Dealing with Addiction
This article has been provided by LawCare – health support and advice for lawyers
Recognising that you are subject to an addiction is not easy. There is a built-in denial mechanism in all of us, and in those of us who are lawyers (and who are thus, by definition, ambitious high achievers, unable to delegate etc. etc.), this is even harder.
The professionals providing treatment programmes for those suffering from substance abuse recognise that we, in the legal profession, are difficult to treat. We intellectualise every problem and attempt to overwhelm any discussion of a difficult topic with rationalisation and a sophisticated denial system.
In his book, “Overachieving Substance Abusers”, Dr Abraham Tworski describes the lawyer as a perfectionist who neglects self to keep the professional façade alive. Inevitably, in time, “this self-defacing and arrogant behaviour results in a predictable demise of the professional and his / her practise and the family who have been taken along for the ride.”
The problem is that the very facets of our personalities that make us successful as lawyers are those that work against us in recognising and dealing with substance abuse. The need to be intellect focused and detached from emotion, intuition and interpersonal relationships in one’s work can, in time, become such a state of mind that the ability to switch off and back into “human” mode at the end of the day disappears.
Interestingly, 98% of the lawyers admitted into the Betty Ford Centre in the USA in 2003 were addicted to alcohol and 32% of those were diagnosed as having a joint addiction – alcohol and work. 36% were also addicted to drugs, with cocaine being the drug of choice of the majority. The problem is that the work that we do is, in itself, addictive. The in-built competition, the stresses and the striving for success all produce adrenaline, and stimulants are a quick and easy way to experience that “rush” again. At the very least, they are a “quick fix” when you are feeling down and want to feel better asap (because we lawyers are, of course, far too busy to wait for anything).
Amazingly, the average lawyer entering the Betty Ford Centre for treatment has been battling with his/her addictions for 25 years prior to seeking help. This means that the professional services that they have been supplying to their clients have been affected for that length of time and, even more importantly, that their personal relationships will have been coming under strain for the same period. As with any illness, the later the diagnosis, the harder the cure.
In 2003, Dr Mark Collins M.A, talking on the subject of “In Vino Veritas”, listed the symptoms of alcohol addiction. These were exactly the same as those involved in regularly turning to smoking or “comfort food” for relief from stress. These latter behaviours have the façade of acceptability, but the truth of the matter is that they provide addictive quick fixes just as occurs with alcohol, and sustained excess of nicotine and of food can be just as deleterious to health.
Most people are likely to have at least one addiction in their life. As long as it is not causing physical or psychological harm, and is not impinging on the individual’s ability to carry on his or her daily personal and working life, then that is OK. However, if it does stray over the boundaries, the sooner that is recognised and dealt with the better and LawCare is here to help lawyers, their family and staff if they need to confront such a problem / problems. For totally free, confidential, non-judgemental help, 9am – 7.30 pm weekdays and 10am – 4pm at weekends / UK Bank Holidays, 365 days a year, ring one of the following numbers:-
- Solicitors, Trainees, Law Students, Paralegals and Legal Executives in England and Wales
- 0800 279 6888
- Barristers, Pupils, Barristers Clerks and Judges in England and Wales
- 0800 018 4299
- Solicitors and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man
- 0800 279 6869
- For Solicitors in Ireland
- 1800 991801
- For Barristers in Ireland
- 1800 303145
or visit the LawCare web site at www.lawcare.org.uk