Alcoholic Attorney Introduction


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I am just one more lawyer, one of the estimated 1 in 5 attorneys in the United States who has the metabolic abnormality, allergy, disease, known as “alcoholism.” I am an alcoholic attorney. Odds are you know a bunch of people just like me. Maybe you are like me—an alcoholic lawyer who has recovered from the disease of alcoholism. But maybe you are an alcoholic lawyer who is still drinking. I am writing for the still-suffering alcoholic attorney as well as all the alcoholic lawyers in recovery.

Alcoholic attorneys tend to be high-functioning and defy the down-and-out stereotypes. I was a “high-functioning” alcoholic. For more than 20 years I was scared to admit that I couldn’t drink like you, no matter how hard I tried. Not that I couldn’t drink as much as you, because I can probably drink you under the table at lunch and just be getting started. Beer, wine, whiskey, tequila, gin, rum, vodka—I’m a connoisseur of the finest of these.

No, what you can do with impunity is just drink socially, having just one or two and being done. Hell, I’d even be happy as a “heavy drinker.”

But I’m not.

I am an alcoholic

I don’t have an “off switch.”

3 drinks is a single serving for me and I can assure you that I’ve never had just one or even two drinks in a sitting in my entire life. As soon as I have even one sip of alcohol, it’s “game on”—until I black out or pass out and then the game isn’t fun anymore.

I am sober, now. Each day, I am learning how to live sober. It turns out that alcohol wasn’t my problem; it was a really bad solution for my real problems of fear of not being good enough, self-reliance, over-achievement, constant comparisons to other people, and the fear to ask anyone else to help. I was restless, irritable, and discontented about my life, my success, my family, and my failure. I’m not always that way anymore. I’m learning to live sober. What a crazy idea—living—sober.

I’ll not be writing here to preach, cajole, or nag. I have no resentment toward alcohol or those who can use it without addiction. My goal here is shed a little light on the disease of alcoholism, identify some of the unique twists of thinking in the alcoholic mind, and hopefully give other alcoholic attorneys the courage to let go of their self reliance and ask for help.

Help is out there, free, and people would like nothing better than to give you a hand. Helping you is part of THEIR recovery. Just like it’s part of mine.

I can tell you it gets better right after you ask for help. It gets better when you’re even willing to admit that you MIGHT have a problem with alcohol and do something about it like picking up the phone, sending me an email, or just watching these posts. But before it gets better, it gets different—and different is not always comfortable.

What next?

Before I even start blogging I’ll share some value. The links below are to anonymous programs created specifically to help lawyers like me, and to get us the help we need to get off the down elevator that is alcoholism.

Finally, if you are an alcoholic attorney and would like to share a bit of your experience, strength, and hope as part of this series here, e-mail it to This spot is not just for one lawyer helping another, it’s about helping as many still-suffering alcoholics as we can find the help they deserve.

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  • Dan

    Looking forward to more of these, great post. The ABA and AALS and various local bar associations are pretty good about advertising lawyer assistance programs (or whatever they are called in your jurisdiction) but could improve in actually explaining to lawyers that alcoholism is a disease and why they should go.

  • Paul

    Great intro. “Just one” was a promise I knew I could not keep and had no intetnion of trying to keep. It wasn’t u ntil I got sick and tired of being sick and tired that I stopped drinking for good. Even then I went through a dry drunk after 10 years or so of sobriety. Complacency got the better of me. I didn’t drink, but I was probably closer to a relapse than I knew.

    Our disease is patient and strong. I’ve heard it said that while we are recovering our disease is doing pushups in the backgroud, just waiting for us to slip. The astounding fact is that if I slip I will, in no time, be just as woreoff as if I had never stopped. AA works for me. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else, but get help and develop a support network.

  • Joan

    I suffered years of struggling to be a ‘normal’ drinker like my party loving colleagues. In and out of AA, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be like them. Have a good drink, a good laugh, go home and sleep! And then one day the penny dropped. I listened to the Joe and Charlie tapes and they explained everything! Once I take that first drink, I’m done! I never understood the compulsion. I thought the physical compulsion started before the first drink. It doesn’t. It starts after the first drink. Now I know that truth, it is easy for me to stay away from that first drink. I know now, it is impossible for me to be a normal drinker. So why inflict pain on myself anymore? That would be insane and I have gratefully, been restored to sanity.