Editor’s note: This is the 10th story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they overcame 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.
Let’s be honest. I am not grateful that I am an alcoholic. I did not go to law school with the goal of being a middle-aged probate lawyer with a drinking problem.
I am eternally grateful for the programs that are available to lawyers who want help. There are wonderful 12 step programs, AA being my favorite. There are also more focused groups for lawyers and accountants, but the bottom line: whether we’re a judge, a truck driver, or the general counsel, we are all the same.
Before I found the suggestions of AA I would spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to cover up, hide, deny, and avoid dealing with the feelings that the practice of law and life in general created in me. No other profession is graded by the number of hours they work, the number of clients, and the total charged. It is depressing to be evaluated that way. I would drink to numb myself after a day in court or a night of needed sleep, celebration, or consolation. It took guiding hands and kind words from a few people who meant a lot to me to make me realize that if I didn’t do something I was going to die.
I don’t know how it works, but I do know that if you work the program with the simple suggestions, it really does work. I don’t know how gravity works either, but I do depend on it just like AA, and I now live a life that has more joy and contentment than I have ever known.
One of my favorite things about the program is the anonymity that is a foundation of the success of AA. We lawyers are a proud group who bristle when others think poorly of us. Rest assured, if you think you have a problem and you go to one of the meetings, you will find that you belong.
I am more valuable as a lawyer — not just in my billables, but the actual value I can bring to the clients and the practice. The program provides promises of a life worth living that can come true for anyone willing to do the work and take the steps. There are thousands of lawyers just like you willing to help you. All you have to do is ask.