Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 22

TRANSFORMING MY PAIN
INTO HOPE FOR OTHERS
"D" is an attorney who has practiced in several different settings, from a global firm
to a multibillion-dollar company. He has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction
that stemmed largely from anxiety and depression. Now sober, D talks about how he
tackled these issues and went on to help others as a mentor with the D.C. Bar Lawyer
Assistance Program.

I

was heading into law school when I knew that something was wrong. I was
drinking and using drugs while preparing for this new part of my life. The
stress of heading to law school and the stress of someday becoming a
lawyer hit me suddenly, and eventually it began to take over my life. I also
had a sibling who died of an overdose when I was in college. This also
severely impacted my life and caused depression and anxiety that
I still deal with today.
It got bad to the point where I was drinking and using pills daily. I was late
to class, performing poorly, and isolating myself from friends and family. I was
sad, irritable, angry, and wasn't sure if I wanted to live or die. After witnessing
my deterioration and promising not to allow their other son to succumb to
addiction, my parents intervened, and I hesitantly went to rehab. I got sober
in my final year of law school, and when I took the bar exam my hands were
still shaking from the after-effects of addiction.
Before I went to rehab, I was told by a friend: "Try it, and if it doesn't work, you
could always go back to what you were doing." They say that drugs and alcohol
can refund your misery if you're unhappy with recovery. The day I went was
scarier than anything I have ever done. I even went into rehab carrying a highly
addictive medicine, and they promptly took it from me. I remember that first
night, waking up, closing my eyes, and opening them again, all while praying
it was just a bad dream.
After rehab, I learned to take it one day at a time, but this approach was both
critical and scary as hell at the same time. I couldn't think of not drinking and
being a lawyer for the rest of my life all at once, but I figured that if I could get
through one day then I could handle it. I broke up my day into hours, sometimes minutes, and my routine became familiar. A routine is critical for me now
in every phase of my life. When you're getting sober, your body is literally trying
to recover. I remember dealing with the anxiety of that, as well as dealing with
the emotional adjustment. It was then, as well as now, that the tools of recovery
became critical.
One thing I did the day after rehab was look up Alcoholics Annonymous
meetings so I had a plan for when I got back. I also found an addiction specialist
and a gym. Ultimately, you try to control what you can control to stay sober
emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And, of course, I had to change where
I hung out and even my social circle to surround myself with people who
weren't heavy drinkers like I was.
Nowadays I participate in a 12-step program to the best of my ability, continue
to work with a therapist, work out, and stay connected to a religious community. I also volunteer in the rehab ward at a local hospital.
Some years after I became sober, I was looking into social work and employee
assistance programs as a way to get involved, specifically with lawyers [going
through the same struggles]. I did some research and discovered a volunteer
opportunity within the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, which allows
22 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019

*

I couldn't think of not
drinking and being
a lawyer for the rest
of my life
all at once,
but I figured
that if I
could get
through
one day
then I could
handle it.
lawyers to serve as mentors to other lawyers who are struggling with mental
health and addiction problems. I contacted Denise Perme, the head of the
program, and signed up as a volunteer. After a few years of volunteering, I
was honored to join the Lawyer Assistance Committee. It's been a wonderful
opportunity because I have a small role in the administration of the program
and can supplement its work with my own experience.
From a depressed and sick alcoholic student to a sober member of the
committee of a program responsible for helping lawyers and law students,
it's been an amazing journey.
There's a passage in the AA Big Book that says, "We will not regret the past nor
wish to shut the door on it." This passage couldn't be a more accurate description of my life in sobriety. Although my past has been difficult for me, and is still
difficult to share these days, it has allowed me to help others by transforming
my pain into their hope.


http://www.dcbar.org/

Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Career & Professional Development
Calendar of Events
Goverment & Gavel
Feature: Fighting the Stigma: The D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program
Feature: The Road to Wellness
Feature: Taking the Stand: How Corporate Monitorships Rein in Misbehavior
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading & Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Career & Professional Development
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Goverment & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Feature: Fighting the Stigma: The D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 16
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Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Feature: The Road to Wellness
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Feature: Taking the Stand: How Corporate Monitorships Rein in Misbehavior
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 34
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Worth Reading & Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2019 - Cover4
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