When I was in law school, my life was all about drinking. Some of my friends drank responsibly, but I could not. The mission was always to drink up – hurry up and get wasted. I didn’t even want to eat because it slowed the process. I wanted to nap so I could drink again. And then I wanted to stay up late so I could drink more.
But not until five o’clock. That was the okay time to start drinking. I thought most people drank every day. I just took it a little bit further. This is how I treated myself after a hard day of showing up to class. And I indulged in this reward, my prize, until I passed out. Many days I felt sick. Some days I was hungry but I couldn’t eat because I felt sick. I would sit on the couch and shake and cry until I could fall asleep for about an hour. And then I would drink again.
Somehow I remembered a brochure we got at law school orientation. It gave a number to call if we – law students as well as lawyers and judges – needed help. I found it and tried to do some research on these people using my phone. I just got more and more frustrated, angry and upset. Shaking and crying, crying and shaking, I had no idea what to do – except to call the number.
I was crying when the receptionist answered the phone and I cried through my whole conversation with the lawyer/counselor who took my call. The Lawyering Skills class had to be missed. I was too sick to go anyway. She asked me to come in the next day. She suggested I call a counselor at the law school and gave me his number. I cried when I called him too. But he talked calmly and caringly to me too. He called back multiples times that day to check on me. And finally, I was able to muster enough strength to go to class. The beginning of the end had become the end.
The next day I went to LAP. It was a huge relief knowing I had reached out to someone who could help me. I was super nervous. The lawyer/counselor asked if I thought I could not drink tonight. I felt too sick to do anything, but I remember how happy and nice she was. I trusted her. I told her about how my drinking had progressed. By the end it was a fifth of vodka every two days.
I remember being worried because I was falling behind in my classes. Both LAP and the law school counselor helped me to drop some classes. It was a huge relief to know that I was an alcoholic – that there was a name for this problem. Both grandfathers and my dad were alcoholics.
I began going to twelve-step meetings and found a sponsor. I became aware of the unpredictability of my drinking. Sometimes I would only have two drinks. Other times I would not come home at all. At meetings I heard the warning: just don’t pick up the first drink. I was given a newcomer packet. I guess I had known for a long time that I would have to stop drinking someday and this was the day. Once I made the decision, I just dove right in. I was done. I was going to do whatever it takes.
Two weeks later I went to the LAP twelve-step meeting. I was nervous because these were lawyers and I was just a law student. Instead, everyone was loving and welcoming. They were happy to see me. It is still my favorite meeting.
And then life got better. I got my GPA back up over a 3.0 and made the dean’s list in the fall. I am more responsible now. There are still times when I am sad to miss the college parties, but I know I would go into a tailspin. I can watch football without beer. I can get up and exercise on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I am healthy – when once I even thought about injecting vodka for the quick effect and to avoid the calories. I am a more responsible person. When I say I will do something, I do. I am able to get to work in the morning and do my homework at night. Life is easier now that it does not revolve around getting drunk.
Most of all, the compulsion to drink is gone. Stopping drinking was the easy part. Finding out why I was drinking has been a lot harder, but it has been worth it. It has made me a calmer happier person when I used to be negative.
My first week sober, I bought myself a cupcake with a candle. Every time I hit a sobriety milestone, I get myself a cupcake. I remember to celebrate the little moments.