THE ADDICTED LAWYER:
SILENCE IS DEADLY
By Brian Cuban, Esq.
By Brian Cuban, Esq.
This article first appeared at http://
uly 2005. A dark room. Table,
desk, chairs. I’m with a staff
psychiatrist of the Green Oaks
Psychiatric Facility in Dallas, Texas.
My brothers, Mark and Jeff, are sitting
at the table across from me. I have
a vague recollection of my younger
brother rousing me from my bed. My
.45 automatic lying on my nightstand.
The residuals of cocaine, Xanax,
and Jack Daniels are still coursing
through my veins. Questions from the
attending psychiatrist pierce my fog
and anger like tracer rounds. “What
drugs have you taken? How are you
feeling? Do you want to hurt yourself? “
In the back of my mind, what’s left
of the lawyer takes over. I know that
my family can’t commit me, but he
can. Proceed with caution. I don’t
mention that I had been “practicing”
sticking the barrel of the gun in
my mouth and dry-firing the gun.
Ripped back to reality. Voices in the
room. The doctor is talking to me
again. When was the last time I used
cocaine? I’m pretty sure it has been
recently, since it was all over the
room when my brothers showed up.
I had become the consummate liar
in hiding the obvious cocaine habit
and drinking problem from my family.
More questions. Do I think I need help?
Will I go to rehab? Sure, whatever will get
me out of here? I lash out again. They
have no right to do this. I yell across
the table. “You have no right to control
my life! I am an adult! Mind your own
business!” They quietly let me rant.
Blaming them for the darkness is so
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much easier than seeing the light.
The doctor is asking calm, focused
questions, to ascertain whether I am a
danger to myself. At times I am calm
in my answers. At times I am crying,
angry at him, then at my brothers. Quit
asking the same questions! I know your
game! Quit treating me like an idiot!
An hour has passed. The room is
getting brighter. The love and calm of
my brothers soothes me. Quiets me,
softens my edges. It’s always been
there, but I wasn’t present enough to
sense it. I was thinking only of myself:
My next high. My next drink. Without
the drugs, what am I going to see in
the mirror each morning? The thought
terrifies me. My brothers calm me, and I
begin to focus on my love for my family.
Arms are around me. Holding me. I
begin to feel the love penetrating my
shell. They are not the enemy. Should
I go to rehab? What about twelve-step?
I’m still on the defensive, but at least for
the moment I can listen. Have to grab
those moments. They don’t come often.
Sitting in that room during my first of
two trips to a psychiatric facility seems
so long ago. Today I am closing in
on ten years of long-term recovery
from addiction. I still deal with clinical
depression and take medication daily.
I see a psychiatrist weekly. I am also
a lawyer. I am part of profession with
an alarmingly high suicide rate. An
alarmingly high rate of substance
use, particularly alcohol. I’ve been
there. I get it. I also talk to many in the
profession weekly who are currently
struggling. Some have contemplated
suicide. I ask them what they are afraid
of. What’s holding them back from
taking that first step forward towards
the light. It’s almost always about loss.
Loss of license. Loss of job. Loss of
family. Interestingly however, the fear of
loss is generally attached to disclosure
of the problem and not the possible
consequences of the problem itself.
That is what we know as the “stigma
of addiction.” A problem that cuts
across demographics but is particularly
powerful in the legal profession. We
are strong. We are hard chargers. We
are “thinkers” who can problem solve
our way out of any situation without
disclosure. We are not vulnerable.
I am here to tell you that that emotional
vulnerability is a good thing in taking
that first step to get help. Reaching out
is not weakness, it’s courage. Asking
questions as a friend or family member
is not intrusive, it’s compassionate.
September is Suicide Prevention and
Awareness Month. Be vulnerable. Be
compassionate. Ask questions. Provide
resources. Learn what your state
Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP)
has to offer. Learn what your local bar
association has to offer. Above all, talk!
Talking is healing. Silence can be deadly.
Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The
Addicted Lawyer. A graduate of the
University of Pittsburgh School of
Law, he somehow made it through
as an alcoholic then added cocaine
to his résumé as a practicing
attorney. He went into recovery
April 8, 2007. He left the practice of
law and now writes and speaks on
recovery topics, not only for the
legal profession, but on recovery
in general. He can be reached
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