When Religion And Recovery Collide

There are two major 12-step based groups for alcohol. One is, of course, Alcoholics Anonymous. The other is Celebrate Recovery, which is Christian based. In order to comply with the “11th Tradition” (which I find both outdated and ridiculous, but that’s for another time), I will simply state that I am not in Celebrate Recovery. You can draw your conclusions about my recovery program from there.

June 2007: Two months into my sobriety. Sitting at a table at the normal Sunday morning post 12-step meeting gathering at the Corner Bakery. I’m angry. Agitated. Combative. Worried. I have no interest in the “spiritual” aspect of 12-step, which to me feels more like pure religious indoctrination, even if there is no specific faith to it.  It feels like it suffocates me in every meeting. Everyone joining hands to recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer to close each meeting (I stay silent during its recitation.) Talk of God. Talk of the “god of my understanding.”  Is there a difference? Read the Big Book. Work the Steps. It will all become clear to you. It sounds like jargon to me. I have to remember that even in 12-step, people are still people. There are competing views of what spirituality means. To some, it is inextricably tied to religious beliefs. There’s talk from a few in the groups about how no one can get sober if they don’t believe in God. My blood pressure goes up. I look at the clock, then the door. Talk of how the chapter in the Big Book entitled “We Agnostics” will make everything clear does not soothe me.  I don’t want to be told about any “god of my understanding” as a necessity to getting sober. It makes me feel sometimes as if 12-step isn’t right for me. But I have to look at the upside, and the upside is that I am two months sober. I can’t remember the last time I strung together two months without a drink. I try to focus on that. I focus on the support of my family and girlfriend who had stuck with me, despite the brutal betrayal of her trust.  I have to focus on the support of the group itself, of people who have been through some of the same things I’ve been through, and who have the power to make me feel less alone in my struggle.

The coffee is ordered. I’m sitting with two old timers. Let’s call them Zed and Emma. They have well over 50 years of sobriety between them. Zed also happens to be an attorney and retired judge with a very long and successful career. As I start to dig into my vegetarian omelet, Zed walks over to me and says in a near whisper, “Brian, Emma and I would like to speak to you privately.”

“Sure, let’s sit over here away from the group.”

Emma says, “Brian, if you want to stay sober, you need to accept god into your life.”

Cue the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. My body temperature rises, my temples pulse. The room is cool, but all of a sudden I’m sweating as if I’ve just done a couple of lines of blow.

“I’m not going to say that, Emma. It’s not what I believe. I’ve made that very clear in group.”

Zed says, “Brian, yes, you have, but you need to read and study the Big Book. Read the chapter entitled ‘We Agnostics.’ Brian, you’re a lawyer correct? So am I. Let’s approach this from a legal standpoint.”

“What does my being an attorney have to do with my belief or lack of belief in god? It’s no one’s business but mine.”

Brian, you understand how to logically approach things, and I’m telling you logically you need to acknowledge a god, any god. Just pick something, anything, and then say, ‘. . . otherwise known as god.’”

I swivel my head side to side to see if anyone else is catching this and wonder if I’m on some type of hidden camera reality show.

“I’ll consider it. Please feel free to finish my breakfast. Have a good day.”

There are certain moments in the trajectory of my addiction descent and recovery that I’ll always remember. The moment the bullies physically assaulted me because of my heavy weight and tore my pants off. That moment in the parking lot the psychiatric hospital when I decided that I was probably going to die and was going to lose my family if I did not take that first step toward recovery. The moment when two people who truly insisted that a belief in god was necessary to have long-term sobriety tried to shove religion down my throat as a prerequisite to recovery. It was a moment that felt like a threat to my whole plan of recovery, since 12-step was seeming like maybe an imperfect fit. But it was an important moment, because I pressed on anyway. Eventually finding a place in the room where I was able to calmly tune out that part and make recovery my own despite attempts of others to conform me to their version of recovery at a time when I was at my most vulnerable and in pain.

