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The LAP Files: True Tales of Survival

My Story: From Complete Despair to A Great Life in Twelve Steps

By a Retired Judge


My journey to recovery began on May 6th, 1995 in a hotel room in the little Havana section of Miami. That was the turning point for me.

I had for some years developed a tolerance for alcohol and although still able to function reasonably well it was a problem. I had been appointed to the bench at the age of thirty. I had established a very successful private practice. Eleven years later I suffered a serious back injury and after two surgeries I could not function without pain. I was seen at a pain clinic in a Baltimore hospital and given a variety of narcotics including morphine to be able to function. I was evaluated In Texas for the implantation of a morphine pump but decided against that course of action. I took a medical retirement from the bench after eleven years of service. Life was unbearable and there seemed to be no end to living in chronic pain.

I started to increase my alcohol consumption along with the pain medications. I was admitted to the hospital with acute pancreatitis and was told that I needed to go to an inpatient rehabilitation program. I went to Father Martin’s not so much for myself but to help my marriage. I completed the program and upon returning home managed to go to AA meetings most every day for a couple of months. I was feeling better and the thought came over me that I could safely drink nonalcoholic beer. I tried that for a couple of weeks and then decided that I could just get two Jack Daniels miniatures and limit myself to that amount each day. It only took a couple of weeks before that plan crumbled, and I was back to a pint a day.

I knew I was in trouble again and at the urging of my wife and friends in AA I agreed to go to Suburban Hospital for a refresher course. This time I took my passport, cash and credit cards just in case. I got to the hospital on a Saturday and the clinical staff was off so I was welcomed into a room with several men who were there for either crack cocaine addictions or heroin. They asked me what my problem was and I told them I drank too much. Their response was, “so what”, and that I did not need to be in treatment with them. With that I decided to go to the country of Belize. I would be left alone to drink as I wished. I left on Sunday and got a flight to Miami where I could then make a connection to Belize. The liquor stores were closed, so I took a cab to a nearby hotel and gave a bellman one hundred dollars for a fifth of Jack Daniels. Then off to the airport.

I arrived in Miami with the notion that I would see the sights for a week and then take a flight to Belize. So the story is that I left a loving wife and family to live in a foreign country without anyone knowing where I was. I stayed in the hotel room for a week and drank all that I could. It came to the point where I could feel the beginning signs of the pancreatitis developing, I had been around AA long enough to figure out that I had two choices. Drink until I die or ask God for help. I had never been one to make foxhole prayers. I simply ask God to take away my compulsion to drink. I felt a warm feeling come over me that everything would work out if I just did not drink and went back home and worked the AA program honestly.

I flew back to Maryland and arrived to a wife who did not know what to do with me and certainly did not want me to come into the house. That began what I call the journey back to the big bedroom. It took time. I immediately contacted a friend in AA. I committed to attending two AA meetings a day and one on one counselling with an addiction therapist twice a week. I finally got back to the big bedroom. I had done 180 AA meetings in 90 days. I found a sponsor and started working the steps of AA. The first year I continued to attend two meetings a day and worked part time. The temptation to drink gradually evaporated. I began working the steps and my life continued to improve. I had a third back operation and the pain became manageable. I could live without pain medication and alcohol. I have met some of the most caring people in the world through the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I failed to realize at the outset of this journey that you could actually celebrate Christmas, New Year’s Eve, St Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July, sporting events etc. without drinking. To my surprise there are a whole host of people that celebrate these events without drinking. I would have sworn that everyone at those functions was drinking. My focus had always been on those people that did drink.

The first year of sobriety took a lot of personal effort and commitment to a new way of life. It was difficult at times but knowing the only other course for me would be a disaster I continued forward with the help of my sponsor and network of new friends in AA. All of those friends who started this journey with me have remained sober by staying connected to the fellowship and following the suggestions of their sponsor. As time passed the notion of drinking just went away.

I have in sobriety travelled internationally to Argentina, Europe and Asia and AA was available in all of those places. It is an amazing sense of relief to know that you are never alone. Early on I became involved with the Maryland Lawyer Assistance Program program. Richard Vincent was the Director at the time and provided guidance in my first few years. I will be forever indebted to him and all of those who helped me in my road to recovery. My wife has now become a tremendous advocate for the AA program having witnessed firsthand how transformational the journey can be in one’s life.

Twenty-six years later I have found an entirely new way of life. The joys of continued sobriety are immense. The kid’s spouses have never seen me drink nor the grandchildren. They just know that I choose not to drink. I have experienced the joy of helping others on their own journeys to recovery. I have been able to achieve a sense of inner peace that I never dreamed was possible. Being willing to follow some simple directions was all that was necessary.


If you have a story that you want to share anonymously, please contact Lisa Caplan, Director of the Lawyer Assistance Program at lisa@msba.org.


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