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


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


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

*

 

 

  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/

Law Schools Empowering Student Recovery

Wooden signpost with two opposite arrows over clear blue sky, Addiction and Life signs, Choice conceptual imageI thought it would be nice to every now and then, feature a law school taking proactive steps to make sure the student body is empowered to seek help for problematic drinking, drug use and other mental health issues. The first school is the Southern Illinois University School of Law (SIU Law).

I reached out to Dean and Professor of Law, Cynthia Fountaine with some questions. If you would like your school to be profiled, feel free to reach out to me with the proper contact information.

BC: What steps does SIU Law take to empower students who may be struggling with alcohol, substance use and other mental health issues to come forward and get help?

CF: SIU Law has taken many steps to ensure that students feel supported and empowered to get the help they need. As a first line of contact, students are encouraged to speak with whomever they feel most comfortable speaking to—whether that is the Dean of Students, the Associate Dean, a faculty member, or me. My door and the doors of my faculty and staff are always open to students.

Read the rest at my column on Above The Law

Law Schools Empowering Student Recovery


A Letter To My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

Unhappy schoolboy walking alone in school corridorI break my initial and on-going recovery from drugs, alcohol and eating disorders into two basic parts. Dealing with where I am and dealing with how I got there.

The dealing with the present was of course initially getting sober and now focuses on staying sober. That began with twelve-step. There was also psychiatric treatment and numerous types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). I continue to see a psychiatrist to this day. There also was (and still is) medication to deal with clinical depression and body dysmorphic disorder.

The hardest part of my recovery however was facing the past, specifically my childhood.

Read the rest on my column at Above The Law.

A Letter To My 13-Year-Old Self


The Death Of A Lawyer And The Power Of Relapse

Brian Loncar

Brian Loncar

While I am saddened on a daily basis by deaths resulting from drug overdoses as we deal with an unprecedented heroin and prescription opiate addiction crisis, it is rare that my faith in my own long-term recovery plan gets shaken. That does not mean I don’t try to stay present in my recovery and adjust when necessary, but there are basic, core recovery maintenance principals that work for me on a daily basis.

Two weeks ago however, one of those “shaking” moment occurred. A headline in the Dallas Morning News:

“Attorney Brian ‘Strong Arm’ Loncar Death Ruled Accidental Cocaine Overdose

Read the rest on my column on Above The Law.

The Death Of A Lawyer And The Power Of Relapse


Why Are Lawyers So Afraid To Ask For Help?

Shocked and terrified.Not long ago I gave a lunchtime presentation about addiction recovery. As I always do, I spoke about the function and value of the Legal Assistance Program (LAP) in helping lawyers deal with addiction and other mental health issues and get back on track even in the face of immediate consequences for behavior that may run afoul of state bar disciplinary rules.

Read the rest on my column at Above The Law.

Why Are Lawyers So Afraid?


Embracing Middle Age Sober

mystery-womanI don’t know if it originated with my father, but growing up in Pittsburgh, he used to regularly say to my older brother, Mark, my younger brother, Jeff, and me, “Today is the youngest you will ever be, live like it.”

I thought about what he said the other day as I talked to a woman who I will call Sarah. Sarah is early in sobriety. She is also going through a tough divorce. She was lamenting the fact that she was in her late 40s and just now getting sober. Starting over.

Read the rest on my column at Above The Law

Embracing Middle Age Sober