Friday, April 13, 2012

Casting the First Stone

A news article in a local Massachusetts newspaper reported the recent arrest of a lawyer late one night for drunk driving, endangerment of two young children in the back seat, and other charges. I glanced at the comments posted by readers in response to this article, and was dismayed by how contemptuous and cruel they were. While this woman’s reckless, dangerous, and irresponsible drinking and driving behavior that put her, her children, and others at great risk understandably evokes anger and outrage, it may be helpful for us all to remember the wisdom and truth contained in the Biblical comment, “Let him/her who is without sin cast the first stone.” Other wisdom sources have their equivalents. Which of us who has lived long enough has not done something to be ashamed of? Which of us can stand up to full public exposure of everything we’ve ever done? Or of even just the one worst thing we’ve ever done? Although I don’t know her, I would like to at least consider the possibility that this woman, free of the impairing effects of alcohol, likely strives to be a good mother, good lawyer, good citizen. If she can accept this experience as a wake-up call and seek the help she needs for what may be a previously unrecognized problem, she may, like may others in recovery from alcoholism (or some other addictive behavior) end up saving more lives than she ever endangered. Heaping blame and shame on her will not support that process. Nor will punitive action on the part of her employer. This is a trouble woman who needs to find her way into recovery, a challenging and humbling but ultimately highly rewarding process that culminates in offering assistance and service to others similarly afflicted. Ideally, each of the individuals involved with this woman’s case, or life, will contribute in some way, however large or small, to a life transformed, enabling her to move beyond this moment of painful humiliation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fred's Story

[Fred's story was recently published in LCL's newsletter, briefings, and we reprint it here.]

My Name is Fred. . . and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is April 1, 2007. I volunteered to share my story here in the hopes that others of our honored profession who are similarly afflicted may catch a glimpse of the wonders of LCL and be encouraged to utilize this incredible resource. Of course, after I said I’d share my story, my alcoholic fear set in and I questioned what part of my story might best express my respect for the great people who are the heart and soul of
this organization. Then, without hesitation, I eagerly called a good friend from LCL and asked for

The response I received to my call was, “Freddy, every time I hear you speak, your serenity is evident, so why don’t you talk about how you have achieved that?” Willingness to seek help is the most important part of my recovery, closely followed by the discovery of humility and the willingness to listen and follow suggestions offered by those who care. Thankfully, I now enjoy a feeling of serenity that only God could have given me. I now know that it derives from the gift of truly believing that everything is going to be OK, which was only achievable through the AA fellowship; recovery is unquestionably a “we” endeavor.

That call epitomizes what LCL has done for me. It has become an integral part of what another of my LCL friends calls my “Boston AA family.” My Boston AA family gives me the luxury of no longer having to rely upon my own alcoholic mind to manage my life; I can rely upon their experience to guide me. As a supplement to the daily support, direction, and genuine, unselfish care of my outstanding sponsor, the people of LCL have become friends, and along with the love of my daughters and my sister’s family in Maine, form a support system only God could have created.

The key, then, for me has been to completely surrender my will, and to trust and believe that if I stay here in Boston, listen to my sponsor and LCL friends, go to meetings, and make a real effort to work the program (including praying and helping others), what God wants for me will happen when he is ready for it to happen. This surrender and a genuine desire to grow spiritually (which for me includes living by the Buddhist view learned from another LCL friend that “Desire Brings Pain,”) allows me to live sober day by day. So equipped, I am thus able to happily endure almost any hardship in pursuit of my newly realigned goals of continued sobriety, love and respect of family, happiness, and, lastly, professional and financial success. They are helping me at long last to grow up!

This drastic movement away from fear-based selfcenteredness, arrogance, and selfishness and toward humility I credit mostly to my sponsor and LCL. My first attempt at recovery was very different. During that eightyear period, I attended meetings but did virtually nothing else – no sponsor, no reading the materials or working with other alcoholics. As a result, I became a miserable, dry drunk workaholic who not even my own children or wife cared to be around. I was emotionally empty and alone. My whole identity and self-worth were merely as a lawyer, so despite considerable professional success, I was destined for failure. I simply could not sit with myself, and when my world finally became so small and meaningless, I succumbed to the allure of “neon and nylons.” I now know this was largely a consequence of trying to recover on my own, which left me defenseless and without someone to call when I needed help. I had failed to find the happiness “from within” that the 12 Steps of AA and the fellowship can bring.

Over the next six years, I managed to lose my wife and children, my legal practice, my home, and any stability or morality. Ultimately, I ended up here in Boston, and the elevator continued to plummet to depths beyond anything I could have imagined, including a six-month incarceration in South Bay for alcohol-related misdemeanors, an indefinite suspension of my Ohio law license, homelessness, and, worst of all, the inability to see my children for two years due to probation restrictions against leaving the Commonwealth.

