My business required that I drink and meet clients in bars or at odd hours and have a drink and discuss their case. I was a solo practitioner and did fairly well. I was of service to my clients, happily married, active with my children’s activities, church, and scouting. What was a happy busy life deteriorated over time. How it all happened I can see only in hindsight. I didn’t see it at the time at all.
My sons left grammar school for high school one at a time. They pulled out of scouting as they became busy with their own lives and I decided to work more as they needed me less. Their no longer needing me for scouting or camping evolved into not needing me at all and then to not wanting to associate with me in any way. I thought it was their fault. I have since learned it was mine.
Hindsight tells me my drinking increased dramatically over this time, but then I would have denied it. People I shared office space with decided to “go in other directions.” I continued in my practice and I continued to drink.
My relationship with my wife deteriorated as well. She became increasingly unhappy and frequently exhibited her anger and disappointment in me and my life style. I would argue the necessity for my way of life and the results I could obtain. Her talks of divorce were more frequent and I tried with every effort to stop such thoughts or action. Cutting down didn’t work, stopping was not possible, but a low-grade maintenance might work. It didn’t. My practice included divorce work and I could calculate where I would be in the event of my own divorce in my head. The result was not pleasing and it was to be avoided at all costs.
With no warning and not having a clue, I walked into a judge’s chambers one day because he wanted to see me. I knew this man but had never appeared before him. He had been an opponent’s counsel on a case before he took the bench. He said he had some people who wanted to talk to me and took me into a jury room in his court and it all became painfully clear. There were thirteen people in that room: my wife, my six sons, two former office mates who I had taught how to practice, two guys I did not know, the judge, and myself. It was tense and terrible. The only thing anyone wanted to talk about was my drinking and how it embarrassed them. My wife mentioned the “divorce” word again and I felt she really meant it. Two of my sons would not say anything; the others mentioned ways I had embarrassed them.
They suggested treatment. I suggested that I had a business to run. We adjourned to the judge’s chambers with a smaller group, the judge, one of the lawyers I had mentored and taught, the two guys I did not know, and me. The talk was still about going to treatment. I had a practice to run. As it turned out the two guys I did not know and the other lawyer agreed to handle my cases while I was in treatment. The two guys I did not know were volunteers from the Lawyers’ Assistance Program. They were willing to cover my cases for the time I was in treatment. One did mostly civil and the other did divorce. How convenient. The other lawyer did mostly criminal and traffic. The fact that these three men had the capacity to cover most of my work did not occur to me until I started writing these words. What was not lost on me was that once I agreed to go to treatment, I was advised that it would start that day. The plane headed to the treatment center was due to depart at 2:00 p.m.
The four of us went to my office which was a block away. I printed schedules for each of them and gave them the files they would need. I recalled I had a bunch of real estate matters and called a friend. Yes she was in; yes she would do it. Yes she would wait while I drove to her office and left them for her. Curiosity made her ask what was going on, and I told her as briefly as I could. She was encouraging and said, “Do it for yourself.” I then went home and learned that a bag had been packed and that a friend would fly with me to Minneapolis. I thought that my life was over.
Rehab was both different and easier than I anticipated. Readings, learning, discussions, and counseling were the order of the day and I learned about alcoholism and how it affected what I do. I was angry over my intervention and, while the others insisted it was an act of love on the part of my family, I felt it was a betrayal. They would argue with me at length about it. I decided to do something about my anger and used an exercise they taught to deal with our thinking and emotions. Basically I was testing the exercise and determining if it could work. I did what they said to do and it did work. Half way through the exercise in examining the intervention and why I was so angry over it, I realized that it was the first time in my life that my six sons had been in a room and that there was no disagreement among them. They could argue over anything and nothing, but this day there were no arguments. It shocked me. It embarrassed me. It humbled me. Their father was an alcoholic. I was that alcoholic.
That began a start. I started to listen. I started to take suggestions. I started to examine my beliefs and I started working a program of recovery. They let me out of treatment. I did what they said. I did an “aftercare” program. I attended AA meetings. My life got better. My relationship with my wife improved. My relationships with my sons improved. My life improved. I kept going to meetings and taking the suggestions of others. My business improved. I thought it would all go away when I went into treatment, and that did not happen.
The only thing I did to get all this improvement was to stop drinking and start listening. It has been an amazing journey over 22 years, but I am happy to be on this journey. I know that I would not have the companionship of my wife, my sons, my five daughters-in-law or twelve grandchildren if I had kept drinking. I would probably not have lived until today. Everything has improved from that time to today.