Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance use or mental health issues. Call or text TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.
I attended my first recovery group meeting on January 27, 1968. I was 10 days past my 27th birthday. I had been an attorney and member of the State Bar of Texas since June 1964. That 12-step recovery meeting was to be the most significant event of my life, right up there with being sworn in as a member of the State Bar of Texas. I have not had a drink of alcohol since that date.
For approximately 10 years prior to January 27, 1968, I suffered most of the ills and misfortunes that tend to happen in active alcoholism, including but not limited to the destruction of cars, marriages, friendships, and an inability to stay current in my bills. Even more significant than this were the feelings of despair, fear, loneliness, paranoia, and insecurity that I felt daily, especially during the last few years of my drinking.
Eventually I ran into a friend from school who told me that he was an alcoholic and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Some months after that, in desperation, I called him and he came to visit me. He asked me if I was willing to go to any lengths so that I did not ever have to drink alcohol again. I remember thinking about it and telling him that I did not think I was willing to go to any lengths. He said that was fine, for me to just continue drinking until I got ready to follow the instructions. Sure enough, in another few days I called him again and told him that I was really ready. He then took me to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was the third person under the age of 35 years to join AA in the Dallas area.
In retrospect, it seems that a great deal of my life had been spent trying to discover the instructions for living a sane and happy life. Other people seemed to intuitively know the instructions. However, when I first entered AA, all I wanted was to learn how to not ever have to drink alcohol again. Later, I realized that AA contained the instructions that would not only enable me to not drink, but also to live a happy and successful life.
I had, prior to this, been totally unsuccessful in quitting drinking on my own. I had made many attempts to limit my drinking, but it wasn’t until I attempted to stop drinking entirely that I realized I was absolutely incapable of quitting on my own.
Upon joining AA, my life immediately began to get better. This is not necessarily everyone’s experience, but it was mine. Living sober began to become a habit and a fun experience.
Of course, it had not been all doom and despair prior to AA. I had been reared in Dallas, and although alcohol was served in my home, there was nothing to indicate that it might someday become a problem for me. Even from the beginning of my drinking at 17 years of age, though, I began having difficulty controlling my drinking. I had my first “black out” when I was 18 years old and awoke in my apartment the following morning having no recollection of how I had gotten home or where my automobile was. This was to happen with some regularity throughout my drinking career. I was told later in AA that this black out phenomena appears to be unique to alcoholics and never occurs with a “normal drinker.” I am not an expert on that subject, but I do know that the black outs were probably the most frightening experience that happened to me during my drinking career.
Since all of this took place many years ago, I escaped some of the misfortunes that befall present day drinkers. Police cars did not have computers or any of the other information available today to determine in a roadside stop that one might have been in that position on more than one occasion. Fortunately, though, I escaped serious misfortune with the law, and although I badly damaged a number of automobiles, they were invariably one-car accidents.
I had always been inclined to drink alone and, as my drinking progressed, that became more and more the case. Those last few years of my drinking were not only solitary ones but also filled with bouts of loneliness, despair, hopelessness, and depression. I knew that my life was not going to get any better as long as I continued to drink as I did.
After being sober for some 10 years or so, I joined eight or 10 other lawyers in attending the first entity in Texas of lawyers in recovery. This came to be known as Dallas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, or Dallas LCL. This group still thrives today and is playing a significant role in the lives of impaired lawyers. Originally, we limited ourselves to lawyers suffering from alcohol or drug use, but now we have expanded to reach out to any impaired lawyer. We meet weekly. We also have an organization known as Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, or TLCL. We have an annual convention in alternating Texas cities.
I am grateful on a daily basis for my sobriety and the many opportunities I have had to be associated with so many lawyers in the recovery community. Our State Bar has been in the forefront throughout the nation in endeavoring to help impaired lawyers. I think all of us feel blessed to be able to be a part of such an effort and to contribute to our profession.