Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery blog series. 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) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.
I had my first drink when I was 16 years old, and I was in heaven. That feeling of escape came almost immediately, taking me away from the problems I could not confront at home. Growing up, I was often told I was too sensitive expressing my feelings was never permitted. In fact, I was shamed when my feelings came out. So, I internalized my feelings for years, wanting to please others—particularly my family of origin—when that was impossible, because they were sick too! The more I internalized, the more I drank. A couple of doctors and counselors in my undergrad and law school years advised me I had a drinking problem. No matter, I thought, because I could not imagine my life without alcohol.
I was a binge drinker. It really picked up in law school and carried over to my early years in private practice. I didn’t drink every day, but that’s where I was heading before I finally got sober. I got married young and received my law license the same year. Ever the people pleaser, I went to work at my dad’s firm, first as a law clerk, then as an associate attorney. I secretly hated myself for making that choice, but my wife’s dad had died unexpectedly, and I thought working for my dad was the only answer. I didn’t know how to ask for help then like I do now.
I was constantly on edge, thinking I wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t measure up because I was working for my dad. I would yell on the phone, raise my voice, and dreaded going to work each day. And I would retreat to alcohol to numb the pain, usually embarrassing my wife and myself in the process. This became a constantly recurring cycle to where I was drinking alone when my wife, pregnant with our first child, would go upstairs to bed. After a night of heavy drinking in isolation, I blacked out, got behind the wheel of a car, and woke up on our couch downstairs. My wife was nowhere to be found, and when she recounted to me what I had done and said to her, I knew something had to give.
I haven’t had a drink since that night in August 2007 and, by the grace of God, none of my three children have seen me drink either. Thanks to my recovery, I try to make service the heart of everything I do, particularly when it comes to my family. I try to talk through my feelings and retreat outward instead of inward, as I recognize my sobriety involves more than just quitting drinking. I’m able to establish healthy boundaries to honor and preserve my sobriety each day, and I’m able to be of better service to others instead of myself at work. To relieve my stress and anxiety, I exercise regularly now instead of resorting to alcohol.
I’m firmly convinced that I would have lost my marriage, my law license, and much more had I not fully surrendered and admitted that I was alcoholic. Now, I can’t imagine my life without recovery—it’s present in all that I do and it’s truly one day at a time for me.