I was obsessed—insanely so—with alcohol while I was still drinking. This obsession left its calling card on my appointment calendar. Now, as a recovered alcoholic attorney, the “obsession to drink” is removed, but before we get into that, let’s discuss some vocabulary.

Desire: wanting something.

Craving: wanting more of something.

Obsession: thinking and planning your life around something.

These days I’m not obsessed with alcohol, nor do I desire to drink, because if I take even one drink there’s one thing I know for sure—I will crave more. And, that path leads steeply downhill.

“More” was my drink of choice

When an alcoholic like me (and in this characteristic, all alcoholics are exactly like me) takes even one drink, something chemical clicks “on” in the brain and we crave more and more, and…more. I’ve said before that I’ve never had a single drink in my life. One lead to two, two led to 12. Almost every time. That’s “the phenomenon of craving”, but in addition to the desires and cravings, I was obsessed.

I was obsessed with alcohol

Obsession with drinking can show up on your calendar. It did on mine. You CAN be an alcoholic attorney without having a calendar obsessively organized around alcohol. I wasn’t that kind of alcoholic, my calendar was almost completely organized around drinking. Consciously or subconsciously, I was literally planning my schedule around alcohol.  I had my assistant trained to do the following:

Non-drinking clients (there weren’t many) were scheduled to meet on the phone or in the office between the hours of 9am and Noon so I was sober without any smell of alcohol on my breath, but not so early that I didn’t have a little time to recover from the previous night’s drinking.  There was almost always a previous night’s drinking, and even if I might take a rare evening off, such a night wasn’t predictable enough to plan around, so it was best to assure a little extra time to get going in the morning.

Afternoon meetings with non-drinking clients were minimized.

“Fun” clients (those that drank) were never scheduled in the morning because we’d miss an opportunity to have a drink.  If they drank like me we had long-lunch meetings. (Alcoholics easily recognize people who drink like us v. those who don’t, won’t, or can’t.)

If they drank, but not like me, then we’d meet at the end of the day, maybe a quick meeting in the office if something was confidential, or maybe directly in the bar if we were checking the status of something or just catching up on the “business-development relationship.”

If my calendar became a little empty I’d reach out to the clients and schedule those long lunches or happy hour meetings. Of course those people enjoyed having their lawyer care enough about them to reach out and schedule time. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy meeting with them, or I wouldn’t want to go drinking with them, but after I got sober I realized that I was really just finding ways to drink, and hooking a justification to it by including a client.

As I sobered up, I stopped scheduling the drinking lunches and the happy hour meetings.  I was also able to get an earlier start. I’d always envied those people who could get up early and work on personal or work tasks to get more done before 10am than I used to accomplish in a whole day. Now I know how that works. They aren’t drinking every night.  They aren’t alcoholics like me.

Take a look at your calendar

How many meetings are you scheduling around alcohol? Are you paying attention to the clients and colleagues who are “fun” (drinkers) or “not fun” (non-drinkers)? Are there people in your life that won’t hang out with you unless you’re going to a bar?

I’ve found that one of the manifestations of alcoholism in the legal profession shows up in black and white – on the calendar. If yours is scheduled with “fun” clients, long lunches, and happy hour events, you might be showing the obsessive signs of an alcoholic attorney. Do everyone in your life a favor, including yourself, and contact your lawyer assistance program to see if they can help.

(photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/njj4/4291161451)