Time Takes Time

The judge said he hoped to see me on the other side of the bar in 5 years. I thought to myself: There’s no reason it should take me five years to pass the bar. After all, I had already been sober for about a year, and it had been almost 2 years since my third DUI. It’s an unfortunate story, but definitely not unique. I had graduated law school, but then bar study met my best friend, King Alcohol. Before I could ever see with clarity what was really going on, the disease of alcoholism took almost everything from me. Maybe I knew I had a problem, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just couldn’t reconcile my glamorous vision of a successful legal career with a life without my very best friend. It doesn’t really matter what happened or how it happened. All that matters was that now I was sober, and I wanted my life back.

I may have drank myself into seclusion, but this new sober life was something I couldn’t live alone. The most valuable gift I received, the magic that kept me coming back to this new way of life, was hope. I saw others who had been through what I had been through, but more importantly they had felt what I felt. They were smiling, laughing, and many of them had the successful careers that I had imagined for myself. It didn’t take long to run into an attorney in recovery who introduced me to the North Carolina Lawyers Assistance Program (NCLAP). It was through this program that I was able to meet and share my story with sober attorneys and hear their stories, day to day struggles and victories.

The friends and mentors that I met through NCLAP helped me accept the reality of the journey ahead, which included the very real possibility that I would not be admitted to practice law. Although committed to a new life of sobriety, on paper the last 4 or 5 years of my life did not read as “upstanding member of the community” material. I’ve come to know now that there were several people who really thought I was crazy, delusional even, to think that I would ever be admitted to practice law after the last act of what sounded like a most tragic play. I don’t blame them, and just because I was sober now and just because I wanted to be a lawyer so badly, did not mean that it was in the cards. Nevertheless, I stuck with my recovery program and with NCLAP.

I fought hard and pushed myself hard. I wanted results immediately, but everything was overwhelming. The taxes, the credit card debt, the student loans….everything had been neglected for years. I had to learn how to be truly responsible for the first time in my life. I don’t think I was ready for the responsibility of being an attorney prior to going through the experience of digging myself out of a hole that seemed to have almost reached China. The attorneys I had met in recovery were supportive and helped steer me in the right direction on many occasions. It’s hard for me to imagine my life today without having the support of NCLAP.

In the end it did take about 5 years to finally become an attorney. I guess the judge knew something I didn’t, which was that recovery doesn’t happen overnight or even in a year. It’s a journey, and one that I learned is shared by so many of us.  Before this adventure, I wasn’t even close to being ready for the responsibility and the honor of joining this professional community. Today, I get to live a life beyond my wildest dreams. The greatest gift I can give is of my time to others who may be struggling or may just want to talk to someone who understands the painful grip of addiction. It’s never too late to ask for directions back to yourself.

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