Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery blog 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 started drinking alcohol at about age 6.

Surrounded by military fighter pilots, alcohol was simply a part of my life. It was 1967, and the Vietnam War was at its height. Our friends and neighbors were all getting deployed to Vietnam, along with my father and my uncle. This was a scary time for everyone, as our pilots were getting shot down and captured and tortured with some regularity. Automatic, ghastly, immediate torture awaited any shoot-down.

At that time, small children were required to attend both church and Sunday school, both of which I hated. In the pews, pamphlets depicted our guys roped into excruciating stress positions and left for hours and days, beaten and tortured, to demonstrate to the parishioners the great faith that the POWs displayed (the better to show us howweshould be faithful too). I don’t know if I have a photographic memory or not, but I sure as hell remember those pamphlets and their drawings! Very traumatizing at that age.

At age 8, I was bigger than my mother. With Dad overseas, I had to follow no rules. It was always, “Just wait till your father gets home.” That was her way to try to keep me in line, but whenever Dad came home we were so relieved and happy, nothing ever came of all my shenanigans. We were all pretty good kids, military brats, and proud of it.

I started smoking marijuana at age 8. I don’t remember ever paying for it; the big kids just had it all the time and would let us smoke with them. We constantly found ways to obtain both alcohol and marijuana. I had good grades in school, so we were never suspected. Anyway, it was the Summer of Love, Woodstock, and hippies, so we didn’t stick out much.

Preparing for our transfer to South America at age 15, we were living the alcohol- and drug-soaked ritzy high school privileged lifestyle (of Northern Virginia). Upon learning we were going to South America, our local drug dealer said, “Oh, man, lucky you, there’s tons of good coke down there.”

With cocaine, it is imperative that one drink alcohol, at least when using the quantities we started using. We would trade coveted blue jeans, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and J&B whiskey for coke. Anything we could trade from the States was better than cash, as the country was under a socialist government that refused to deal with the USA.

The thing is, though, when under the influence of pure cocaine, the human body hardly registers the presence of alcohol. We drank copiously, just to counteract the coke. Cigarettes by the thousands, also.

This went on all through university, living the good life in California. So, at age 26, I had 20 years of alcohol abuse, 18 years of pot, and 10 years of solid cocaine use behind me. I quit the coke, pot, and cigarettes, but kept drinking, and drinking and drinking. This, of course, builds formidable mental tolerance.

Finally, my body couldn’t take it anymore. I was always nauseated—poisoned really, from a clinical standpoint. Covering up for work—shower, deodorant, Binaca, Visine, Listerine—but still unable to show for work a lot because I was throwing up, I almost lost my job.

Anyway, I called TLAP from a flyer I came across at the firm, called Penni Wood, who gave me the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers information in my area. I now have a sponsor. I am now clean and sober and loving it. I attend two meetings per week and really look forward to them.

Thanks Penni, LCL, and TLAP for giving me my life back.