Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance use or mental health issues. Call or text TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.
Every Friday, I drove thirty minutes to the liquor store to purchase my week’s libations: a handle (1.75-liter bottle) of Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whiskey, a handle of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a handle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and four or five bottles of red wine. If money was tight, I bought a handle of Famous Grouse Finest Scotch Whiskey, a handle of Smirnoff Red Label No. 21 Vodka, a handle of Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey, and a box of red wine. One way or another, I found a way to make the trip and buy alcohol. My visits’ regularity earned me a Christmas gift of a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue from the liquor store owner, with the following words etched on the bottle, “Merry Christmas, from X Liquor Store, For Consumption, Not Collection.” I had mixed emotions about the gift.
The owner of a house I couldn’t afford and a solo law practice that wouldn’t make enough money, my nightly routine consisted of going home from work, selecting the spirit du jour, and drinking until I woke up in my chair. From there, the bathroom, bed, shower, breakfast, and back to the office was my routine. My beautiful wife and wonderful teenage children took up the rest of my time. Between the stress of the bills at home, the bills at work, the clients, the lawyers, and family issues, my only relief appeared about the third or fourth drink. The world became bearable, and I became fun for my family. A computer game called World of Warcraft sucked two years out of my life. When I got on the computer, put on the headset, and started drinking, I was in another reality. The escape allowed me to get up and get back on the hamster wheel another day.
In 2012, I had to stop four times to keep from passing out between my car and the courtroom. After the hearing, I made the four stops back to my car and drove to my family doctor. The doctor made a nurse escort me across the street for admission into the ICU with fluid on my lungs. The initial diagnosis was a pulmonary embolism. They didn’t think I was going to make it out of the hospital. After answering that my affairs were in order and receiving visits from friends and family I haven’t seen in years, I began to think I wasn’t going to make it out either. I was 47 and weighed 470 pounds.
I made it out with two purposes in life—get my kids to eighteen and get my wife some kind of pension. I knew I was on borrowed time. I shut down my practice and went to work for the county prosecuting tickets in the justice courts. I’ve had no alcohol since the night before I went into the hospital in 2012. I worked alcohol-free for five years but never addressed my weight. In 2017, I finally decided to approach the elephant in the room and made weight loss and exercise priorities. I am currently down 228 pounds and have maintained a 200-pound weight loss for two years. My kids are grown, two with college degrees and a third to graduate from the University of Texas next spring. I am working the 12-step program through Overeaters Anonymous, and I vest in the county retirement system in October.
You can change your life and improve your story, but you can’t do it alone. Change starts by realizing you have a problem and by asking for help. We are all in this together. You can do it.