New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 14, 1982, New Braunfels, Texas
8C New Braunfels Herald Zeitung Wednesday, July 14, 1982★ Doctor
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cheat, and steal to get your drugs,” he said.
His marriage, he said, deteriorated and he began to pick up prostitutes. The Gehrings started talking about divorce.
Gehring went back to Phoenix, but he couldn’t stay clean. He enrolled in a special four-month program in Atlanta for addicted doctors. After three months — and a night in jail for soliciting sex from an undercover policewoman — he was thrown out of the program.
“Now I was a hopeless addict. I pursued my drug addiction with a suicidal mania,” he said. “I would no longer measure my doses. I would draw it up into a syringe and slam it into my arm, knowing that in IO
seconds I would either be drugged or I would be dead. And the outcome didn’t matter.”
In 1980 Gehring enrolled in a federal methadone program, but it didn’t work.
“All it did was make it harder to get high on my drugs, because the methadone equalizes things,” he said. “It also made it easier for me to withdraw from my binges. I would just con the psychiatrist (in charge of the program) into giving me more methadone.”
He tried hypnosis. He tried aversion therapy, sitting wired to a chair while a therapist showed him pictures of syringes and then administered a jolting electric shock.
He couldn’t stay off drugs. He didn’t stay away from prostitutes.
His practice continued to deteriorate.
“Patients were leaving me in droves. Everybody in the hospital knew I was a junkie,” he said. “I never hurt anybody, I never killed anybody, I never operated on anybody when I was loaded — but I could have.”
None of his colleagues talked to Gehring about his erratic behavior, he said. No complaints were made to the state Board of Medical Examiners, which oversees physician licensing.
The Gehrings lived off the Carolyn’s money, and savings from what Gehring made before he completely lost control. Gehring’s various failed efforts at treatment cost them at least $22,000.
At the end, Gehring rarely went
home; or he would show up covered with vomit and blood from a cocairte binge, lock himself in the bathroom and shoot up while Carolyn stood outside the door, crying and begging him to speak “just so I’ll know you’re alive.”
Gehring wanted to die.
But the pentathol didn’t kill him, and when he regained consciousness a doctor — whom Gehring refuses to identify — announced he was going to help. The man had been Gehring’s friend since he was an intern, and during the next nine months the men met daily, talking about the guilt, depression and hopelessness that led Gehring to drugs.
“I’m a human being,” Gehring said. “If I felt angry or uncomfortable
with a patient, why couldn’t I say so? But I couldn’t do that. I always had to be Mr. Nice Guy. I always had to be above normal human emotions because I’m a doctor.
“That was one of the instigating things in my drug addiction. I had to be perfect. And drugs for a period of time gave me that perfection.
“I had this god complex. The whole world revolved around me. I had come from North Dakota, and now I was a big city doctor. For a farm boy whose parents have an eighth grade education, I thought I was really somebody.
“I couldn’t let a patient disagree with me. I was very sensitive. Hey, I have a medal of divinity. I am an M.D. You cannot question me.” Gehring said he praised himself too
much when he saved a life, blamed himself unrelentingly when a patient died: “Bob Gehring personally killed that man.”
As he slowly recovered from the addiction, depending on his friend and learning not to lie, Gehring began to go to church, to return to the religious values he knew but rejected as a youth. He felt his life again had a purpose — he would help other addicts.
Now 40, he handles stress by “prayer and reading the Bible,” and meets regularly with a group of about 50 other Dallas-area doctors who also are recovering addicts. Recently he has begun to speak publicly about his addiction, hoping that publicity will reduce the stigma of the disease.
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the NRC is now taking the possibility seriously enough to discuss a safety assessment entirely different from the 1975 report.
Nuclear advocates see control of accidents as evidence that safety systems worked. Opponents argue that accidents show the vulnerability of the huge plants to the smallest mistake.
While no member of the public has ever been injured in a nuclear plant accident, anti-nuclear groups argue that the health effects of even normal plant operations on people living nearby are unknown, but may be significant.
Richard Udell of the anti-nuclear group Critical Mass says that “the nuclear industry decided to work the bugs out not on a test model but with plants operating....They grew too fast for their britches. They were building larger and larger plants with virtually no experience to guide them.”
The repercussions from TMI hit the Cong Island plant. Freilicher remembers people asking: “You told us this couldn’t happen and it’s happened.”
Within a week of the accident, a demonstration was held outside LI UCO headquarters in Mineola, and a 35-year-old woman named Kathy Boylan demanded an end to construction of nuclear plants. Her husband is Ll LCG vice president for purchasing.
In June, 15,000 people demonstrated at Shoreham. They tore down the main gate into the plant and climbed over fences. Six hundred were arrested for trespass.
Along with protests, TMI engendered government investigations, changes at the NRC itself, and orders to plants to upgrade equipment, train operators better, and add new safety facilities.
Both advocates and opponents of atomic power agree the changes have made safer both operating nuclear plants and those being built. There is no agreement, however, on whether the changes have made the plants safe enough.
Ixist year, for the first time, a plant actually under construction was canceled. The Northern Indiana Public Service Co. had spent about $205 million on the Badly plant near Gary before it killed tile project.
When conceived in 1907, the Badly plant was supposed to cost $187 million and be finished in 1976. The last estimates before cancellation put the cost at $2.3 billion and the completion date at 1992.
A recent NRC study judged that as many as 19 of the 75 plants now being built could be canceled, and even Carl Walske, head of the industry’s Atomic Industrial Forum, says as many as 17 “may be in jeopardy.”
LILCO’s Freilicher says the Long Island utility has faced the question of whether to cancel Shoreham many times. Each tune it has looked at the cost of oil, the difficulties and environmental demands of coal, and found cancellation of the plant “unthinkable.”
Shoreham is now virtually complete, and with the NRC hearing board now considering whether to grant an operating license, LILCO envisions commercial operation beginning early next year.
Unlike in the construction permit hearings, no one assumed this time that the hearings would be short or the public unquestioning. A recent nationwide poll showed a majority of Americans — 56 percent — believed no more nuclear plants should be built. Even more of those questioned, 58 percent, said they’d worry about living near a nuclear plant.
There is a new opposition group fighting licensing, the Shoreham Opponents’ C'oaltion, and its lawyer, Stephen I^atham, is following Irving Like’s pattern with the construction permit and asking questions that go beyond Shoreham to the basic question of nuclear power : Is it safe?
Freilicher, the LILCO vice Shoreham and nuclear power safer because of TMI changes, nuclear plant’s containment as concrete that just won’t go away,” that will keep radioactivity from getting to the public outside.
A core meltdown is still “a statistical possibility,” he says, but even then the core would have to make its way through layers of containment.
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