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.
I have recurring dreams. Scenes from law school, struggles with addiction, are all in re-run. These dreams are vivid and colorful, like full-length movies played out in my subconscious.
One particular dream begins as I arrive at a social event. Maybe a law school happy hour or a state bar convention. I’ve been drunk at both. I walk to the bar and order a Diet Coke. The bartender tells me they don’t serve non-alcoholic drinks. Instead he offers me a shot of Jack Daniels. One of my favorite drinks pre-sobriety. Generally, with a cocaine chaser.
Read The Rest At Above The Law
The Addicted Lawyer: It’s Okay To Say ‘I Don’t Drink’
One of my favorite movie lines is from a 1994 dark comedy entitled Swimming With Sharks. With “sharks” in the title, you might think it’s about lawyers, but it’s actually about the cutthroat world of Hollywood producers. In one particular scene, the character Buddy Ackerman, a top movie executive played by Kevin Spacey, is on the phone berating a subordinate over differences in opinion concerning a movie production. 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!”
Read The Rest On My New Weekly Column At ” Above The Law”.
The Addicted Lawyer: My Moot Court Partner Was Jose Cuervo
I am pleased to present a short excerpt from ”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.
Spring 1975. Alone in my bedroom watching Star Trek. Thinking about the upcoming school dance, and idolizing Captain Kirk, the handsome, swashbuckling captain of the Starship Enterprise. The looks. The confidence. The women. If I can only be him. I’ll bet he was the prom king in high school. I hate school dances. They remind me of what I will never be and the things I will never see. I will never be invited to the prom. I will never be brave enough to ask a girl to the prom. I will never see a Brian that is attractive and confident enough to even go on a date despite numerous crushes. Despite camping out with my bicycle in front of her house waiting for her to notice me. Endlessly riding back and forth hoping she will look out the window and see me. I will never command the Starship Enterprise.
I play out fantasies in my head of life with each crush, envisioning an alternate reality of love and acceptance. I see it every day and want it so badly. The soft hand touch of the first love. The excitement of the prom planning and talk of booze, hotels, and losing virginity. I am lost in the fantasy of acceptance and being someone I am not
I am jarred out of my fantasy world by a knock at the door. My brother Mark is standing there holding pair of pants. Shiny, gold and bell-bottom. A creation of the new disco craze sweeping the country. Mark is all about the disco. I would hear him playing the hit song “The Hustle” on the record player in our living room. He is handsome. He is confident. Jet black hair from our mother’s lineage. I have the red hair and freckles from our father’s. Mark has the confidence, the charisma, and charm from my father. I am my mother’s child.
“Hey Bri! Check out these babies! What do you think?” He is holding in his hand, a pair of shiny, satin, gold bell-bottomed pants.
“You’re actually going to wear those?”
“I have been wearing them. Everyone at the disco loves them. I just bought a new pair. Do you want these?”
Suddenly, I did not care what they looked like. It was an offering from my brother, an offering of love., a piece of him that might rub off on me and transform me into a disco dancing Captain Kirk. I am off my bed in seconds, reaching for the pants. He smiles and says, “Have fun, disco boy!”
I immediately shut my door, strip to my underwear, and slide each leg carefully slid into the pants so not to wrinkle them. I stand up. My heart sinks. I can barely get the pants over my ass and up to my waist. I am fat. Mark is not fat. I start to cry. I keep pulling. Inhale! Stretch! I get them fastened. Exhale. Then waistline stretches. I’m in. I can only take half-breaths. I don’t give a shit. I am wearing these pants! They are a symbol of Mark’s love. They are my ticket to the prom. I will learn The Hustle.
My beloved Peanut. My rescue beagle. My best friend. Fifteen years. My companion through the thick and thin of depression and addiction without judgment. She was gone. I had lost my only child.
As I tried to grasp my first real experience with the loss of unconditional love, I did what I do so often to help me heal. What many do when they lose their beloved pet, sibling, parent, best friend. What had come to be my solace and a means of advancing my recovery. To let out emotions that I often found difficult vocalizing but had to be release. The recovery art of expressive writing. I wrote Peanut a letter.
“My best friend of 14 years has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We called her Peanut. She was a rescue dog. A beagle mix.
When my ex-wife Nikki suggested we get a dog all those years ago, I resisted. I had many excuses. Excuses that hid the truth about why I did not want a pet. When it came to being loved, I was completely closed off to anything or anyone who offered her love to me, including Nikki.
