Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.
I feel like alcoholism just appeared in my life overnight. Logically, however, I know this is not the case. It certainly felt as if it came out of nowhere and definitely hit me like a freight train. But if I think about it, I always drank alcoholically.
It was a big joke amongst friends that I, standing all of five feet flat and 100 pounds soaking wet, could drink all the boys under the table and I could with no problem. I was always able to consume ungodly quantities of alcohol, and with no real appreciable effect on my faculties.
However, these drinking bouts were few and far between. I drank socially in high school—no more and no less than any other teenager in my small-ish town where there was seemingly nothing better to do come weekends. In college, I would again categorize my drinking as “normal,” arguably less than most of my peers as I did not have time for such things as bars, parties, and “Sunday Fundays.” I had much more important things to worry about: collegiate sports, academics, and the array of extracurriculars, in addition to working to supplement tuition and bills. The typical Type-A overachiever that is pervasive amongst our profession.
College proceeded successfully, and I secured a full-ride scholarship to law school. Law school began in earnest, and again, I loaded myself down with responsibilities: moot court, various internships and clerkships and volunteer work, in addition to being a newlywed, having married my high school sweetheart the summer after 1L year. Life was grand.
But looking back, this is when my drinking began to ratchet up. The social life of young, “successful” 20-somethings, with disposable income and limited responsibilities, lent itself to relationships and engagements that revolved around drinking. “Sunday Funday” became a “thing”! All-inclusive vacations on the beach in Mexico that were designed to keep one obliterated. Drinking was becoming intrinsic to all of life’s activities. Whether it be four-bottle wine dinners or co-ed softball, drinking was a part of it.
Although I wasn’t yet experiencing any real adverse consequences associated with my drinking, my consumption was steadily increasing. The alcoholic behaviors were already manifesting, as well, such as covering up the quantities I was actually consuming at home so my spouse wouldn’t discover how much I was really drinking. At the time, I don’t recall considering this to be as abnormal as I now know it to be. I imagine I just talked myself into believing that it was really none of his business. But nonetheless, life carried on.
I finished law school, passed the bar, and was recruited to move from D/FW to Houston to jump into what was the booming oil and gas industry at that time. I was offered a ridiculous amount of money to work at a big law firm with lots of offices all over the “US of A” and again, my perceived positioning in life was augmented. My spouse and I were “DINKS”—double income, no kids. We were under 30 and between the two of us making comfortably into the six digits. We bought a big, expensive house in a fancy Houston neighborhood and drove luxury vehicles and spent money as if we didn’t have a care in the world, because we didn’t.
But Houston was the beginning of the end for me.
As some point, that substantial shift in my drinking occurred and “the cucumber became the pickle,” as I’ve heard Old Timers say. While I “maintained” for a while, managing to hold down my job and otherwise keep anyone on the outside from knowing how out of control things had become, the yarn quickly began to unravel. Drinking was no longer an option, but a requirement.
Things really began to fall apart when I stopped showing up at work altogether. All I cared about was drinking. I had also begun supplementing my drinking with pills: amphetamines to balance me out and allow me to drink more; pain pills stolen from my spouse from dental procedures or old sports injuries and from my parents from surgeries, along with anything else I could get my hands on. My spouse and family (who, blindsided, once informed by my spouse of what was going on as this secret had thus far been pretty well preserved between us) decided I needed to go to treatment.
A full on Dr. Phil-esque intervention occurred with friends and family members and the interventionist—the whole nine yards. I, of course, resisted but ultimately acquiesced, mainly to placate everyone. I stayed there maybe two weeks before leaving. I didn’t have a problem so why did I need treatment? The drinking ensued again shortly.
Within a couple months, I got a DWI with my nephew and young cousin in my car—both child passengers under 15, resulting in a felony offense—that landed me first in jail, then in treatment again. This treatment facility was followed by several others, both inpatient and outpatient, in addition to a multitude of emergency rooms, detoxes, and therapists’ offices.
Lost jobs, a divorce, multiple injuries from falling (which I did frequently), and a variety of other repercussions marked the next couple of years. My final bender had me holed up at my parents’ lake condo for several days. I awoke from being passed out to find a half-finished bottle on the table. I knew it wasn’t the bottle I last recalled drinking, and confirmed this when I found that empty bottle disposed in the trash. The realization that I had driven—several miles in fact, as the nearest store was nowhere close to me—in a complete blackout was too much to handle. I had absolutely no recollection of driving to obtain my coveted alcohol.
Not being completely oblivious to the consequences of my actions and having a yet-unresolved felony DWI, I knew my behavior would end me up in prison or dead, or worse yet, I would kill someone else. I reached out to TLAP and was placed in treatment within 48 hours. I have been sober since November 1, 2016.
I owe a forever-unpayable debt of gratitude to the State Bar of Texas and TLAP for giving me my life back.