To be clear, that story is a criticism of the approach of two people, not 12-step. Recovery programs are programs of people, and when you’re interacting in recovery groups, regardless of type, there will be all kinds of personalities and agendas beyond just getting sober. Sides of the street become blurred and some cross over to tell others what your recovery should be without being asked, instead of working their own side of the street.

I get setbacks, and I understand dropping out from recovery programs. Whether it’s some self-righteous person in the 12-step group, the 12-step philosophy and mantra, family discord, stress, trauma, there is always a reason to not stay sober. It’s what happened in that moment when I could have used it as a reason to quit that defined me. I don’t go to that group anymore, but I did keep going back. Of course there are those whose religious faith is of extreme importance in their recovery, in and out of 12-step. There are those who find it a huge stumbling block and hypocritical.  Let there be no mistake, in my opinion. AA is a religious program.  I frankly don’t see how a group can recite the Lord’s Prayer and say it’s not religious with a straight face, but many do find ways to breach that type of institutional intellectual dishonesty. To be fair, there are secular AA groups in some cities such as Dallas, but it’s not a position endorsed by the organization which has been accused of de-listing such meetings. A position seemingly more concerned with protecting the mantra than improving the outcomes. I am a humanist. I will continue to attend meetings. I will not join with the group in reciting the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity prayer. It’s how I live and pay it forward that matters to me, not dogma handed down over 70 years.  My anecdotes are not science, but regardless, recovery must evolve. I hope one day 12-step will evolve with it, at a minimum, by doing away with the intellectual dishonesty that at least anecdotally, I know has driven people out of the program and kept some looking for recovery from going in. Religious conflict has a way of doing that. “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” or “look how many they help” are not justifications for stagnancy. Look at the numbers of people dying from both alcohol and opiates. We should always be looking for ways to improve outcomes. Every moment. Every minute. Every second. 12-step included.



Realizing Your Dreams In Recovery

If you would have asked me as an 18-year-old what my dreams and aspirations were as I walked out the doors of Mt. Lebanon High School in 1979, they would have been rooted in pain and loneliness. To one day hold the hand of a girl who liked me. To have my first kiss. To be someone who was not painfully shy and withdrawn. To go someplace where I would be accepted and not bullied.

If you would have asked me my dreams and aspirations as a 22-year-old graduating from Penn State and heading to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, much of it would be the same. Kiss a girl. Go on a date. Lose my virginity. Run a marathon or two. I had little vision of my future beyond what was at the tip of my any nose at any particular moment. None of my dreams involved being a successful law student and lawyer. I was already an alcoholic, also dealing with both exercise and traditional bulimia. Life was about day-to-day survival. It was not the future.

At age 27, after moving to Dallas and doing my first line of cocaine, visions of my present and future became influenced by drug addiction. Cocaine gave the feelings of being handsome and successful with a bright future.  Of course, my real life was much more painful and different. It was therefore logical to me to do as much cocaine as I could and get drunk often to maintain the illusion — or delusion — of my present and future as it goes.

In July of 2005, I had no vision of my future. There was only a black hole. I decided to end my life.  Fortunately, family and friends knew something was wrong and intervened.

On April 8, 2007, as I took my first steps into sobriety, my perspective on my present and future possibilities slowly began to change. At first, the future was simply getting through the day without drinking or doing a line. Going to my weekly therapy to deal with the co-occurring mental-health issues and a childhood I was running away from.

As I began to string together day after day of sobriety and therapy, the pinhole of sunlight in the tunnel to my future grew larger and larger. I began to see the meaning of loving myself, dealing with life on life’s terms, and allowing myself to be loved. I began to slowly embrace a future of possibilities. I began to write. A journal. My blog. Expressive writing filled with the release of anger. Even then, however, I never envisioned the possibility of being a published author. As I began to realize the power of expressive writing in both my recovery and letting others know that they are not alone in their pain, the first thoughts of one day writing a book entered my mind.

