Denial is not a river flowing through Africa!
Our conscious refusal to admit to an uncomfortable or painful truth about ourselves or a loved one—THAT’S denial! Denial is a psychological defense we use to maintain our self-image, esteem, and feelings of security, well-being and control.
Denial allows us to avoid acknowledging facts that are utterly indisputable to those around us. For the legal practitioner, denial allows us to persuasively disavow, distort and rationalize all of the indicators of substance abuse or addiction in our lives despite the evidence confronting us.
No lawyer or other professional worth their salt is going to go into a situation without proper planning, preparation and a thorough strategy for success.
Honestly evaluating a matter, or set of circumstances, and developing a proper plan, often involves bringing in consultants, experts, witnesses and others whose job it is to share their experience in an effort to move your agenda forward.
Working with others allows us to expand our understanding of the challenges we face in moving forward.
At each stage of the process, there is a list of items to be completed in the short term, all of which are designed to achieve a definable long-term goal: success!
If you’re good at what you do, you’ll have layered plans and multiple backup strategies in the event any particular course fails to yield its intended outcome. In short, you’ll plan meticulously for success, anticipate and address the strengths and weaknesses of each element of all sides of your particular challenge, leaving nothing to chance that can be addressed with proper planning.
General Denials & Affirmative Defenses
When it comes to confronting the dragon of substance abuse, what is your plan?
Sadly, for many attorneys and other professionals, the plan is to deny that there is a problem. Just Google “attorneys and substance abuse” and review the results. Some “sobering” statistics emerge.
- As a profession, attorneys have an almost 50% higher rate of substance abuse than the general population.
- 75% of attorneys seeking assistance with substance abuse in 2008 were also involved in disciplinary proceedings.
When we add factors such as depression, burnout, disengagement or other mood, personality or anxiety disorders into the mix, practicing law can be a recipe for self-medicating against the quiet desperation we find among a significant subset of our colleagues.
Equally sobering are studies showing substance-abuse and denial go hand in hand. Not only are substance abuse and addiction considered occupational hazards in the legal and medical professions; the accompanying stigma– the perception such behavior is somehow evidence of moral failing– encourages those affected to hold fast to the denial defense.
As a result, the majority of those with substance-abuse problems do NOT seek help through mutual aid or professional treatment. When they do:
- Less than 50% actually complete treatment;
- more than 50% resume their old patterns within 30-90 days;
- in severe cases, recovery doesn’t stabilize until 4-5 years of continued abstinence.
Let me ask you a couple questions:
when 50% of substance users resume former use patterns within 30-90 days of formal treatment, who’s out there “stabilized” 4-5 years later?
What are THEY doing differently?
Where will YOU land along this continuum?
The Profession IS the Problem
One problem shared by attorneys and doctors alike is the sense of omnipotence, power and influence bred by our professions and material success. However, the research doesn’t lie. We are not immune because of our professional and social standing, our material success or the sheer force of our personalities and professional aptitudes.
The disease of addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Additionally, attorneys are at higher risk of developing substance-abuse problems because of the characteristics unique to our practice. You know them. They include: workplace cultures,
conflict and adversalialism,
incivility from practitioners and clients alike,
pressures to market,
pressures to bill,
pressures to make rain and, ultimately, to win.
Only, for most of us, we don’t, can’t or won’t admit we’ve been lying to ourselves and to those around us, until a truly life or career altering event forces us into the uncompromising truth of our condition:
one or more D.U.I.’s,
even thoughts and attempts of suicide.
At some point, denial is no longer a defense, but a quiet co-conspirator of the deadliest kind.
YOUR Call to Action: Call Me
If you don’t know what to do but believe you need to do something, call me.
I am entering my 14th year of practice here in my Northern California community. In that time I’ve witnessed many of my colleagues succeed in recovery. I’ve also witnessed just as many continue to deny their own substance abuse problems and lose their practices.
I’ve smiled patiently as they’ve rejected the repeated concerns of those of us willing to extend the confidential support, encouragement, experience and personal examples that might have saved them from professional suspension, disbarment, jail time, prison and suicide. But they resisted and rejected these efforts purely out of pride and arrogance.
It’s my personal opinion, but one informed by personal experience and by personal observation, that the deadliest mistake YOU can make as an attorney dealing with YOUR personal substance abuse issues is to convince yourself that your professional standing and intellectual aptitudes are a sufficient defense to the progressive nature of addiction. Too many have been taken down by this belief.
As a Recovery Coach who practices law and is also recovering from the disease of substance dependence, I am available anytime for consultation and support to attorneys and others at any stage of the recovery process.
If you are in recovery or would like to discuss recovery issues and how a Recovery Coach can benefit YOUR recovery efforts, contact me TODAY at (530) 515-5198. Lets talk about what Recovery Coaching is and what it can help you achieve.
You can also email me at CoachPaul@Youridealcoach.com. All contacts are safe, secure and strictly confidential.