It was in that condition that I was first introduced to LCL. I will never forget that day! There I was, homeless, disgraced, professionally dead, and a shadow of my former self walking into a small room full of some of the most successful and distinguished sober lawyers of this major East Coast city. The reception I received was truly a gift from God! These individuals, as well everyone else associated with LCL, welcomed me with open arms and immediately took a genuine interest in me. They candidly discussed what was occurring in both their personal and professional lives along what they were doing to remain sober. There was no ridicule or judgment, just understanding and support. I immediately identified completely and soon knew I was no longer alone professionally as I was given phone numbers, encouraged to use them, and, most mportantly, invited to come back to the bi-weekly meetings whenever I could. I walked away from that experience with hope and the belief that if I kept showing up and listening they would help me learn to live my life as a sober father, fellow AA-er, and, eventually, I hope, as a Massachusetts attorney.

It has been over three years since that introduction to LCL, and with their help I have been reinstated as an Ohio attorney and sponsored for admission to the Mass Bar. I am active in, and hold myself accountable to, LCL, and I hope to be granted the honor of joining my friends in the practice of law here in Boston, God willing. I remain in Massachusetts, presently living at the generosity of one of my sponsees and his very kind and wonderful family. In recognition of the importance of my Boston AA program to my continued sobriety, I have opted against returning to my former practice in Ohio in favor of continuing – for now – my humble outdoor job in the tourism industry for nominal wages. A testament to the program, the needs of my daughters are more important to me now than my personal comforts, and the bulk of my earnings are happily and freely given for their support. Meanwhile, I patiently continue to pursue my dream of living and practicing here where I know I belong. To some who knew me before my recovery, my decision to stay in Massachusetts is hard to believe, but it is a decision my AA family helped me easily reach long ago.

Interestingly, the rationale for this decision was best summarized by my daughters, with whom I now enjoy a fabulous relationship. After seeing my progress, meeting my sponsor, and hearing about all my friends, my youngest said, “Dad, whatever those people in Boston are doing to you, let them keep doing it; stay there! We love you and will join you there very soon.”

Restoration of that relationship has been my greatest reward. For that and so much else, I’m certain I will never be able to completely express my gratitude for my AA family in Boston. I only hope that in some small way I can “pass it on” and help others become so fortunate. However, the same gentleman who introduced me to Buddhism, and who also painstakingly helped me stay connected to LCL during my reinstatement sojourn in Ohio, may have summed up my emotions best on one cold winter night years ago while we were walking along Hanover Street on the way back from a meeting. After observing me enviously gazing from the “outside in” at the happy faces of restaurant patrons, he prophetically said, “Putting down alcohol may be the end of your little world, but Boston AA will help you discover a big, beautiful new one – if you let it.”

Today, my incredible new world includes enjoying friendships I never could have envisioned and trying to extend a helping hand to others as it was so unselfishly done for me. My time is filled with meetings, including the LCL meetings, sponsorship, attending a weekly commitment with my home group at a local hospital’s rehabilitation program, and I have even had the privilege of serving Thanksgiving dinner with my sponsor to other disadvantaged folks. Who would have known my life could be so full three years ago?!

God bless!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BU's Dean Marx Calls Attention to Addictive Problems in Law Students

Always a friend to LCL (and currently VP of our Board), Christine Marx, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at BU Law, is currently using her office’s blog to call attention to the fact that law students are far from immune to responding to pressures by “turn[ing] to alcohol or other substances in unhealthy, and potentially destructive, ways.” In her position, Dean Marx has seen the potential for students’ lives to “go off the rails” as an undesired byproduct of drinking or drugging. She elaborates on the story of “Jane,” a 2nd year law student who is now ready to share with others the story of her drinking and recovery. To read Dean Marx's blog, click here.

LCL has always highly valued its close relationship with area law schools. Multiple studies have established the lawyers have an especially high rate of both addictive behaviors and depression, and it appears that these begin to emerge during law school. Students who, like Jane, are able to recognize and address these challenges even before they begin their professional lives can avoid the kinds of pain and disruption that might otherwise disrupt their careers later on.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

No Lawyer is an Island

Most lawyers are acculturated to present an image of themselves as knowing, capable, even invulnerable or self-sufficient. Yet lawyers are human beings, and thus subject to vulnerabilities and setbacks. It is on that basis that, when speaking to groups of attorneys I advocate for contacting LCL and other sources of assistance sooner rather than later, ideally before one’s practice is in danger of being compromised.