Today, I sit here, having achieved that dream. A dream that would have never occurred without long-term recovery.  For the second time in my life, I am an author.  Last week, my book, “The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow, & Redemption” (affiliate link) was released.

I was able to convince both a literary agent and a traditional publisher that my book was a worthy risk.  It was not an easy sell. Addiction and mental health awareness in the legal profession is for the most part a taboo, niche topic despite the fact that a recent study found that we suffer from problem drinking at a rate three to five times the rate of the general public, with similarly high rates of depression and anxiety. Law students did not fare much better in another study.

The Addicted Lawyer is a culmination of much reflection on my life as a law student and lawyer dealing with those issues. I, however, wanted it to be more than just my story. I reached out to other law students and lawyers who have struggled and found their way to long-term recovery. I reflected on those I know who did not make it.  I talked to those in the legal profession whose job it is to both help lawyers and law students recover and deal with the consequences that often come with substance use.

More than anything, the Addicted Lawyer is about redemption.  My redemption. The ability for all to find recovery and redemption, even if the consequences require a re-defining of our hopes and dreams.  Not long ago, I saw an advertisement in the Texas Bar Journal for a keynote I am giving about my journey at the State Bar Conference this week. There was a time I wondered if I would appear in the list of suspended and disbarred in the journal. Full circle. Redemption.  I am no longer the Addicted Lawyer. I am a lawyer, a person, in long-term recovery.  In recovery, all is possible.


My Third Trip To A Psychiatric Facility

psychiatristTrip #1.  July 22, 2005. A dark room. Table, desk, chairs. With me is a staff psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse at Green Oaks Hospital.  Nearby are my brothers, Mark and Jeff.  As I sit and listen to the doctor’s questions, I have a vague recollection of my younger brother rousing me from my bed, an angry confrontation, my .45 automatic lying on my nightstand. There was no point in continuing into a black hole. Then shock and confusion on the drive to the treatment center.

The residuals of cocaine, Xanax, and Jack Daniels are still coursing through my veins, but the fog is lifting slightly. Raging anger is settling in its place. Battle lines are being drawn in my mind. They want to take me prisoner. It’s war. I’ll lead the inmate rebellion.

Questions from the psychiatrist pierce my anger like tracer rounds. What drugs have you taken? How are you feeling? Do you want to harm yourself?  He scribbles my fate on the intake sheet. The anger is powerful.  My belief is that if I died, it would teach everyone a lesson and do them a favor.

Trip #2.  April 7, 2007. I am in a daze. An hour before, I had been awakened by my girlfriend (now wife).  She had been out of town visiting family for Easter weekend. I had no idea what day or time it was. Not realizing the weekend was over. Two days had passed.  I had blacked out.  There was cocaine and empty alcohol bottles in the bedroom. My black-market Ambien bottle half empty. No idea how many I had taken.

The familiar ride to the Green.  The familiar haze.  In the parking lot of the hospital, I realized that if I did not get honest starting at that moment, there would be no hope for our future or my future. Right there in that parking lot, through all the drugs, the tears, and anger on her part.  It was time for the self-styled emperor to put away his fancy new duds.  There was no control. There was no life. There was no future. I was naked in the mirror. I finally saw Brian. What I saw made me sick to my stomach. I had failed at life. I had now, in my mind, failed every single person who had ever loved me.  If I did not get honest starting at that moment, there would be no hope for a future with the people I love and who loved me. Families love.  Families care. Families can also distance themselves when no effort is made to at least take one small step towards recovery.

Trip #3. October 15, 2015.  Back in the Green Oaks parking lot.  This time, I am alone.  A rush of feelings and memories as I pull into the parking lot.  My brothers are in fear. My girlfriend in tears.  The intake desk.  The familiar room where I sat with the attending psychiatrist.


Xanax Memories

medication medicine pills drugsYears of accumulated change in shoe box. Susan B. Anthony Dollars. Fifty-cent pieces. My first-day desire chip taken from “John G.” sobbing, powerless, and broken. My one and five-year sobriety chips. Worn, corroded pennies, nickels, and dimes.

A box of memories. Memories of bouncing a basketball while I stole quarters from my father’s change jar as a teen so he would not hear me. Memories of pouring water into the whisky bottles so he wouldn’t know I was siphoning his liquor cabinet. Memories of hiding my cocaine and black-market Xanax in this very box buried beneath the loose change. An almost nightly combination punctuated by the once sickening, 6 a.m. sounds of the blue-bird’s and robin’s wake up songs after being up all night.  Fragmented memories and dreams.

Read the rest on my column at Above The Law.

Xanax Memories


Eating Disorders: A Secret In The Legal Profession

I remember the day in April 2007 I finally confided to my psychiatrist that I was struggling with drugs and alcohol. I did not mention at that time that I had also struggled with both exercise and traditional bulimia for over two decades

I felt completely stigmatized and alone in my eating disorder and did not feel that anyone, including him could understand or help. Adding to the stigma was my profession. Not only was I a male with an eating disorder, I was a male lawyer with an eating disorder. How stigmatizing was that? I have spoken openly about my eating disorder recovery for years and to this day, I am unaware of any other male in the legal profession who has publicly professed to dealing with an eating disorder. The hard statistics of how many males are afflicted with eating disorders tell us that they are of course out there.  Along those same lines, I have received numerous emails from females in the legal profession who are struggling or are in recovery from both anorexia and bulimia.

Why do males struggling with eating disorders in in the legal profession seem to be so few and far between?  We can look to a recent study of mental health issues in law school published by the Journal of Legal Education, which found 27% of law students (18% of male respondents and 34% of female respondents) screened positive for eating disorders.  Yet only 3% of respondents had actually been diagnosed.  While I do not have the breakdown, I suspect that the majority of that three percent diagnosed is female.

I believe one reason for this reluctance to seek treatment compounded on top of the strong societal stigma is the culture of the legal profession. The fear of showing weakness and vulnerability.  The fear of showing “weakness” is so ingrained into our thought process as lawyers and even starting as law students that as a profession, we are often unable to distinguish between how feelings need to be channeled to do our best to excel in the profession versus what we need to do to help ourselves when we are struggling with mental health issues. We have difficulty stepping back and embracing the vulnerability of telling people when we are struggling as being a virtue.

Here is the catch. This type of vulnerability is something that is absolutely necessary in mental health recovery. Particularly eating disorder recovery.  It may involve opening up the well of emotions that may date back over a lifetime that are holding you back from getting better. Not a pleasant thought, is it? Very counter-intuitive to the projection of knowledge, competency, and strength in the profession

I can tell you that while I struggled with my eating disorder, and then moved into recovery, that recovery did not begin in earnest until I allowed myself to be vulnerable in a setting that I felt safe to do so. And it took time to feel safe. I finally got honest with my psychiatrist and those close to me. I then began to move forward in a positive way. I had been lying by omission for years, simply getting my anti-depressant meds and not opening up about all the unresolved pain, layer upon layer going back to childhood. The mentally abusive relationship with my mother. The severe bullying as a teenager. (I do not blame either as causes of my eating disorder. As we know, there is a difference between cause and correlation.) The feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth also played a role. While there is no other history of eating disorders in my family, the role of genetics cannot be dismissed as well.

I see this issue regularly when I speak to lawyers and law students who are struggling. People who would rather pull their toenails out with their teeth than talk about such things. Talk about the pain of a little boy or girl, failed relationships, trouble at home. Possible environmental triggers that have been long buried in the subconscious.

It’s easier to simply say, “I’m over that,” and move on. To emotionally isolate from the world. To compartmentalize the pain. But they often have not moved on and those feelings are always just under the surface, waiting to trigger destructive behaviors or playing a role in not dealing with the ones already present. The stress of billing. Stress of trial. Stress of grades. Problems at home. Childhood trauma. The list of possible triggers is endless.  I totally get that. Binging and purging was a huge stress release for me during both law school and as practicing lawyer. The same was true of my obsessive-compulsive exercise. Probably my biggest trigger issue present day.

I am here to tell you that allowing myself to be vulnerable and let those feelings out was a key in my long-term eating disorder recovery which now stands at just over ten years.  Those feelings that dated back to childhood no longer control me.  I even write letters to my teenage self.  I talk to my “inner child.” Doesn’t sound very “manly” or “lawyer-like,” does it?  It does not mean telling everyone your childhood secrets. It means realizing that being vulnerable and facing such feelings is both beneficial and necessary in moving forward in recovery. Find a safe setting. Give it a try.

 

 


Being A Feeler In A Profession Of Thinkers

depressed lawyerLawyers and law students, at least anecdotally, often seem to be driven, Type-A personalities who might in some ways be at higher risk for addictive behaviors. Perhaps the ways we fit the lawyer “type” has something to do with propensity for mental health issues and addiction. Or maybe sometimes it’s the way we don’t fit in that matters. I certainly felt more stress through the years from the ways I wasn’t a typical lawyer than the ways that I was.  While I never felt particularly stressed from the desire to excel either in law school or as a lawyer, I was stressed because I was miserable for other reasons. I’d chosen an occupation for all the wrong reasons that had no relation to who I was as a person.

Read the rest on my weekly column at Above The Law

http://abovethelaw.com/2017/04/being-a-feeler-in-a-profession-of-thinkers/

Reflecting On 10 Years Of Sobriety

Sobriety highway signI will celebrate my 10th year of sobriety on April 8, 2017.  While I generally take my sobriety one day at time, I am 99.999 percent certain I am going to still be sober on April 8, so you are getting this a few days early.

On April 6, 2007, however, my thoughts were not of even one day of sobriety. My expectation was that I was going to be able to party two days straight because my girlfriend of just over a year had left town for the weekend. She knew nothing about my heavy alcohol and illicit drug use or my underlying mental health issues dating back to childhood.  In addition to my J.D., I had a Ph.D. in wearing whatever mask of respectability I needed for periods long enough to fool those who needed to be fooled. My friends. My family. My clients. The lawyers I worked with.  My significant other.

Read the rest on my column at Above The Law

Reflecting On 10 Years Of Sobriety


Let’s Talk About Self-Harm

failed bar exam sad lawyerI recently came across a study that found that a quarter of young men ages 16-24 turn to self-harm to cope with depression, anxiety, and stress — a trio of mental health issues that can define many a law student and lawyer experience. Especially the first year of law school in which the average age of a law student is 24 years old.

I was not able to find any data on the number of law students, either male or female, who either had engaged in self harm or are currently self-harming. I can tell you anecdotally that I was one of those self-harming law students and then lawyer. Something that until 2013 I had buried deep within my subconscious of shame and stigma.

Read the rest on my column at Above The Law.

Let’s Talk About Self Harm


(Guest Post) How the Law Leads Those Suffering from Drug Dependency to Recovery – Even if you’ve Never Worn Handcuffs.

Those suffering from an SUD (substance use disorder) and the law don’t mix. Or do they? If you’re a person living with a substance use disorder you’ve had a run in with the law in one form or another. Maybe you were lucky and never got arrested as a result of your SUD. Maybe you found yourself behind bars at some point as a consequence of your SUD. In either case, the law was working for your recovery. The law affects every person who suffers from a SUD in one way or the other in three ways. They do this by enforcing moral standards of society, by deterring drug use, or by public education and rehabilitation efforts. The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to how the law has brought many to recovery in one way or the other.

The law decides what taboo is.

The law is not your friend while you are using. This is true for anyone who’s struggled with a SUD. They (the lawmakers) outright ban the substances you’re dependent upon. Some completely legal drugs are habit-forming too. In this case they control the amount you can receive or ingest. You’re trying to survive, I get it. But all you do is obsess over getting that next fix. The last thing on your mind is whether your behavior is appropriate or not.

Substances like meth, heroin, and cocaine are illegal, but also completely obtainable. You can get them about anywhere. Why then, are they illegal? Substances are illegal because the government functions as a buffer between “we the people” and the safety of its citizens. They also function as a moral guide that determines taboo behavior such as drug use. Maybe you’re a person from a family with little to no ground rules on moral behavior. This is when the law steps in and sets that boundary of moral behavior for you. At some point when the law sets that boundary, it might make you ponder your lifestyle and consider recovery. Recovery might occur when you realize that the monster you are up against is never going to change. Your lifestyle of using will always be immoral.

Consequences and Deterrents

The government determines which drugs are dangerous, and they create laws to impose on those who violate them. The War on Drugs is nothing new; it is a part of American History. Opium was at one point used, as alcohol is today. Once a substance becomes taboo or considered dangerous, they attempted to deter drug use through the creation of laws.

Whether the law deters drug use or not is a debatable topic for another article. Consider though, that the intent is to deter individuals from doing drugs by imposing consequences. When I was using I knew the consequences of dealing were far worse than the consequences of using. This deterred me from dealing. The controlled environment of a jail cell is those suffering from a SUD’s worst nightmare. For some, one run-in with the judicial system is enough to lead them to recovery. For some, it takes many run-ins with the law, but they consider recovery because they can’t beat the system.

The law tries to fix you.

Who remembers sitting through D.A.R.E assemblies in school? D.A.R.E. was a result of a spike in drug use in L.A. in the 80’s. The law intervened and started to program with the vision to decrease drug use amongst kids and it educates kids as a prevention tool. I sat through the D.A.R.E. program in school like any other kid. It taught me that drug use was bad. I still decided to use drugs. But, there are success stories from kids who quit experimenting with drugs and alcohol from educational programs such as this. Programs like these begin in elementary and follow kids through high school. If forced education and morals don’t work, how about forced treatment then?

Most, if not all, people who receive a DUI have to go to drunk driving school to get their license back. The government aims at educating you on SUD’s. Also, they may mandate substance use counseling which is often where recovery begins. Some people charged with a drug offense have an opportunity to avoid stiff sentencing if they opt for SUD treatment. The seed of recovery is then planted, sometimes forcibly.

A lot of people living with SUD would have never considered recovery if it weren’t for the law. Regardless if you’ve ever worn handcuffs or not, the law still has a presence in those struggling with SUD’s life, and attempts to bring them to recovery. Even if you think you’ve never had a “run-in” with the law, you have in one form or another. Sometimes the moral consequences are enough to lead people to recovery. The education outreach is enough to bring someone to recovery. The laws may act as a deterrent from drugs, or may force someone into recovery someday.

It is said that the arm of the law is long. It reaches even those who don’t want to be reached. It plants seeds of recovery into all its citizens. It plants those into recovery those who sometimes don’t want to be planted. The growth however, is optional. Russell Brand has said “the mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction, and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.” Choose recovery. It’s the best kind of conformity there is.

Author Bio: Hey I’m Rachel. I write what my heart tells me to in an effort to carry out the 12th step…serving others. I have a BA in Sociology and am working my MA in Human Services Counseling specializing in Addiction and Recovery. I hope to be a LCDC sometime in the next year. My biggest success though, is sobriety from drugs and alcohol, and recovery for depression and anxiety. I own 25 acres recreational land of Texas, which includes a stocked pond, a creek, trees, and trails for exploring. If I’m not working or running the kids to soccer or swim, you can find me there.

*This is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the the views of Brian Cuban.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Is Alcoholics Anonymous For You?

April 2007. I walk up to the door of the building where area Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are held. My family is pushing hard for in-patient treatment but I refuse. My psychiatrist feels that a trip here is the first step to long-term sobriety. Lucky for me, the building is right next to his office. If it hadn’t been convenient, I might have just made excuses to not go at all. For an addict, excuses are often more plentiful than reasons for recovery. The present is more important than the future — the present of the high.