I did not love myself so how could anyone or anything, even a dog, love me? I was hiding from myself in the abyss of alcohol, drugs and bulimia for nearly half my life — since I was 19. Nikki knew none of these things. I was a master at hiding. However, she knew I had built a wall, preventing her from getting close to me. She hoped the unconditional love of a dog would tear that wall down.
Nikki took me to the “Rescue Weekend” at the local Pet Smart. She had already picked out the dog. She introduced me to Flower. Flower licked my face furiously as if she was trying to heal all of my pain at once with all of the love she could give me in that instant. When we got her home, we decided that the elongated body with brown splotches on her black coat made her look more like a Peanut than a flower. Thus, Peanut became part of my life.
Peanut did not save my marriage to Nikki . I was too closed off and afraid of being loved or loving someone else. Healing and allowing myself to be loved would take more time.
Then came April 7, 2007. A new girlfriend of about a year, Amanda. An alcohol and drug-induced blackout. Then came April 8, 2007. The start of my recovery. A journey that would keep me clean and sober and eating-disorder free to this day. A journey that Amanda would show her ability to love deeply and believe in me, forever standing by me. Today we are engaged.
A journey through which Peanut would always be at my side. I worked from home so there was rarely a moment when she was not sleeping next to me, on my lap, or licking my face as she did that day at Pet Smart.
As I moved forward in recovery, I would have actual conversations with Peanut, apologizing to her for not giving her the attention she gave back to me when I was drinking, drugging and purging. I would cry. I would grieve the little dog that had so much love to give but wasn’t getting back.
The recovery journey forced me to deal with Peanut’s declining health with unmasked feelings as the passing time took its toll on her. It was hard. The anticipatory grieving. The denial. But, no matter how bad she felt, she was always there when I came home. Always barking in disappointment when I left and she saw the “suitcase monster” come out when either Amanda or I had to travel.
As her health became worse, with Cushing’s and congestive heart failure, the lawyer in me knew Peanut’s time on earth with me was coming to an end. The heart that she opened up in me to express my feelings and love others did not want it ever to end.
As Peanut took her last breath, Amanda and I held her in her favorite blanket. I whispered to her over and over that I would see her again. Strange words coming from someone who never considered himself spiritual in either recovery or religion. I considered myself more agnostic than anything. However, in that moment, as I held my beloved Peanut during her final moments, I found myself in a divine foxhole. Was I just an “agnostic in a foxhole” or something more? I truly believe it was always there. The doubt of my belief and apathy. The wondering if there was something waiting for me. A flickering flame in a gas stove waiting for something to ignite it.
I continue to grieve my best friend. I know it will get better. I will always be grateful to Nikki for knowing what I needed to open my heart. I am forever grateful to my fiancee, Amanda as she stands by me, comforts me, even as she grieves herself. Amanda saw that part of me that Peanut opened up, even in my worst moments. I am also grateful beyond measure to my father, mother and brothers who are always there for me.
And, of course, I am grateful to Peanut. Thank you, sweet Peanut, for giving me the gift of unconditional love. You gave me the gift of allowing myself to be loved. You gave me the gift of faith. I now know there is something in the here-after for both of us.”
I will see you again. No doubt, you will lick my face furiously.
After Peanuts passing, I continued to struggle with the contradiction of my humanist bent and the overwhelming feeling that I would and will see Peanut again. She will in fact lick my face furiously. Does that same higher power who will bring us back together help keep me sober? I don’t know. I do know that in death, Peanut once again opened my heart to the possibility that can happen. For now, that’s my spirituality. That’s my faith. It’s a start. I also started attending my 12-step meetings more regularly. I met with my sponsor.
Did I need a “higher power” in a religious sense? No. I needed the connections. I needed to share my overwhelming grief in as many forums possible. I had to cry. I did cry. I cried with my sponsor. I cried within the group. Seven years earlier I had told my sponsor that losing Peanut would send me out of the room to alcohol and drugs. He told me that when I had better sobriety that would not be the case. I am not going to b.s. you. That afternoon as I pounded the kitchen counter in agony, screaming at the top of my lungs how sorry I was for putting her down, the thoughts crossed my mind. I knew what to do. I’m still sober.
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.
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.
April 7th 2007. Eyes Open. What time is it? What day is it? Lying in bed. Last I remember is walking into a night-club Friday night. It’s now Sunday afternoon.
