“If you wonder if you are an alcoholic, you probably are.” Those were the words an elderly gentleman uttered across the room from me during the very first Alcoholics Meeting I ever attended. I had successfully not listened to anything or anyone else during the entirety of that meeting – until then. Because at the precise moment the gentlemen made this statement, I was – of course, in the midst of wondering whether I was an alcoholic. It was not the first time I had wondered that. Five minutes later, at the conclusion of the meeting, I picked up a white chip, to start a new way of life. I was 21 years old.
Until that time, I thought of a lot of reasons why I couldn’t be an alcoholic. I was very good at “comparing out.” I was too young – I had only become of legal drinking age a week prior. I hadn’t been drinking long enough – I didn’t pick up my first drink until I was 16. I wasn’t homeless. I hadn’t lost a job or home. I had never divorced. I had a long laundry list of other reasons too. Let’s just overlook the fact that, at that point in my life, I never had a house or job or marriage to lose. Never mind the blackouts. Forget about the horrific hangovers. Don’t think about the flunking out of college.
What became apparent to me in that first A.A. meeting was that while some of these things are the consequences of being an active alcoholic, none of these things are qualifications to being one. I was, and still am (albeit a recovering one), an alcoholic because I am powerless over alcohol. And it is that powerlessness that ties me to other people who attend AA meetings. Our differences do not matter. It really is that simple.
Not through my own doing, I have been sober ever since. I am 45 years old. More than half of my life, I have been attending AA meetings in a continuing quest to recover and to life on life’s terms, in as graceful a manner as I am able. There have been a lot of firsts in recovery for me – getting married, getting a real job, purchasing my first home, having a child, losing a parent, and graduating from law school. In fact, the best as well as the most difficult times of my life have been while I have been in recovery.
The recovery journey has been – well, a journey. The easiest part of the journey was putting down the drink. The hardest part was changing everything else. They say, and rightly so, that the same man or woman will drink again. I kicked, I screamed, and I fought the “suggestions” given to me by successful recovering alcoholics. But, I did them anyway. I got a sponsor. I went to A.A. meetings. I worked the A.A. 12 Steps. And then, life just started getting better. I started getting better.
My husband and I moved from Richmond, Virginia to Northern Virginia when I was accepted into law school. I was about seven years sober. I was scared, but excited, and immediately began attending A.A. meetings in the area. I found that while the format of the A.A. meetings in Northern Virginia was different than the format in Richmond, the people were the same. For the next few years, I only did three things – I worked full-time during the day, attended law school at night and went to A.A. meetings.
It wasn’t long after I began practicing law when I learned about the Virginia Lawyers Helping Lawyers program. Over the next few years, I became more and more involved in LHL. Today I am an active LHL volunteer and attend a weekly LHL meeting held in Northern Virginia. I consider that weekly LHL meeting my “home group.” I love walking into a room of fellow recovering alcoholic attorneys who understand the unique demands and stresses of our work and who willingly share their experience, strength and hope! I consider these individuals my family and am blessed to have them in my life.
We can’t do recovery on our own. Fortunately, with my LHL family and A.A. friends, I don’t have to. Nor do others who are suffering out there with active addiction. We are in this thing together. We are not alone.