But my specific intent in this post is to remind you of how helpful and important it can be to have “practice buddies” – colleagues with whom you have regular, mutually supportive interactions. These may be more readily available if you work at a law firm, and less so if you practice alone, and yet more crucial. For years, I ran a Solo Practitioners group here at LCL (soon to re-emerge as a joint LCL-LOMAP enterprise), and learned how isolated and unsupported the solo practice life can be.

Beyond the problems of professional solitude in regular practice situations, what happens when you are out of commission for a while, whether because of physical illness, family crisis, depression, need for alcohol/drug treatment, etc.? There is no organized system, no committee or agency set up to take over for you in circumstances when you are ill, impaired, or worse. (This is unfortunate, since under the auspices of such an organization the lawyers providing coverage would be immune from liability.) You cannot ethically leave your clients unattended, but arranging for their coverage is entirely up to you. Imagine how much easier things are, then, if you have regular contact with one or more of your peers (e.g., who meet as a group once a month to discuss tough cases or developments in the law, or with whom you have lunch individually on a regular basis), with the understanding that each of you is ready to step in for the other(s) as needed. And when the time comes that you are summoned to Highest Court, there is no mystery as to what happens to your open cases.

As you might imagine, at LCL we repeatedly see lawyers who really are in no shape to practice for the time being, but who keep attempting to do so because they have no back-up – for their computers, maybe, but not for themselves. So, much as I myself resist articles providing unsolicited advice, may I suggest that you take a few minutes right now to think about who your professional buddies might be – and maybe make a lunch date.

[Two afterthoughts: (1) If you are interested our planned time-limited group for solo practitioners, email me at – we hope to get it started in a couple of months; (2) My perspectives are psychological – to get more lawyerly advice on topics such as covering for an impaired colleague or taking over the practice of a deceased professional peer, review the illuminating articles by bar counsel on the BBO web site ( ].

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Word to the (Recovering) Wise

As the days grow shorter, colder and darker, people find themselves inclined to “batten down the hatches” and stay indoors. This time of the year is known in recovery circles as the “trifecta” (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). This trifecta creates a very seductive season, with all the commercials, parties, office treats and overabundance of all things sweet, so folks in recovery need to make a very conscious decision to re-commit to sobriety.

If the holidays are for you a joyous time filled with fun and family, relaxation and enjoyment, then hats off to you! If, on the other hand, work is scarce, money is tight, and you are not optimistic about what comes next, or if spending time with family feels like a root canal without Novocain, or simply more of an endurance test than a Norman Rockwell moment, the holidays may require all the determination you can muster to keep yourself sane and content.

Determination to stay sane and content starts with taking stock of what you have and reflecting on ways you can change to meet conditions as they are, recalling you have no control over people, places and things. Regardless of how you feel about the holidays, it is always a good time to think about what you are grateful for, and despite the current difficulties, how it is better than your pre-recovery days of confusion and turmoil.

Remember also that the holiday season, whether good or not so good, will pass – so don’t make decisions about the worth of your life when things are tough…it gets better…nothing stays the same.

The trifecta gives up the opportunity to go to a lot of meetings, reach out to others, and try to find the goodness in as many places as we can!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making the Most of the Holidays

The holiday season is once again upon us. Do you welcome it? Dread it? Get depressed by it? Is your sobriety challenged during this season? Most of us have some understandably jaded feelings about the holidays, the annoyingly early and unrelenting commercialism, the non-stop media portrayals of idealized family gatherings, the presumption of abundance, and the pressure to spend beyond our means. In addition, memories, losses, unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and now economic reversals and uncertainties can take the luster off of a season that once held expectations of excitement and delight. The following tips may be helpful in not becoming a victim of the season:

Manage your mind: Depression thrives in that petri dish of negative thought about oneself, others, or life in general. A powerful causal relationship exists between what we think and believe, and what we feel emotionally. Negative thoughts beget negative feelings, which beget negative expectations, which beget negative behaviors, which create a cycle of negativity. An effective way to fend off depression involves being willing to become aware of when your thinking is veering into negative territory, and then consciously and deliberately taking it back into happier territory. Managing your mind takes determination, patience, persistence, and practice. And as with any exercise, you gradually build muscle – mental muscle! And you will gradually feel better and better, both emotionally and physically, the mind-body connection now being a well-established medical fact. A good starting point might be to remind yourself of all you have to be grateful for. Gratitude and depression cannot co-exist for long. An “attitude of gratitude” will change your life.

Participate and give: If you are one of the lucky ones whose life has been transformed by working the steps of AA or another 12-Step program, you are likely to have practiced, in one way or another, all of what is written here, and have learned repeatedly the joy of giving service, lending a hand, 12th-stepping. But you, too, may need the extra support and inspiration of the Program, its members, and its wisdom at this time of year. The opportunities for growth keep presenting themselves, and the Program never fails to offer perspective and hope. Keep going back.