Amanda is looking down at me, confused, worried, angry. She had moved in with me two weeks before. She knows nothing about my drug and alcohol issues. My two lives had previously coming crashing together in 2005 with my near suicide, and first trip to Green Oaks Psychiatric. I was not ready for recovery then. I went right back out and tried to re-create the buffer zone between the addict Brian and the “respectable Brian”
What I did not realize was that “respectable Brian” was long gone. Everyone who knew me long term, knew I was an addict. She did not know me long enough. She did not know the guy partying and doing blow every night, basically being a douche-bag around Dallas. Being THAT guy. The 30k millionaire pretending he was a big time lawyer. Pretending he was an integral part of the Mark Cuban empire. That is the Brian I showed her.
She was hesitant about moving in. She would later tell me that she knew something was not right. Getting in auto accidents as I drove her around while I was high on black market Xanax was certainly a concern and raised red flags. Showing up to a family function slurring my words. She didn’t know it was Xanax just that I seemed “zonked”. I told her it was my anti-depressants creating that affect. She had no experience with those so she did not question it. I was manipulative and persuasive. I told my brothers the same thing. They both rolled their eyes. They knew the truth. They could no longer be manipulated.
I thought that having Amanda move in with me would stop or at least curb my drug use because I would not do when she was around. That seemed perfectly logical to me. Like entering the United States Marine Corps. Like literally running away from my problems ten and twenty miles at a time. I thought Amanda could fix me. She would relieve me of the stress of having to fix myself. I told myself that every day while at the same time spending exhaustive amounts of energy trying to figure out how to live the life I felt comfortable with without her knowing. The “Insanity of Addiction”.
This Sunday afternoon as she looks down on me, there is cocaine on the dresser table. Alcohol bottles strewn throughout the bedroom. A prophylactic on the floor. Where had those two days gone? Who had I been in my bedroom with? I though Amanda was in Houston! She was. She had come home at the time she said she would be home. I am confused, afraid and my first thought was how I could manipulate myself out of the situation. I am a lawyer. I can come up with something that she will believe. Amanda is also a lawyer.
“There was no one here I was using the rubber as a water balloon”
Yes, I really said that. Yes, I really believed she would buy it. As Elmer Fudd would say:
“That… That’s.. Addiction Folks….
“I think I need to go to Green Oaks. I’ve been there before.
“What is Green Oaks?”
“A psychiatric Facility”
“You’ve been to a psychiatric facility?”
“Yes. I will explain later. Let’s just go.”
Into the car. I am silent. She is crying and angry. The familiar drive. The familiar route of “rock bottom” . Another rock bottom. The familiar parking lot. The familiar walk through the double doors to intake. This time my brothers are not there. They do not know yet. I can not look at Amanda. I look down at the floor in shame and fear as I give my name to the intake nurse. She is kind. Her voice is soft. It calms me a little. She has seen many Brian’s at that window. She is on the phone. I need air.
I walk back into the parking lot. Fixating on the black concrete. Thinking. Still in denial. Insisting there was no other women in my bedroom. I knew there had been. I could not remember her face, name or how she got there but the rubber didn’t lie. There were no water balloons.
In that parking lot waiting for intake, a thought that had never occurred to me before. The only way to save myself was to begin the process of honesty. I don’t know how I knew. I had not yet heard the term “rigorous honestly” as I would in 12-step. Maybe I was just finally laid bare. Broken down. The one time “emperor of Dallas” was finally naked. No where to go but the truth. I was beaten. I would need a power higher than myself. I did not know what that power was but it was over. I did not want to die. I knew there would not be a third trip back to Green Oaks. (Ironically there would be but under different circumstances).
Another thought. I don’t want to lose my family! At that moment I accepted that Amanda would leave me. I would have. There was no reason for her to stay. I had betrayed her trust on every level. I thought of my father. I thought of my two brothers. In the few moments of what seemed like an eternity, I thought of a little boy and his brothers in his father’s arms. Crawling over him on the floor as we tried to pin him down pretending we were wrestlers. Him laughing. The love. The bond. ‘the bond he had instilled in the three of us. He would regularly say to us,
“Mark Brian, Jeff, wives may come and go, girlfriends may come and go, friends may come and go, when push comes to shove as you go through live the one thing that needs to stay constant is your love for each other. Wherever your lives take you, wherever you live, always pick up that phone and call each other. Ask how things are going. Tell each other you love them. Never lose that bond of brothers
I knew in that parking lot that I was on the verge of losing the gift my father instilled in each of us decades before. Families distance. My family was distancing. They had wives. They had children. That did not mean I had lost their love but they had realized they could not fix me. I had to.
