily half gallon of whiskey causes gossip.  During the course of a week, I’d hit six different liquor stores in three different towns, none of which I lived in. I’d dispose of the empties the same way, hauling the bottles to the landfill or a dumpster behind a bar. I never drank in public.

When my wife left me, my main concern was to maintain appearances. “Gone to stay with her sick sister,” I’d planned to say. “But the lucky thing is that she lives in Hawaii.”

Except none of my patients ever asked.


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  1. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    The more I think about this one, the more chilling it becomes. I wouldn’t want to be this doctor’s patient. Great piece of writing.



    • J Hardy Carroll

      All too common. After a while, the alcoholic is only fooling themselves. The cofounder of AA was a proctologist in Akron. His practice had dwindled to nothing when he stopped drinking.

  2. neilmacdon

    I loved the “none of my patients ever asked”. If you had him say the previous lines instead of planning to say them, we and the patients would know something the doctor wouldn’t realise we’d worked out

  3. Joe Owens

    No one to fool, because the biggest fool was himself. Too often the rationalization keeps us from seeing the whole picture. Allowing a touch here and a tap there removes us from full consciousness.

  4. James

    That’s because few people don’t care about their doctor as a human being, just a service provider. The doc can get away with murder.

  5. Joy Pixley

    If only he could make himself do more than care about appearances, perhaps his wife could have helped him. As it is, it sounds like he made himself help-proof, to the detriment of all. Another sad story of addiction.

  6. JS Brand

    I can’t help thinking that he put more effort into enabling himself to continue drinking than might have been needed to stop. Just shows what addiction can do.
    A nicely constructed and worryingly realistic tale.

  7. michael1148humphris

    You reminded me about a great doctor. Sadly he also did not get help and died. Alcoholism is a deadfall disease.

  8. Rowena

    I really loved this one. There’s so much possibility in it. Did all the town know why his wife left and they didn’t need to ask? There’s also the thing of doctors knowing all about you but you know nothing about them. Moreover, when you’re paying for a service, the doctor shouldn’t be pouring out his troubles to his patients either. Yet, he needs someone he could talk to confidentially.
    It is hard to venture out of people’s expectations though, when you are in a position of authority, especially in a small town. No one forgets. Or, let’s you forget either.
    xx Rowena

  9. Michael B. Fishman

    This is a really interesting story and after reading it for the third time and having a completely different thought about it than the first two times I decided it was time to stop and just let it be. But I will say that I decided that the doctor didn’t kill his wife and that he’s just a sad guy. I think I’d like this guy. Nice job.

  10. Michael Wynn

    Great piece. I didn’t necessarily think he’d killed her, merely she’d left and everyone knew why because despite his efforts to hide his problem he’d been deluding himself that he was succeeding, all along

Don't just stand there.