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 remember a number of years having terrible experiences with New Year’s Eve and drinking too much, doing something that was humiliating or that caused a problem in my marriage and then swearing I’d quit drinking for the new year.
As a lawyer, I had the idea that working hard and playing hard was expected and understandable, and the stresses of practicing law would always guide me back to the bar or at least to the bottle within a few days. I always felt so ashamed of myself for the failure to keep my resolution. I actually hated myself for not putting those I loved before my desire to get relief from drinking. I couldn’t see at the time that I was actually powerless to quit on my own. I needed help.
After several years of feeling ashamed of my weakness with alcohol, I finally saw a friend that I knew was a hard drinker like me and an attorney I also greatly respected. He appeared so happy and healthy, and I asked him what he was up to that made him seem so much better. He told me that he quit drinking and, because I knew that he drank to excess like I did for years, I was curious about what he did. A few days later, after I had a particularly rough weekend of drinking, I asked him for help, and he took me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where several lawyers were in attendance.
I got a sponsor and began working the steps of the program and attending meetings as well as attending Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers meetings. When I got my 30-day chip, I cried in disbelief. I was doing so much better with the healthier tools that the program offered me to get the relief I was seeking from alcohol.
I realize now that all of those times that I tried to quit drinking for New Year’s were futile because I was not providing myself any new tools to replace the unworkable relief that alcohol once provided. I needed the new way of life and the connection. I needed the honesty and selflessness of helping others.
After being sober for a few months, I became able to help others do the same and I continued to work the program. Being an attorney became so much easier without being enslaved to alcohol. I had so much more time in my life to do work and take care of myself. I was so much healthier physically and mentally, and I had a purpose beyond me.
Now when each new year begins, I reflect on the pain that I was in each year and I have tremendous gratitude for the world of recovery and to be a lawyer that has the history I do so that I can be of service to so many others. It is indeed a happy new year every year now.