I thought I could do it alone

I have few early memories, but a couple stand out: my first pair of skates at the age of two, and my first drink at the age of five. Grandpa, who I loved dearly and pestered persistently, gave me a small glass of his homemade wine to satisfy my curiosity. The crowd of relatives loved my song and dance performance, and I loved the effect of the alcohol. I had a friend for life.

When I reached high school, drinking was commonplace. I fell in with that crowd easily. Besides, I was shy and a little booze loosened me up. I became a party guy. I was blessed with academic skills and encouragement from my family. Then off I went to university, away from home and the parental oversight. I was free and I took advantage of the newfound liberty. It was fun and I found more drinkers, but my academic achievements were less than stellar. However, I did manage to obtain a B.A.

I had the good fortune to meet a kindly professor of criminal law during my undergraduate years. He suggested that I had the requisite aptitude to become a lawyer. So I landed as a first-year student at the UBC school of law. It was like dying and going to heaven: a new experience, exciting challenges and a whole different life. And, of course, there was plenty of drinking while I worked on my plans to change the world. The faculty of law honoured me with an LL.B. My parents were very proud of their only son. I took up with my first wife, and we set out to seek our destiny.

My luck held as I fell into an articling position with a very senior and respected lawyer who brought me into his practice at the highest level. My learning was deep and broad. He provided me with all the tools necessary to maintain a long and successful career in law. He sold me his practice at a very reasonable price when he retired. I had good clients, prestige and money, lots of money. I brought in a partner. The firm prospered. My wife and I lived the good life. Dinner parties with a wide variety of elixirs, successful friends, fine restaurants, travel and a life in the fast lane. I had it made.

Regrettably, my wife found the lane a little too fast, and she left. It hurt, but I was still on top of the world. However, my practice was beginning to suffer. Apparently many lawyers spend long hours developing their practices. My drinking habits conflicted with my work habits. I determined to lend my talents to real estate investment, and when that died in the early 1980s, fuelled by my drinking bravado, to a couple of business ventures, which failed. My practice became a shambles and my prospects were becoming dim.

I needed a fresh start. I found a new and exciting wife. A kind friend in the profession invited me into his practice. We stayed together for ten years, with some success. My two children were born. I had new meaning in life. But the pressure mounted as my financial needs grew but my income did not. I drank to relieve the stress and to escape my reality. I began to drink during the day, and alone. My wife became distressed. I was depressed. I wasn’t coping with life, and my drinking was becoming obsessive. I denied that the drinking was causing the problems; I thought it was a solution.

LAP had seminars on how to use one’s law experience in business. That was what I needed-to hook up with a business that could appreciate my wealth of legal and managerial experience. I arranged an interview with Derek LaCroix at LAP. He spoke of the subject, then, in a casual sort of way, asked if I ever thought that I might have a drinking problem. I knew he was right, but those decades of denial had built a strong resistance to that truth. But with his support I accepted that I did. My admission to that fact was the beginning of my recovery from the deadly grip of alcoholism.

I had always believed that it was important to be self-sufficient. My pride told me that I needed no help. Then LAP helped me with counselling and a referral to an addictions doctor. LAP held 12-step meetings to start me in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. They were available to me when I needed help. I was introduced to other lawyers, in trouble like me, who helped me with sponsorship, support and fellowship. A group of us established our own meetings to assist each other in the process of recovery. My life began to change. I began to see people, particularly in our profession, not as hostile and indifferent, but just as normal folks doing the best they could. Most were kind and supportive. I did some backsliding and at times wondered if I could make it. But my miracle happened, and the obsession to drink evaporated. My lifetime companion, alcohol, and I had a parting of the ways. It was not a sad occasion.

My life today would probably be described as normal. I have been blessed with an opportunity to practise in an excellent firm. My needs are met, my wife has stood by me, and happily so, I believe. Our relationship is better than ever. My boys are grown and in university. My life is filled with joy and hope. I could never have imagined that this was possible. I am the benefactor of many blessings, not the least of which was the unselfish help I received from many kind and caring people in our profession. I thought that I had to, and could, do it on my own. I guess that my lesson is to always keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

***********

If you would like to speak to LAPBC counsellor on a strictly confidential basis, contact us at 604.685.2171 or 1.888.685.2171 or (info@lapbc.com) info (at) lapbc (dot) com.