Not again

Not again. I awoke from my liquor-induced sleep with my head pounding, my heart racing, and my remorse completely overwhelming. Not again, I thought. What is wrong with me?

Every night since I had lost my job and my wife had left, it was the same. I would cook a good meal, nursing vodka and tonic as I ate, finish the dishes, read the newspaper and then take the mickey of vodka to my room to watch a video. And Every Single Night I would say just a couple of drinks and Every Single Night I would empty the bottle. What is wrong with me?

Sitting at the breakfast table sipping my coffee, a thought crossed my mind. Today instead of resolving not to drink at 8 a.m. and being half drunk by 8 p.m., I would do something different. But what? A sense of panic about my habits gripped me.

I had seen the movies (The Lost Weekend, Something to Live For, Days of Wine and Roses and Clean and Sober) and had read somewhat about “alcoholism”. Could it be? Was I one? I mean it seemed to me that in all those movies the alcoholic was always drinking alone – as I was. I used to be a real social drinker, a regular party guy. I drank at my fraternity, rugby, basketball, the Gyro Club, and I was social chairman at law school. Now I wanted to drink alone – all the time.

I went over to the phone book. Sure enough, there it was in big print: Alcoholics Anonymous. I phoned and began chatting with a nice lady, and found out there was a meeting at 10 a.m. less than two blocks from my place. I showered, shaved and got ready to go to my first meeting.

No sooner had I sat down than a big fellow came over and welcomed me. He was a longshoreman who had been in the programme for 17 years. We talked. He urged me to just listen. It was the best advice he could have given me.

I did listen. I began to go to other meetings. I phoned the Lawyers Assistance Program that same day and received a return call in less than half an hour. I kept listening, I attended a meeting of lawyers in AA (and in three and a half years I’ve missed only three or four of the meetings of that group!). These lawyers had decided to do something with their “alcohol problem”.

It took me 60 days to say that I was an alcoholic at a meeting. I would say, “I’ve been sober for X days” after introducing myself. And I was! That was the amazing discovery for me.

The only requirement for me was a desire to stop drinking. That was all – no credit check, no dues, no “holier than thou” lectures, no linguistic, racial, or cultural preferences, no age, gender, or even physical requirements. What a concept! A fellowship of sober drunks.

Now my life is calmer and fuller. I am employed in a law firm and have been told by my boss, who knows of my problem, that the clients say I have incredible empathy with their problems – I wonder how I got that strength of insight? I swim regularly, have renewed my tennis coaching certificate, have money in the bank and am reviving old friendships. Even former girlfriends say I’ve really changed!

To me, the great strength I have received from the LAP is the ability to meet the problems of today with a quiet heart. I no longer fret about yesterday, and I know tomorrow with its large promise and poor performance is beyond my immediate control. But today I can handle.

To any lawyers out there who think their drinking is “out of control” or feel that stress or burnout or drugs or depression are getting to them, I recommend calling the Lawyers Assistance Program. It was the best thing I did for myself.