I was born in a loving, middle-class family in Baltimore. Drinking was a way of life, cultural. Cocktails before dinner were common. At a family party, right after we took your coat, we offered you a drink. It was expected that when your drink was empty, we would promptly refill it. It was social and, from my perspective, normal.
When I got married and moved out of the home, I continued that custom. I came home from the law office and had a nightly drink, or two. It was, from my perspective, my choice at that time. Somewhere, I crossed the line. At some point, it became something I had to do rather than I chose to do. I would say I was going to have only one drink and would have many more. I decided I was not going to have a drink at all, and instead had many. I seemed to lose the ability to control my drinking. I was powerless over alcohol.
What once had been fun and social, now became scary and drudgery. I became drunk on a nightly basis. I would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning with bleary eyes, red-faced, and a pounding headache, wondering how I did that yet again. I would toss and turn and not be able to get back to sleep. I would go to the office and not be present mentally, shaking, scared. My performance suffered. I began to make a decision, almost every day, that I was not going to drink that day. During the day, that resolve faded and I decided tonight would be different, I would be able to drink successfully. It was no different. I would get drunk yet again.
My drinking became progressive, controlling, excessive, and problematic. I would find ways to be away from my family to drink. I told my wife I was no longer drinking, I was going to stop, and I meant that!! But I was not able to. So I found a way to drink secretly, in my home, to get drunk almost daily, but to act as if I was sober. It was not easy. In fact, it was hell.
I began to be consumed by fear. I was afraid of things that were not at all scary, seeing an acquaintance walk down the street, receiving the daily mail. I began to be filled with pain, guilt and remorse. I made at the end of the day the decision not to drink but was completely powerless. Drinking became a 24/7 problem: waking up hungover and sick; deciding I was not going to drink; wrestling with that issue; convincing myself today would be different; figuring out how I could drink and get drunk without getting caught; drinking in secret; getting drunk; passing out; and beginning the cycle all over again.
Finally, I had an event that caused me to realize I simply could not go on anymore. I could not imagine my life drinking the way I had been, but I also could not visualize not drinking. At a family party, I had a very intense and personal conversation with my 15-year-old goddaughter and niece. The next morning, I remembered nothing of the conversation. That was the first time I had what I later learned was a blackout. It scared me. I rely on my mental faculties to perform in my profession, and to think I could not remember something important from the night before was frightening. A family member had preceded me into recovery and had given me a directory of meetings. I made a decision that Monday night years ago to attend my first meeting. I realized I wanted what they had. They were happy, hopeful, honest, sincere and accountable. I was none of those.
I realized if it worked for them, it could work for me. I then began practicing an active program of recovery. My life has truly been transformed. I have been blessed now with more confidence, more hope, responsibility and accountability. In my law practice, I am focused, respectful, and compassionate. The terrible fear that I felt on a daily basis has been washed away.
The greatest gift of all is that I no longer have to drink. The overwhelming obsession and compulsion to drink has been lifted. Alcohol has no power over my life anymore, as long as I continue to practice my program of recovery, remain spiritually sound, and don’t pick up the first drink. I have been freed from the prison in which alcohol ensnared me, and I have the ability now to live a happy, joyous and a free life. My relationships with my family, friends and coworkers are real, honest and true.
I later became actively supporting the mission of the MSBA Lawyer’s Assistance Committee. We actively, but confidentially and anonymously, seek to help attorneys and judges in Maryland who have mental health issues, whether it is depression, anxiety, or addiction. There are tools to help those who want to get better. I have seen some amazing miracles of recovery, growth and transformation. It works. It really works. It worked for me. It will work for anyone who wants a better life.
If you have a story that you want to share anonymously, please contact Lisa Caplan, Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.