Former drug-using doctor opens up about recovery

May 18, 2012 7:41:08 AM PDT
Five years ago, a Montgomery County doctor left his medical practice in disgrace, and now we're hearing from him for the first time. Back then, when his drug use made headlines, he was in denial, but today, Steve Farber comes clean.

It is a small office inside a two-bedroom apartment. But for Farber, this is success.

"I could easily be dead," he said.

It's a realization five years in the making after a very public fall from grace.

"How far did you fall?" we asked Farber.

"I hit rock bottom," he said.

That was in February 2007. Farber's medical license had just been suspended indefinitely.

"Very suddenly in the blink of an eye, my career was over," he said.

His world was unraveling.

"I was a closet addict," Farber said.

He had been exposed.

"I had led a double life, a secret double life, and I got very good at it," Farber said.

Dr. Farber was on top of the world. He had served twice as the head of cardiology at Conroe Regional Medical Center, had his own practice and had founded a non-profit -- all while he was using drugs.

"Cocaine and I was using Xanax at the time," he said. "I did start using crack."

It was a downward spiral that could have affected many patients.

"And operate on patients?" we asked him.

"Yes, yes," he said.

And it did affect, he says, one in particular.

"I lost a friend," Farber said.

In April 2006, he prescribed a strong cough medicine to 33-year-old Gara Gerber. She was staying with him. He came home from work and she was dead.

"Whether she intentionally took her life, I don't know; whether it was an accidental overdose, I don't know -- I'll never know. But the reality is I should not have given her the prescription," Farber said.

Conroe police ruled Gerber's death an accident and Farber was never charged. It did cost him is medical license indefinitely. The Texas Medical Board in 2007 called him a continuing threat to public welfare, but it also it forced him to get help.

"They saved my life," Farber said.

Farber spent two months in intense rehab and says he's been clean ever since. He also wrote a candid book.

"We are as sick as our secrets," he said.

He hopes he will not only help other addicts but also raise awareness of prescription drug abuse. Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson are famous faces, he says, of a big-time problem.

"As a society, we cannot live in denial," Farber said. "I don't feel like a pariah anymore."

Today, Farber says his life is back on track. He is now deciding whether to appeal to the medical board to be able to see patients again.

"It's something that is not my identity anymore," he said.

From a luxurious house in The Woodlands to a small apartment in Spring, just being here is success Farber says far more satisfying.

"I feel that my life has turned around and I'm given a second chance to live to be the person I want to be and I want to take advantage of that," he said.

Farber settled a civil lawsuit out of court with Gerber's family. He told us he hopes one day her family will forgive him and to that her sister, Gena Gerber-Hopp, told us:

"Seeking forgiveness is not stating you wish it, but rather it is actually taking the steps to actively pursue it. As a Christian I am taught to forgive, but that does not mean by any means my family and I will ever forget Steve Farber's role in my sister Gara's untimely death.

"We believe that the Texas Medical Board has failed the people of Texas in allowing Steve Farber the chance to practice medicine in any form ever again. But I do pray for his sake and his family's that he does stay clean this time. My family and I miss my sister Gara so very much and we pray that no family should ever have to go through losing their loved one like this."

Farber's medical license has been reinstated but restricted to an administrative capacity. His book is now available on

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