In that parking lot, I realized that even ore than the thoughts of the decline of my own life, the thoughts of disappointing my father who knew none of this and losing my family was more than I could bear. I was afraid. Fear was my motivator. It was time for a step. I did not know what that step would be in that parking lot but I had to find that power greater than myself. In the midst of that fear, shame, and humiliation with Amanda at my side, I for the first time felt something that had eluded me for decades. I felt hope.
That bond of brothers instilled by father has carried through to this day. As I write this book, one Thousand Two-Hundred miles away from our childhood home in Pittsburgh, Pa. Decades later. Mark, Jeff, my father and I all live within walking distance from each other. The bond of brothers. The bond of family.
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.
Going To Law School:The Good, Bad And The Stupid
Once upon at time I hosted a segment on show called “EyeOpener TV”. My segment was called “Cuban’s Legal Briefs”. The premise of the show was to provide short, provocative commentary on legal issues in the news. For instance, The question would be “Is burning the American flag protected by the First Amendment”. My trademark opening would b:
“Are You An Idiot, Of Course It Is!”
For those from the the East Coast who remember, “Crazy Eddie” electronics store commercials, I was kind of the “Crazy Eddy” of EyeOpener TV. Those videos of my ranting are still on the internet for those interested. Let’s play that game with law school.
“Are their good, bad and stupid reasons to go to law school?
“ARE YOU AN IDIOT OF COURSE THERE ARE!”
My reasons for taking the Law School Admission Test(LSAT) and then attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Law(Pitt Law) definitely fall into the last category. Stupid. I say that with the caveat that I now have a degree and went through a process (to the extent I participated) that certainly provided to a way of thinking that I will always take through life. That is a positive.
I also was able to make that choice in a different era for law schools and in the legal profession. In 1983, it did not cost an arm, leg and a first born to go to law school. Student loans for an in-state school like Pitt Law were manageable. Of course, that did not stop me from defaulting on mine when I was spending all my money on cocaine and booze instead of paying my outstanding debt obligations.(I remedied that)
In 2015, it is much softer legal market. Many students are running up incredible amounts of debt that they will have a difficult time paying off because the jobs just are not there either at all or on pay school in proportion to the debt. Especially those students like me, who came out with mediocre grades. Add in a possibly mediocre law school and well… Let’s just say, it’s a decision that needs to be thought out to a greater degree than when I went through the process.
In 1985, my third year at Pitt Law, the average, in-state tuition was $2006.00 per year. Today, the cost to attend Pitt Law is $29,660. Of course, we also have to adjust for inflation and the relative job market. The bottom line is that it was much easier in my day, to say:
“What the hell, I will go to law school”
Almost the reasons I went but in reality, mine was much a much more dysfunctional thought process.
As a junior in 1982 at The Pennsylvania State University, I was a criminal justice major. At Penn State at that time, it was called “Administration of Justice. I wanted to be a police officer. I was also traditionally bulimic. I was exercise bulimic. I was an alcoholic. I of course, left all of these “qualifications” off my law enforcement employment application. I felt completely alone with my disorders. I was however, comfortable with them. They were the things I had control over. I did not want to have to reveal myself to the other students. I did not want to have to reveal myself to the professional work place. That would be a loss of control. I did apply for some different police officer positions. Like when I would enter the Marines a few years later, looking back, I think that I felt being a police officer, with the training, the discipline,would fix my problems. I never scored quite well enough on the entrance exams to get on the short list for hiring. I was terrified of my future.
One day, I was in the placement office for my major, the place were they kept all of the law enforcement jobs. It was also the gathering place just to chat about what other students were up to. I was looking through the list of police officer openings when I head one of the other students talking about taking the “LSATS” . I had no idea what that meant. I asked. He said:
“The law school admission test” I am going to law school.
Before that moment, the thought of going to law school had never entered my mind. Law school was hard. I had a hard enough time functioning at Penn State. I asked:
“What schools are you considering”
“I really want to go to Pitt Law. I can get in-state tuition and it’s a good school.
My wheels started turning in the most dysfunctional way possible. I did not consider what it would mean to be a lawyer. I did not consider the hard work necessary to excel in law school. I did not want to be Clarence Darrow. I did not want to make a lot of money. I did not want to change the world.