Define your goals: Take charge and ask yourself, “What can I do to make this (or something else) better?” In other words, don’t be a sad victim. Do you want more control over your calendar orpractice management? Call LOMAP. Do you want more energy? Join a gym. Do you want a better relationship with your spouse? Talk (and listen) with him/her about it. Do you want to learn to deal with stress? Call LCL. These self-empowering steps help defeat depression. And when it comes to the holidays, ask yourself what you can do to make it a little happier for yourself and others. And, then, act.

Yes, act! A symptom of depression is helplessness. But helplessness is an illusion, often quite a persuasive or seductive one, but still an illusion. The truth is, if we’re willing, we can all dodge
that sense of defeat by exerting some control over our own lives. (Trying to change someone else is a futile substitute, guaranteed to fail and increase misery.) Acting in our own behalf often involves maintaining a determined attitude, and may require the use of various sources of support such as family, friends, your spiritual community, or LCL.

Take care of yourself, personally and professionally: Respect yourself by taking care of yourself, and you will enjoy better mental and physical health. When you treat yourself with respect, others are likely to do the same. We all know what good self-care means: eat nutritious food and avoid the more available junk food – but enjoy the holiday treats within reason. Sleep – at least 7 hours a day, more if necessary or possible, and take a mid-afternoon nap. Read a good book, take a walk in the woods, have breakfast with friends, go for a run, drop a bad client, or take your spouse to the movies.

Laugh: Especially at yourself. Resist taking things too seriously. Humor doesn’t mean you don’t take your work seriously; it just acknowledges a wider perspective. Keep the funny bone in gear so the kid inside can come out to play when the time right, be goofy even, have some belly laughs; it refreshes both the brain and the spirit and wards off depression. The people you make laugh will always be happy to see you coming.

Plan a vacation: It does not have to be the extravagant trip of a lifetime, although it can be, but plan your vacation time. (If you lack a travel companion, join a tour, or a club; then you’ll have many.) And don’t underestimate the value of one-minute vacations: close your eyes, relax your body, and envision yourself doing what you love. As with laughter, envisioning doing something, or being somewhere you adore refreshes mind and body and can lead to action that turns it into reality. If you can allow yourself to take a vacation.

Adjust your expectations: As a group, lawyers tend to enjoy challenges and set high expectations for themselves, especially at work. For some, seductive financial rewards for unreasonable productivity demands serve to reinforce a potentially destructive imbalance. This is a good time of year to re-evaluate priorities in favor of that which enhances year-’round peace and harmony in both spheres of life – professional and personal, work and love. (Of course, such re-balancing acts can represent a major change and must be carefully thought out, and discussed and planned in conjunction with others who would be affected, maybe even feel threatened, by them.) Balance helps create the conditions for health and happiness.

Change one thing: As creatures of habit and routine, we all know how tough change can be. It’s best to start slow and let the momentum build. Choose just one thing that you can realistically do differently. Consider what will have to shift (Fewer clients? Less TV? Making your own lunch to pay for housecleaning, a babysitter, gym membership? Less complaining?), and evaluate your willingness to make them. Journal your efforts, slips and progress. Keep visual reminders everywhere (write on your bathroom mirror, car windshield, or refrigerator). Enlist the support of a friend, consultant, or counselor to hold you accountable to your intention. Incremental changes are more likely to become habitual. Taking charge of one’s own life is empowering and confidence building and counteracts depression.

Finally, compassionate and good-humored self-acceptance greatly enhances our capacity for genuine enjoyment of ourselves and of others. A healthy, reality-based love of self, warts and all, generates and attracts more love. And love always partners with happiness.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Firm Future Conference Returns for 2011; Free Registration for LCL Blog Readers

The Firm Future Conference, taking place December 1, is put on by the Warren Group and co-sponsored by Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, the Law Office Management Assistance Program, the Massachusetts Bar Association, and other Massachusetts legal stakeholders. The conference will feature programs on social media marketing, business development (including law practice start-up), mobile practice, alternative billing, work-life balance and more. Rodney Dowell, executive director of LCL; Barbara Bowe, clinician at LCL; and, Jared Correia, law practice advisor at LOMAP, will combine to appear on several conference panels. Nationally prominent experts presenting at the conference include: Larry Bodine (, of (; Reid Trautz (, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (; Susan Cartier Liebel (, of Solo Practice University (; Jay Shepherd (, of Prefix, LLC (; and, Alan Klevan (, of Klevan & Klevan, LLP (

Visit the Firm Future Conference website (, for the complete agenda (, including a full roster of speakers.

LCL Blog ( readers can register for the program for FREE through November 17.

Click here ( to register for the conference for free, compliments of LCL.