From dread to hope: How I confronted my drinking problem

Editor’s note: This is the eighth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

Law school made me an alcoholic. Or, to be fair to law school, it was during law school that I crossed over to alcoholism.

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: Roller coaster ride of perfection

Editor’s note: This is the seventh story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

I’ve been given the precious gift of life three times; when I was born, when I got sober, and when I finally overcome an eating disorder.

Continue Reading...

Tom Keyser: The Living Years

The following article originally appeared in San Antonio Lawyer magazine and is reprinted with permission from San Antonio Lawyer and the San Antonio Bar Association.

By Steve Peirce

Tom Keyser stood on a chair in the gym of his rented townhouse, a rope tied around his neck. He once was a Catholic school kid from Cumberland, Maryland, who had shown such promise as a baseball player that he was drafted in 1967 by the Baltimore Orioles, and now he was a father of three who had lost his marriage and his home, and was about to lose his law license. All he had to do was take one small step and the pain would be over, but he lost his nerve. It was the Summer of 1990.

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: Solving the problem of me

“Lately it occurs to me — What a long strange trip it’s been.” — The Grateful Dead

Editor’s note: This is the sixth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program "Stories of Recovery" series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

I first started using drugs when I was 12. I always felt like I was different from other people and I couldn’t understand why. 

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: Living life on life's terms

Editor’s note: This is the sixth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

The first time I got intentionally drunk was on May 26, 1972. I was 12 years old and woke up that morning to find that my father had died during the night. By that afternoon I had dipped into Dad’s liquor cabinet and I was drunk. For some reason I instinctively knew that alcohol was the balm for the pain that I thought was going to kill me. Please understand that I am not an alcoholic because my father died. Rather, what this illustrates is that alcohol was not my problem, it was my solution—to everything—and THAT was the problem.
 

 

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: On the brink of suicide, I found new hope

Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

I could not open my eyes. I could hear someone calling my name but I didn’t recognize the voice. I let myself drift back into unconsciousness.

The next time I woke up, I was alone except for the machines that whirred and beeped around me. I tried to take a deep breath but couldn’t. Tubes pumped oxygen into my lungs and my arms were strapped down to the bed. The instinct to panic was overwhelming. Then, a nurse appeared at my side. Smiling, she informed me that my family was in the waiting room. I didn’t want to see them because I was so ashamed. How could I have wound up like this?

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: How I made it

Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program "Stories of Recovery" series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar's TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

Even as a kid I identified with that cartoon character who walked around with a little black cloud over his head. I was depressed and life was depressing. So much so that I clearly needed help—and was lucky enough to be sent for counseling early in my life.

I learned that it was not my life circumstances, but my ability to cope with life. And that I had to take responsibility for dealing with the depression. So, I have for most of my life since I was in college had a counselor, a paid counselor. You can’t talk about this stuff just to friends. They’re not equipped. Every counselor has been wise—a reality check—and loving.

 

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: Turning things around after depression

Editor’s note: This is the third story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program "Stories of Recovery" series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar's TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

I am so grateful that my life is headed in a positive direction. Actually, it has been headed in that direction for a few years, slowly, one day at a time, but it took a while for me to get some real traction.

For years I have struggled with depression. It became so bad it destroyed relationships and ended my legal career as a practicing lawyer, or so I thought. I had tried various methods and sought help from time to time, but that hopeless feeling just seemed to get stronger and stronger. When things really got bad, I was desperate enough to listen seriously to suggestions for help, and to take small actions over time.
 

 

Continue Reading...

Attorneys to share stories of recovery on new podcast

A new monthly podcast will feature Texas attorneys’ personal stories of fighting and overcoming problems with substance abuse and mental health issues.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, part of the State Bar of Texas, created the Voices of Recovery podcast as a way to let bar members know that help is available and recovery is possible, said Bree Buchanan, TLAP director.

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: A cautionary tale

Editor’s note: This is the second story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program "Stories of Recovery" series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar's TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

This is a cautionary tale. A story of denial, of toughing it out at any cost, and of what that cost might be. But it is a cautionary tale with a hopeful ending.

 

Continue Reading...

Stories of Recovery: A 'drowning man' finds hope

Editor’s note: This is the first story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar’s TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527 and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

Like a drowning man, I was going down for the last time. Suffering from the mental illness known as depression, I had 20 years of ongoing psychiatric care under my belt. I had taken every medication in the book, and, together with psychotherapy, they had kept me afloat, functioning and outwardly successful. But this time was different, and I knew I was beyond help. The pain and misery were too much to endure and I was ready to take my own life, despite my doctor’s oft-repeated counsel that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

 

Continue Reading...

Take steps to prevent holiday depression

It has begun. The final remnants of the Thanksgiving meal have been discarded. Packages from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sit on your couch or kitchen table waiting to be wrapped. Invitations to open houses and holiday parties are coming in the mail. Christmas concerts at school and church are populating the calendar. Yes, the holidays are back again!

For lawyers, the innumerable additional tasks and responsibilities of this time of year are heaped on top of the demands of clients, courts and opposing counsel. Time, energy and, for many, enthusiasm are in short supply.  Stress, anxiety and persistent feelings of “I’m not doing enough” all feed into the experience of depression that affects so many of us during the holidays.

Here are a few suggestions on creating a shift in your approach to the seemingly insatiable demands of this time of year:

  • Set your priorities for the holidays. Take a moment to determine the most important thing for you to do or experience before returning to life and work “as usual” in January. Break this goal down into discrete tasks and put those on your calendar. Or, write your top priority down and put it on your computer, the frame of your office door, on your dashboard, etc.  For instance, if your goal is “spending more time with the kids,” consider your decisions regarding what you do and what you decline in light of that goal.
  • Say “no” to non-essential tasks and events that conflict with that priority. If you don’t have the power to decline, try postponing until after Jan. 1 when possible.
  • Commit to taking care of yourself.  Don’t let exercise fall by the wayside. Do focus on healthy, not heavy, foods. Predetermine how much alcohol you will drink at events and stick to that commitment so you don’t waste time with a hangover or ruin goodwill over offensive behavior.

If stress, anxiety or depression become too much for you over the course of the holidays, give yourself a “time out.” Push back from the desk and take a walk outside. Try to determine the root cause of your distress and, if possible, modify the situation. Enlist the help of those around you in making your situation better.

Remember that the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program is here for you. We can help you identify the cause of your distress and come up with a plan for addressing it in a healthy manner.  Call 1-800-343-8527. All communications are strictly confidential.

Bree Buchanan, J.D., Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

Tags: