Memories Of Lenny Bias

I am pleased to present a new excerpt from my upcoming book,”The Addicted Lawyer”. The usual disclaimers. These excerpts are solely for content preview. These excerpts are not professionally edited. That occurs when I pay someone later. They also may not appear in this form in the published book. While your waiting for this book, feel free to read my previous book, Shattered Image.  You can also stay up to date by following  “The Addicted Lawyer” Facebook Page.

                                                              MEMORIES OF LENNY BIAS

There is one pause and “second guessing moment” during my drug and alcohol use I remember well during the climb to the apex of the addiction roller coaster when I still got the feelings of confidence and euphoria I was looking for.  It was in 1986.  The very first time I used cocaine. The downstairs bathroom of one of the nicest hotels in Dallas befitting of my powdered cocaine only status and my new status as a licensed attorney (at least in Pennsylvania, I had not take the Texas Bar yet).

Shiny marble, mouthwash and breath-mints and the ultimate bonus, a toilet door that closed completely so no one could see in. With the bathroom attendant standing just outside my door handing out towels and mints, (when bathroom attendants were common in upscale hotels) I carefully laid out three lines of cocaine given to me by the drug dealer I was introduced to for the first time twenty minute earlier. I rolled up a twenty-dollar bill and bent over the white Kohler commode. I laid out the lines of blow on top of mixing my cocaine in with grime, germs and undoubtedly the residue from previous guys like me.

As the cocaine begin it’s journey up the straw to change the course of my life, I had a thought.  I thought about a man I had never met. I thought about a sport  I hated, college basketball. I thought about a life tragically cut short by drugs. I thought about Lenny Bias.  Lenny, a first round draft pick of the NBA Boston Celtics in 1986.  Lenny, a “can’t miss” future NBA.  Lenny, a cautionary tale that anyone can die using cocaine the first time or the one-thousandth time. No warning. No second chance. Just dead.

Lenny died in such a way on July 19th 1986. Just under three months before I leaned over the toilet in that bathroom with a straw up my nose. It was international, front page news. It occurred to me in that moment that I  had no idea what I was putting my my nose any more than Lenny did. I was chasing a feeling that I had been chasing since my teens. That chase was more powerful then thoughts of Lenny. The chase was more powerful than the other fleeting, cautionary, sound judgment thoughts that went through my mind. Addiction hijacks caution and judgment. It didn’t matter. Moments later, I would love who I saw in the mirror. I would be invincible for short period. I would want to be invincible again. What happened to Lenny would never happen to me.  He just had bad luck.  The mind of an addict.

The Addicted Lawyer: Moot Court Meets Jose Cuervo

I am pleased to present a new excerpt from my upcoming book,”The Addicted Lawyer”. The usual disclaimers. These excerpts are solely for content preview. These excerpts are not professionally edited. That occurs when I pay someone later. They also may not appear in this form in the published book. While your waiting for this book, feel free to read my previous book, Shattered Image.

One of my favorite lines is from a dark comedy entitled, “Swimming With Sharks.”  With the “sharks”reference, you might think it’s about lawyers . It’s actually about the cut-throat world of the Los Angeles movie production industry. In one particular scene, the character, “Buddy Ackerman” a top movie executive, played by Kevin Spacy, is on the phone berating a subordinate over differences in opinion concerning how a movie should be made. He closes with:

“Say this one time with me: “Would you like that in a pump or a loafer?”… Good. Now memorize it, because starting tomorrow, the only job that you’re going to be able to get is selling SHOES! “

While Swimming With Sharks had not been made yet,  and not said in quite that way to me, if you changed “selling shoes” to  “job after graduation”, that is exactly how I felt as I walked out of my first and last moot court competition at Pitt Law. It would have helped if I was sober. Moot court, meet Jose Cuervo.

What is Moot Court? For the non-legal types reading this book, it is competition between burgeoning litigators, appellate gurus and law students who want to hone their debate and critical thinking skills in various legal subjects. Not a required rite of law school but many voluntarily participate to have their  legal arguments  and sometimes self worth, verbally hacked to death by law student student judges, professors and sometimes actual judges.

For me, volunteering to participate in a process that would further degrade my sense of self worth was akin to agreeing to be water-boarded. So how did I end up sitting before a moot court panel of law student “judges” trying to argue the in’s and outs of the 4th amendment implications of Illinois vs. Gates.   How did I end up drinking before I walked into that room so I muster up the courage to show up for the competition? Much the same reason I ended up in the Marines Officer Candidates School the summer before.  If I was able to show up, look those who are trying to break me down in the eye and make and argument. It would fix me.  I often wonder if I am the only law student ever to show up for such a competition, probably not legally intoxicated, but certainly not sober. In the history of history, probably not, but I feel safe in saying I am in an “elite” group.

A week later, as we walked I walked out of my post-argument evaluation with the same student judges who smirked and sighed at my incompetency, wondering if they smelled the alcohol on my breath but not really caring, my moot court, partner Eric, said, “I think I did ok. They told me I had the potential to be a star. How did you do?”  I said, “about how I expected to do” and walked away thinking about my future selling shoes.




Heroin-The White Cheerleader Problem

The National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence, St Louis Chapter took the bold step of creating an anti-heroin public service announcement(PSA) and air it during the Superbowl, apparently only in the St. Louis area.

The gist of the PSA, which is below, is a white cheerleader struggling with heroin addiction with images of her all-white cheer-leading squad cheering..  “Give Me An H!…. Give me an E!… you can figure out the rest. Let’s not forget to leave out the sad eyed white dog. (I’m color blind so if Rover is  more off-colored white, my apologies) Vivid images of white suburbia, solidifying the  disenfranchising, “addiction is just a white ,suburban problem” message.

I would have been more diverse in  my portrayal of the issue and the ‘drugs are bad” message is tried an failed on multiple levels on both a preventative and awareness level. It just does not work. Teens know heroin is bad.  Addiction transcends that message. This is not rocket science. Anyone in the recovery sphere knows this. “Just Say No”  does not work. End of story. Do your research.  Ask your friend who is struggling if he/ or she already knows heroin is destructive.

The most bizarre part of all is that this PSA aired only in St. Louis.  A community which according to latest stats, has an overall minority demographic of about 50 percent. I won’t look it up, but I suspect some them are teens addicted to heroin.  I am sure a group of suburban ,all-white cheerleaders really resonates with that community. Add sarcasm font.

In short, while the PSA is well intended, it comes of as sexualized, creepy, and as disenfranchising  everyone who is an addict other than  white suburban teens.  How could the St. Louis Chapter of the NCADD not see this before they hit upload?

Back to the drawing board. Hopefully the next PSA will focus on the underlying reasons teens make the choice and the treatment that is available for those who do. I think we all agree. Heroin is bad. WE don’t have to keep repeating it.  Let’s try something else.

The Addicted Lawyer: When Relationships Fail

I am pleased to present a new excerpt from my upcoming book,”The Addicted Lawyer”. The usual disclaimers. These excerpts are solely for content preview. These excerpts are not professionally edited. That occurs when I pay someone later. They also may not appear in this form in the published book. While your waiting for this book, feel free to read my previous book, Shattered Image.

December 1990. Driving home from work.  Listening to music. The Righteous Brothers, Unchained Melody starts playing. “re-popularized” from the  star-making movie for Patrick Swayze, “Ghost” which has been released a few months earlier. Seems like its repeating every other song. I now know the words by heart. I start quietly singing along.

And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Tears. Bawling. I have to pull over. Screaming at the top of my lungs. “I am sorry!” I am so sorry!” “Don’t Leave!”

It does not matter.  She is gone. We are still in the same house but she is gone. I have never known so much pain. I have never known such intense grief. The grief of failure. The grief of loss.  I had never told anyone I had loved them before. No one had ever told me they loved me as part of a romantic relationship.  “I love you”.  Magic words to me. The words of acceptance. The words that told me someone saw more than I saw in myself.  The most important words in the world to me.  As I release primal screams of pain in my car, those words seemed like ages ago. Like they never happened.

We had met at a bar. My favorite hangout, Fast and Cool.   I was drunk and high. Cocaine had become part of my survival routine.  Wearing a fake diamond earring. I can’t stand out for you I really am. It’s easier to stand out as someone I am not.  She told me I looked like Bruce Springsteen.

I loved her southern West Texas accent.  A sharp contrast to my “Yankee” Pittsburgh accent.  The lies of alcohol and cocaine right from the get-go. Lies designed to make someone interested me because no one attractive could possible love what I saw every time I looked in the mirror.  She liked that I walked her to her car and asked permission to kiss her. When I gave her an alcohol and cocaine aided goodnight kiss, she was only the third woman I had kissed in my life.

February 1991. The last time we be together as a married couple. The Blue Goose Cantina in Dallas.  We are separated but I still hold out hope. I have moved in with my brother Mark.  He is always there for me. Rescuing me. I love him.  She lives in our house.  Our dream as young lovers contemplating our future. The dreams of many young couples.  A house. Children. Dog. Till death do us part. She pulls out a list.

“Brian, I’ve made a list of the pros and cons of our marriage” I miss the comfort. I miss the security.  I however don’t miss you. I want a divorce.

Less than two years in, and now its over.  It was over less than a year in. We just didn’t know it. Or maybe we did and didn’t care.  Girls night out. Guys night out.  Bars. Drinking.  Her girls night out was the country bars. Mine was doing blow. She didn’t know. Easy to hide when we are not together.   It was more important to me to live that life.  I was a child in a young mans body. I had never learned how to allow myself to be loved.

There was an impenetrable wall around me to protect myself from the thoughts I knew she was thinking.  At least that’s what I thought. I never asked her. In my mind, asking meant hearing the truth of who I was. A fat, ugly little boy.  A cocaine user. A bulimic. An alcoholic. Running, was my only solace. Running from myself.  I ran.

The moment I have been dreading.  She is coming to my office at Transport Insurance with the papers. The office phone rings.  It rings again. I almost let it go to voicemail.  It doesn’t matter anymore. Avoidance wont bring her back.  She is at the reception desk front with her mother.  The fifty feet of walking to the reception area seems like three football fields. My legs feel like they are encased in lead. They don’t want to move.  Look at the floor. One foot in front of the other.

I don’t want to do it in the lobby. I don’t want to cry in the lobby. I don’t want my failure to be in the lobby.  It’s always been my failure. We walk out to the car.  I sign the papers. She is crying.  In sixty days, its over.  I walk back to my office I shut my door. I think of the Righteous Brothers. I start to cry. No one will ever love me again.  Relationships are hard enough but when substance use is added to the mix, and recovery is not a part of the picture, not many survive. I was no exception.