I had the answer to my fears. I could maintain control. I could continue to binge and purge, exercise and drink by going to law school. I could hide from the world for three more years. That is what drove my decision to go to law school. There are the good, bad and stupid reasons. I was firmly entrenched in the stupid.
Let’s play that “Cuban’s Legal Briefs” game again.
“Did Brian Cuban Go To Law School For Stupid Reasons? ARE YOU AND IDIOT OF COURSE HE DID!
They however seemed perfectly logical to me at the time. As I tell students when I relate this story, whatever your reasons for considering law school are, good or bad, don’t go for the stupid. Don’t go for the reasons I did.
A new excerpt from my upcoming book. “The Addicted Lawyer” to be released in 2016. While you’re waiting, be sure to check out my previous book. “Shattered Image” and my full website
INTRODUCTION EXCERPT These excerpts are not professionally edited as my book will be. These excerpts may appear differently in the final product. They are posted only for a preview of content.
I am a lawyer. Well, I was once a lawyer. I was an addicted lawyer.
I was addicted to cocaine, alcohol and Ambien for starters. (Ambien withdrawal is brutal) Loved the long oblong Xanax pills and opioid medication when I could get it either through a friend who battled leukemia or making up pain I didn’t have for a prescription.
I never used heroin, crack cocaine or “meth”. I don’t know why. Maybe just the circles I ran in. Maybe my self- deception of “privileged status” cause me to consider crack and meth beneath me. Not just status of occupation but status of a last name in a town where more often than not it was recognized. It got me things. It got me drugs and easier access to drugs. I was a high class, suburban addict. Poor people used crack. Suburban housewives, “Hillbillies” and “Rednecks” used meth. Powdered cocaine only. My drug buddies only used powdered cocaine(at least in front of me). I knew where to get my powdered cocaine. Hand to hand cocaine and money exchanges in the garage of the Merrill Lynch Building where my gym was. Cocaine and a workout. Transactions outside of bars just off the campus of Southern Methodist University were easy. Hundred dollars in hand, window open. Boom! Just keep driving. A personal drug-dealer who made house calls and gave me coke on credit when I was broke. My kind of guy.
The only pause and second guessing I ever had during the climb to the apex of the addiction roller coaster, was the very first time I used as thoughts of Lenny Bias went through my mind as the powder entered my right nostril. Lenny, a first round draft pick of the NBA Boston Celtics in 1986 is a cautionary tale that anyone can die using cocaine the first time or the one thousand time. No warning. No second chance. Just dead. Lenny died on in such a way on July 19th 1986. Just under three months before I took my first snort. 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 than thoughts of Lenny. That chase was more powerful than being prevented from taking the Texas bar exam if I was caught. The latter thought never entered my mind then or a few moments later when I was officially a drug addict. The very… first.. time..
Heroin was not my thing. I’ve never seen anyone use heroin. If I had, and it looked like they were having the feelings I considered important in my high, I would have gone that way. It was all about achieving a feeling that made me feel like I was accepted and loved and confident. Cocaine gave me that (at first) so that was fine. Heroin was also very expensive at that time as compared to cocaine. Today it has reversed and we are in the midst of a heroin addiction and prescription opioid addiction epidemic. It’s in the news every day. People dying. Young people. Old people.
I am currently in long term recovery and have been since April 8th 2007. Hopefully still going strong, one day at a time, when you read this book. I attend 12-step meetings at various rates. I have never been to in-patient drug or alcohol treatment. I have been in private counseling with a shrink for many years. Think that’s enough? I’m not done yet..
I also battled an eating disorder for over two decades. Yes, men do get eating disorders. Let’s keep going. I self-harmed for a while. Loved to punch myself in the face when I felt stupid. Who does that? Clinically depressed. Came close to suicide in 2005. Two trips to a local psychiatric facility. Wrap it all up in a package called body dysmorphic disorder. Ok. I’m done.
Quite a resume of dysfunction if I must say so myself! I know what you’re thinking. “He’s a lawyer” With all that going on, this guy had to have been disciplined by a state bar at some point. Stolen client money at some point to fund his habit. Sued for malpractice? Disbarred? My answer is no to all.
