Editor’s note: This post was originally posted on July 25, 2018.
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.
A little over four years ago, I believed my life was over. Not because of the consequences from my drinking, but because I knew I could not go on with drinking the way I did.
But what would be the point of living if I did not have alcohol?
I am not sure if I progressed into drinking alcoholically or if I ever had control, but when I took the first drink, I had little to no control over the amount I would drink or what I would do.
I was in my last year of law school and, although I drank almost every night regardless, my only coping skill was to drink when I felt any sort of pain or anxiety. The next morning, I would always swear I would not drink that day, but by that evening, I would be in line buying wine. Not only would I continue to drink through the night, I often drove to get more alcohol or to party with other people just to not feel so alone.
Even though I knew when I drank that I would binge and make dangerous or risky decisions, I still felt determined that I could control my drinking and behavior afterward, because I could not imagine living without alcohol. So I kept drinking. I drank before classes and during finals.
In between graduating law school and starting to study for bar review, I was arrested and charged with a DWI. I swore to my family and friends that I was done. Beyond the criminal consequences, I knew my family and friends were angry and afraid, and I knew I would be facing potential consequences with my license to practice. Because I knew I had nothing else, I went to a psychiatrist who prescribed me Xanax.
I felt trapped, hated myself, and was extremely suicidal. I ended up using Xanax like I drank and also drank again. All within a week, I ended up being admitted into treatment for depression.
After leaving treatment, I decided to continue with outpatient treatment and bar review. I did not feel like I had time to stop. While in both treatment programs, it was recommended to me that I go into Alcoholics Anonymous. However, I told them that I could not because I did not believe in “God” and the steps mention a “Higher Power.” I also did not want to stay stopped forever. I was then told that as part of defending my criminal case, I needed to go to meetings. A week after I started attending meetings, I was told to get a sponsor.
Getting into recovery has been the scariest and most amazing gift I have received. I walked into a room full of people who appeared normal and yet talked about feelings and things they had done that I had felt and done. I never had that connection with anyone I had met before.
At that point, I only wanted to receive my family and friends’ forgiveness and to get rid of the potential criminal and licensure consequences so that I could get back to what I wanted to do. I am so grateful that because of the pendency of my case, I had time to sit and listen.
I learned that alcoholism is a progressive and fatal disease. I later learned through a program at the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program that although it was not my fault that I received this disease, I had a responsibility to the world to recover. I started to work the steps and eventually wanted to be sober for me. This was long before I found out what would happen to me with people, my case, and my license to practice law.
Service is the biggest part of my recovery today. I sponsor and also am part of TLAP’s peer assistance program. I am a young attorney who feels a sense of responsibility to be of service to other young attorneys. I find it staggering that 30 percent of attorneys under age 30 drink alcoholically.
Today, I no longer feel shame or self-hatred, but I do have tools when I start to feel afraid or overwhelmed or start to obsess about work or life in general. I can honestly say that I feel happy, joyous, and free. I would not have that if I continued to drink.
I truly believe I would not even be living today, let alone feeling any sort of freedom. And that is what I wanted. Freedom. I just had to be willing to listen and follow the suggestions of someone else who described my drinking and feelings as their own at one point, but who had somehow gained a life of peace without drinking.
Now, I get to share my own experience, strength, and hope with others who have a chance to recover from such an insidious disease. I can contribute to life and not feel like life disfavors me, as I once did.
I love my life today.