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!