After pacing around outside the doorway for a long time, I finally peer down the long hallway into the room where people are gathering. I’m afraid of being recognized. My ego is still paramount in my worries. “I’m a lawyer. There are no lawyers in in AA or treatment. My one client left needs me!”

My mind flashes back to one of my favorite childhood movies, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I suddenly imagine that as soon as I enter the meeting room, I’ll be carried away by a team of chanting Oompa Loompas determined to punish me for my bad habits. I have no desire to meet the Oompa Loompas on the other side of that door.

I finally walk down the hall into the meeting room, and I can smell the fumes of stale cigarette smoke and day-old coffee. My eyes lock onto the 1950s tile floor, ingrained with the dirt of countless feet. There are other people milling around in room. Are these the people with whom I was supposed to share my darkest secrets? Would I be made fun of, teased, or insulted? Who are these people? Skid row bums? That’s my perception of AA. I think of Nick Cage’s character, Ben, living in the sleazy “no-tell motel” as he drinks himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas. Dick Van Dyke’s character, Charlie, drunk, alone on the beach with no future in The Morning After.

 Deep breath. Don’t look around. Eyes down at the floor. That fixed point. Watch the feet move forward. One baby step at a time to a waiting chair. It’s the way I’m able to accomplish things in life. It’s how I was able to finish eight marathons. Facing any difficult task, my best self is that part of me that can place one foot in front of the other until a goal is accomplished. Don’t look left. Don’t look right. Don’t think about the finish line. I sit down. I listen. I cry. At the end of the meeting, I take a desire chip. The most important journey in my life begins.

As you have probably figured out, I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous. I know I am irritating some who believe we should not talk publicly about being in AA. I believe we should be empowered to share all aspects of our personal journey if we choose to. I find it perplexing that we as attorneys in recovery, who spend our lives engaged in critical thought and using data, will exclude AA from that process as if there is some magical healing power to not discussing both its benefits and flaws when there is no empirical data to support the notion that talking publicly about being in AA, then relapsing publicly, will cause someone to not enter the program.

Certain aspects of AA have worked for me to date. I completely disregard other aspects. The sober connections I found in group were, and are, important to me. The people. The stories that tell me I am not alone. I, however, have never been as keen on the spiritual aspects and certain rituals of the program. I have no interest in saying the lords prayer to close a meeting so I don’t join in.  That’s just me. You may like that. You may need that. Those issues however, have never been a deterrent to me in my program like they are for some who reject AA as their mode of recovery.

In speaking to law students and other lawyers about recovery, while some embrace the program, some would rather find others ways to long-term sobriety and have. Through their church. Through non-12-step-based programs such as Smart Recovery. Through both 12-step-based and non-12-step-based residential treatment. Through collegiate recovery programs. Through informal local attorney support groups. I know a few lawyers who have gotten sober on their own, although I would never recommend that path to start. There are many paths to recovery available today that were not available in 1935 when AA was founded.  AA has also not been my only mode of therapy. I have been seeing a psychiatrist for over a decade. I take anti-depressant medication daily. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have been important in my recovery. Let’s not lose sight of the goal: To be a person in long-term recovery regardless of the path chosen. The most important decision of your life should be one of reflection and critical thought. It’s your journey. If it’s AA, that’s great. If it’s another path, get on it. Recovery awaits.

*The 11th tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) states, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.  I acknowledge that discussing my personal AA participation may run contrary to that tradition. I however, have been completely open and honest in the public realm about all aspects of my recovery since my first year of sobriety. I have received both criticism and support during that time. To suddenly change now would be disingenuous to what I believe and have always believed about rigorous honesty and self-determination when it comes to personal anonymity and the need for public critical discussion about every mode of recovery. Your choice may be different and I have the utmost respect for that.  Please don’t email me recitations of the 11th tradition. I obviously know what it says. Thank you

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  1. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance.html
  2. http://collegiaterecovery.org/programs/
  3. http://www.aa.org/
  4. http://www.smartrecovery.org/
  5. http://www.celebraterecovery.com/