You forgot one question. Ask me if my ongoing dysfunction prevented me from providing my clients with the effort and service they expect and deserve when giving me their hard earned money to represent them. Ask me if I should have been have had grievances filed against me for failure to provide proper representation and taking cases I was not qualified to take because I needed money to fund my addiction. The answer is yes.
Ask me if I would have done better as a law student if I would have taken advantage of whatever mental health resources the University Of Pittsburgh had in the mid 1980’s. I honestly don’t know. I don’t believe in looking back on “revisionist recovery” but it probably would have only helped.
None of this is something a lawyer probably wants to include on his/her Biglaw or in-house resume or a law student wants to reveal to the National Conference of Bar Examiners when applying to take the bar exam or even to the student health services of his/her law school. Better to maintain the appearance of strength than actually be strong. That’s what being a lawyer is about right? The projection of confidence and strength in an adversarial system inherently designed for our opponents to take advantage of perceived weakness, no matter what that weakness, including mental health challenges. Why even bother getting help. Why even talk about it?
“Jenny” is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.
Jenny’s thirteenth birthday was wonderful. At 13, she loved Japanese food, and going to a hibachi grill with her family and friends from her dance class was a great time. Everyone laughed, told stories and enjoyed life the way happy “tweens” are expected to. Like many with the temperament that indicates a genetic vulnerability to anorexia, she excelled academically and outside of school. She loved dance and was on three competitive dance teams and team captain of her hip-hop team. She also loved art and played the violin. Jenny has a passion for animals and volunteered at a cat shelter each summer. She loved spending time with her family and her little brother. Jenny was a happy, “normal” young girl with a bright future and dreams of being a Zumba Instructor and college.
Jenny’s thirteenth birthday would be her last “happy birthday.”
Jenny’s fourteenth birthday was spent in-patient at Brandywine Hospital, the first of several ineffective treatment stays. She was being treated for Anorexia Nervosa after being diagnosed in November 2013. The journey since then has been both traumatic and tragic as her family, who has health insurance, has helped her battle a disease with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder—10% by some estimates. They have taken their daughter to several in-network facilities and now her outpatient team advises something radically different.
Having played by Aetna’s rules for two years as their daughter’s health has continued to decline, they must now battle Aetna in trying to get Jenny the best treatment in order to save her life. Oliver Pyatt, a renowned treatment facility which employs 24/7 recovery coaches across several years and focuses on integrating patient’s back into “normal” life before releasing them, is the best fit for Jenny’s needs according to her treatment team and parents. They are willing to write a single case agreement with Aetna, however Aetna is refusing. Aetna wants to send them back to the same treatment center that was, by its own admission, not a agood fit for Jenny’s needs.
Members of the outpatient team are directly recommending Oliver Pyatt as the facility best equipped to deal with Jenny’s anorexia and have written letters to the insurer to support their recommendation. One clinician says:
“The Sudol family has followed Aetna’s allowances for two years. They’ve sent their ill child repeatedly to where Aetna permitted. Some of those facilities were excellent and another patient may have succeeded, but Jenny did not. She was too ill and released too soon. This is an extremely difficult and resistant illness and we need to get Jenny off the revolving door treatment cycle. She deserves the treatment that will offer the best opportunity for recovery and which is based on her specific needs. More of the same only keeps her ill longer, diminishes hope and encourages Anorexia to make itself more at home in this child’s brain.”
Jenny is 15 years old—It is vitally important to intervene — and continue to intervene until there is success — aggressively in an adolescent with anorexia as once entrenched the disorder is very difficult to treat.
If there is a chance this new treatment center will work better the insurance company needs to cover it and her team says she needs this center—either way she will be in treatment, the question is where will she have the best opportunity to heal?
Today, Jenny’s fate lies in the hands of an insurance company “expert” who is not only not an adolescent-board certified psychiatrist, but by his own internet presence claims special knowledge in several areas, but not eating disorders. An expert, third-party evaluation, as her parents are asking for, is a reasonable request.
What is happening here is like an insurance company telling someone whose first three blood pressure pills didn’t do their job to back and try #1 again instead of authorizing the use of drug #4 which is not routinely covered, but is frequently authorized; these special authorizations are common. One cannot help but see stigma playing a role in the denial of expanded services for those with mental illnesses.
Readers, please join the Sudol family in imploring Aetna, on Twitter and Facebook, to do the right thing by sharing this piece with the hashtag #ApproveSudol attached. Jenny’s life is on the line and her insurer needs to join her parents in doing everything possible to save her life, health and future.