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 had been a licensed attorney and member of the State Bar of Texas since 1984, almost 35 years. Then, in March 2019, I admitted myself into the Intensive Addiction Program, or IAP, in the psychiatric hospital at one of the top medical institutions in the world. Two weeks earlier I had flown from Texas to Minnesota for medical care and hopefully addiction treatment. I was so ashamed of who and what I had become—an active addict and alcoholic—that I traveled over 1,000 miles and almost 100 degrees for help. Two weeks earlier, on February 27, 2019, it was around 75 degrees when I left Texas and around 25 degrees below zero upon arrival in Minnesota.
I was almost 60 years old and, after many years of drinking alcohol and almost 10 years of using drugs, was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt. The doctors diagnosed me with multiple severe and potentially life-threatening medical conditions, including digestive, cardiac, and orthopedic disorders. I was also diagnosed with substance use disorders, or SUDS; cognitive impairment; and general anxiety disorder, or GAD.
In April 2019, after “graduating” from the IAP program, I admitted myself into an outpatient addiction program and then several continuing care programs. In all, I spent almost eight months in Minnesota receiving medical, emotional, and spiritual care. During those eight months, I started attending Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, and Narcotics Anonymous, or NA, meetings. At first, I was reluctant and resistant to 12-step meetings. I only attended my first AA meeting because we were “expected” to go. However, something happened to me. For maybe the first time in my life I felt unconditional love. I kept coming back, even after I was not expected to go anymore. I started going to over 10 meetings every week—not because I had to go but because I wanted to go.
I had always been extremely competitive, maybe over-competitive. I played competitive sports in high school and college and went to college on a sports scholarship. I loved to win and hated to lose. Maybe that is one reason I was attracted to trial law. As a young lawyer, I had to bill the most hours, then win the most cases, and then bring in the most clients. I graduated law school at 20 years old and was a partner in a law firm before 30. Eventually, I had everything a man could hope for—a beautiful and loving wife, two amazing children, a great career, and a big house with not two but four cars in the garage.
Although I should have been very happy, I was dissatisfied. I became addicted to “more, more, more.” Almost 10 years before I admitted myself into the addiction program, I had a major injury that limited my ability to “compete.” I was unable to play sports and practice law at the level I had come to expect from myself. As a direct result of my deluded over-competitiveness, I started taking narcotics to enable me to
continue to compete athletically and professionally. Since I had experimented with drugs in college and law school and then was able to stop for almost 25 years, I didn’t think I would get addicted. I was ignorant and naive, in retrospect. I became addicted to painkillers. I was in constant pain for years. I tried to stop the pills cold turkey but had horrible withdrawal symptoms.
I was sitting behind my Italian desk, in my marble and granite office building, unable to focus and unable to concentrate. I thought, Maybe a little cocaine would enable me to maintain at a competitive level. So, I tried cocaine, and it worked—initially. I was able to concentrate—the pain was better and I was extremely focused. At first, I used a little bit of cocaine to take depositions and attend hearings and mediations—all with great success. Then my addictive mind said, If a little would work that well…maybe more would be even better. At one point, my competitive juices were really flowing when a doctor friend said I was the most functional addict he had ever seen. However, it wasn’t long when the drugs started controlling me instead of me trying to control the drugs. I eventually “needed” the drugs to just function. I was no longer able to compete or perform. It was a most dysfunctional way to function.
I had to lose almost everything before I became willing to try almost anything. As a direct result of my addictive thinking, physical dependence, and mental obsession, I lost my wife, my practice, my friends, my reputation, and almost my children.
Several years ago, the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP, called me. However, due to my fear and shame, I called back and lied, saying I was fine when I was really very sick. Now I am glad to write this story and grateful to be a TLAP volunteer. My fear of losing and my fear of being “found out” significantly delayed my decision to get the help I needed. Today, I not only am not ashamed of my addiction but also know that my dark past is one of my greatest possessions. I am able to share my experience, strength, and hope with other alcoholics and addicts who are still suffering. There is a solution. I have wonderful loving relationships. I am a seeker of truth and no longer go to war every day with myself or with others. I am at peace and happy.