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 spent my whole life before law school achieving great things academically and trying to be perfect—and to somehow prove to myself that I was not my alcoholic parents. I was raised by my grandparents because of those issues.
Getting into law school seemed at the time my ticket to finally feeling like a success. I began using alcohol in law school to relax. They put a keg on the patio on Fridays, and I got tremendous relief from drinking then and incrementally more over the next decade.
After getting all the things I wanted on paper—the job in the respected firm, marriage, a nice house, awards, partnership, trial victories, and so on—I was completely empty. I wanted to never wake up. I was stuck in a job I hated, drinking like a fish, and things seemed hopeless. I got served divorce papers in the same month that my grandmother who raised me died unexpectedly.
I needed help and was too ashamed to get it. I was working on a case where the other lawyer owed me a call, and finally his paralegal called to let me know he had died in an accident. I remember wishing I were him.
My grandmother was a counselor, a teacher, and a principal, and she told me about depression and getting help when I was younger. I decided I had to try it.
After hiding my car down the street, I snuck into the therapist’s office and my life changed from that day on.
After getting my life and my thinking improved by therapy, I woke up to the fact that drinking was not just a symptom of my stressful life but a source of my problems. What was a solution had become the problem.
After a lawyer friend of mine quit drinking and seemed curiously happy about it and after my own efforts to manage the problem failed a million times, I walked into an AA meeting, and I have been sober and much healthier and happier since. I was horrified that going to a meeting would ruin my reputation and introduce me to burdensome losers.
What happened was the opposite. I discovered for the first time in my life that I belong. I found people who think and struggle just like I do. I found people who are able to be happy, joyous, and free without drinking or using other things to escape the difficulties of the world. I found a way to go through difficulties instead of around them. I worked all of the steps, and I saw many fail to enjoy sobriety or to remain sober who did not take that action. That action changed my psychology.
I am still working the steps, attending AA and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, or LCL, meetings, and I continue maintenance on my mind with therapy. Many of my lawyer friends scoff at the idea of going to AA because they think it is a group of felons and losers. There are AA groups consisting of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals with few empty seats. There are groups like LCL that are only for lawyers and law students. If I had walked into some meetings, I would have walked out and never come back. I believe that anyone interested should try a few different meetings because I found them to be life bars, sometimes I wanted a hole-in-the-wall dive bar and sometimes I wanted a martini bar. I am so grateful that I found sobriety. It was the key to becoming the husband, father, and lawyer that I was supposed to be. If I had not, I am pretty sure I would be dead now.
Because of resources like the help that TLAP provides, I am alive and so grateful for my life. I am now able to help others who have struggled like me. Life is good when we are free.