I remember sitting in naturopathic school with other students and hearing them talk about how their future practices would be. They would say things such as: If my patients eat at McDonald’s I won’t work with them. I can only work with people who are open to raw food and vegetarianism. Coffee is the root of all things evil and my patients will not drink it.It led me to wonder how these people were going to pay off their student loan bills. Who would be their patients? It hadn’t crossed my mind that my first practice would be touring with rock bands and I would have this dilemma too.
When I graduated from 17 years of medical school, I was so burned out from working full time and going to school that I was not even sure I wanted to be a doctor anymore. This seemed like a good time to take a few months sabbatical and do the travelling I had always wanted to do. I was having an identity crisis and felt a break from medicine would cure it.
So I sold my possessions, closed my chiropractic practice, and drove my books and clothes back to Cleveland to keep in storage for who knows how long. I headed to Europe with a backpack and no hotel reservation. For the next 8 months, I backpacked through Europe seeing sights, making pilgrimages along the way, sipping coffee in cafes, and taking in the culture. I missed medicine and realized that I truly did want to be a doctor.
Several months into it, one of the bands I had worked with previously, got wind I was in Europe. How would I like to get paid to travel? They wanted someone to go on tour and do some natural medicine for them. What a day it was to take a taxi from the youth hostel in Paris where I was sharing a room with 6 people to the very swanky Paris hotel where I would meet the group. The taxi driver questioned my appearance and destination. I arrived at the fancy hotel looking like one of the Beverly Hill Billy’s wiping the dust off myself. The band gave me money to buy some hipper clothes. They could not bear to see the hiking boots and backpack. The next few months it was 5 star hotels, tour buses, planes and lots of great parties.
I had my massage tables sent to Europe along with a natural medicine pharmacy of herbs and vitamins and acupuncture needles. I was so excited to be able to incorporate all of the modalities for healing together for the first time since I graduated. This would be my first practice. I was in for a Rude Awakening!
My visions of the ultimate natural medicine practice were quickly dissolved. After Paris the band headed to Amsterdam. Need I say more? I quickly realized that this band was just as committed to revelry and debauchery as they were to their health. The preventive medicine I knew turned into harm reduction for hangovers and sexually transmitted diseases. What to do? This is not the kind of natural medicine practice I had wanted. Eventually I relaxed into it. I put my judgments aside and learned to use my medicines any chance I could. As a doctor, I needed to learn this. I learned to meet people where they are and make small changes where I could. I learned it is possible to be healthy and have a lot of fun too!
“You can’t always get what you want…
But you get what you need.”
— The Rolling Stones