Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 29, 2018.
Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance use or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP), text TLAP to 555888, or find more information at tlaphelps.org.
I started drinking in high school and immediately liked the way it made me feel. It made me smarter, better looking, cooler, and more athletic. I knew I was onto something good.
In college I joined a fraternity and drinking was just what we did. I respected the guys who drank hard. So I naturally began drinking more.
At this point in my life I didn’t see a problem. I didn’t have any severe consequences from my drinking, just lots of hangovers, some missed classes, and girls who thought I was an idiot. What I didn’t realize then was that I was drinking to change the way I felt inside.
In law school I took my studies seriously, but when Thursday afternoon rolled around, I drank with a purpose. I had switched to hard liquor by this point but still saw no problem because my drinking was “contained” to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Once out of law school I employed this same formula of drinking only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. But when I drank it was to get drunk.
I still didn’t see a problem with my drinking because I employed a “work hard, play hard” mentality. I told myself that hard-charging lawyers drank heavily. I embraced the image and partied on. I incorporated some moderate drug use into the mix, but alcohol was my thing.
Eventually my drinking spilled into Sundays, which made Monday mornings difficult. Anything to put off the coming week of work and reality. Slowly I began to lose self-respect and self-worth, but I continued drinking. I thought journaling or charitable work would make me feel better—it didn’t.
During these days I always set out to get drunk when I drank. Friends and family members began expressing concern for me, which I casually brushed off. But at some point a few years before I quit drinking, I had the foggy notion that I should rein things in, to manage my drinking better. That thought was usually on Monday mornings when I was hungover. It was the thought that the next weekend I wouldn’t get so out of control. This was the first time I even thought about regulating my drinking, but at this point I was beyond human aid even though I didn’t know it.
Why couldn’t I regulate my drinking? I showed self-discipline in other areas of my life but had none where it concerned alcohol. Of course, once again I reasoned my way out of it—I’m single, I work hard, I haven’t had a DWI, I’m not hurting anyone but myself, etc. … Or I would try switching to beer or vodka rather than my drink of choice.
It didn’t matter what I did or what change I tried to make, I was still getting insanely drunk. Of course, by this time I was drinking every night, mostly to black out.
One Sunday afternoon I wrecked my car after drinking heavily on the golf course. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but I knew I was going to jail and that my drinking would finally result in a negative, tangible consequence. When the responding officer asked me how much I’d had to drink, I responded, “Way too much.” He felt sorry for me and gave me a ride home.
This incident had such a profound effect on me that I quit drinking—three years later. Any normal person would have had no trouble stopping or regulating his drinking, but I could do neither. What I didn’t understand then was that I was in the grip of a progressive disease, a disease that told me I didn’t have a disease: alcoholism.
The decline continued over the next three years. When I woke up on a Monday morning in June of 2011, I didn’t remember anything since the previous Thursday. I’d had enough. The four horsemen of terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair were upon me. Physically I was wrecked but emotionally I was bankrupt. I knew I couldn’t stop this cycle on my own. Self-reliance had failed me.
A close friend had gotten sober about a year before, and I reached out to him. I went to a 30-day treatment center and admitted that I was an alcoholic. When I got out, my friend took me to a meeting. I continued going to meetings, met other alcoholics, got a sponsor, worked the steps, and worked with other alcoholics. Eventually my obsession to drink was removed.
I continue to do all of these things and, most importantly, I have a relationship with a higher power. That was seven years ago, and I’ve been sober since.
When I decided to try sobriety, I fully believed that life would be boring and monotonous. I’ve since learned that I have an appalling lack of perspective. In fact, my life is more fun than it’s ever been.
I live a full and useful life because I remain active in a program of recovery. I enjoy the practice of law rather than seeing it as a means to an end. Difficulties still happen, but that’s a part of life. I don’t have to pick up a drink or feel the way I felt that Monday morning in June 2011 ever again. And for that I am eternally grateful.