I was applying for an associate judgeship and the application asked if I had ever been treated for alcoholism or drug addiction. I had never been in a treatment facility but I had seen a psychiatrist briefly when I realized I needed help in getting sober. I asked someone whom I respected and he said, “Do not say yes! You will be branded.” Ultimately, I decided that the only honest answer was “yes”, and this is about honesty, right?
When I went before the screening committee of presiding judges, I told my story with great trepidation. I told them that I had started drinking in college and ultimately dropped out, got married, had two children and then got divorced. Finally, when I was thirty six, I addressed my alcoholism. I told them that sobriety had changed my life, that I went back to college at night, while working and raising my children, and that I attended law school at night. I told them that I was trying to give back by serving on a board for a halfway house for recovering women. When I left the interview, I was warmly embraced by several of the judges. I knew being open and honest was the right thing to do.
I was found qualified, although I didn’t make the short list for judge then, or the next time. The third time, I did, and I was fortunate enough to be elected then. Whether I had ever been elected or not, I know that being honest was the right thing to do. And for me, being open and forthcoming about my struggle with alcohol has been a real blessing. I have served on the LAP board of directors and as a volunteer. I have been active with other organizations that treat alcoholics and I have received so much more than I have ever given.
I have been sober now for 35 years. That doesn’t even seem possible. I can still remember how out of control my life was when I drank. And each day, I am filled with gratitude that that part of my life is behind me, as long as I remain sober! I have found purpose. I think because of my history, I am a more compassionate judge. I am healthy, I have a loving family. I am truly blessed and I am grateful for that every day. And I am proud to be able to say that I am a recovering alcoholic.