Seven Excuses Lawyers Make to Avoid Drug Rehab (and How to Overcome Them)
Convincing an addict to enter drug rehab is never an easy task. When the addict also happens to be a lawyer, the process can be even more intimidating. Before you start this difficult conversation, learn about the most common excuses impaired lawyers make when asked to enter drug rehab – and the arguments you can use to overcome them.
“I Don’t Have a Problem.”
There is one enormous obstacle standing between an addicted lawyer and the help they need: denial. The skills that make great lawyers – rationalizing, finding loopholes and arguing a case – are the same ones that may prevent a lawyer from recognizing a problem with drugs or alcohol. When confronted, attorneys may turn the conversation into a debate about what constitutes addiction or divert attention to someone else’s drug or alcohol use.
Many lawyers are “high-functioning addicts” who have managed to maintain their livelihoods, at least to some degree, in spite of their drug or alcohol abuse. If they can show up for work and don’t necessarily drink or use drugs every day, lawyers may operate under the illusion that they are merely “recreational” drug users. Their wealth and connections may allow their addiction to go undetected even longer.
Family, friends and colleagues play a critical role in overcoming denial. Be on the lookout for diversions and prepare a list of specific incidents when the attorney’s drinking or drug use negatively impacted others. If you’ve been paying the lawyer’s bills, protecting their job, lying for them, staying in a dysfunctional relationship or otherwise enabling the addiction, let the lawyer know that you will no longer continue to do so.
Closely related to denial is the belief that the addicted lawyer is still in control of their drinking or drug use. Many lawyers won’t acknowledge their addiction even in the face of legal, family, financial or professional problems.
Outside pressure, applied with great care and empathy, is often needed for an impaired lawyer to realize they are powerless over addiction. The most effective interventions involve senior partners, a local judge or the state Bar as well as family and close friends. The threat of job loss is a strong motivation for impaired attorneys to get help.
“My Reputation Will Be Ruined.”
In a career where success is based on a strong professional reputation and the esteem of clients and colleagues, it can be difficult for lawyers to admit to battling addiction. As problem solvers, lawyers want to appear invincible, as though they can win any case and overcome any obstacle.
Any lawyer with a drug or alcohol problem has already tarnished their professional reputation. Getting help can only improve the situation.
Lawyers assistance programs exist in every state to help addicted attorneys get the treatment they need and return to work when possible. These programs are strictly confidential and can guide attorneys into the best drug rehab program for their unique needs. Executive drug rehabilitation programs specialize in treating addicted lawyers, doctors and other professionals, providing comfort, sophisticated counseling and the utmost in confidentiality.
“I Can’t Take Time Off Work.”
Workaholism is common among attorneys. For many, their identity and self-esteem depend on their career success, and walking away for any period of time can seem impossible.
While leaving work for at least 30 days is certainly a burden, many law firms and lawyers assistance programs are willing to support a talented professional as they recover from addiction. Getting this time away from the long hours and stress of legal practice is essential for recovery.
Attorneys who work for law firms can typically find a partner or associate to assist with their caseload while in drug rehab. While solo practitioners have a slightly higher hurdle to overcome, given a shortage of back-up support, the fact is that their business may not be around if they don’t get help for addiction.
“I Can’t Afford Drug Rehab.”
This excuse may confound outsiders. Lawyers can make upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, right? Yes, some do – and they can spend that much and more on a drug habit. Particularly among solo practitioners who may not be able to pay the bills after a month or more in drug rehab, the price tag for recovery can be a convenient excuse.
At least part of a stay in drug rehab may be covered by health insurance. When insurance isn’t sufficient, many lawyers assistance programs loan money for treatment that can be paid back over time and on flexible terms.
“My Drug Use Is My Business.”
Given that lawyers are reluctant to acknowledge the harm they’re doing to themselves, it’s no surprise that they also fail to recognize the damage their addiction inflicts on others. Some may argue that as long as they’re able to bring home a paycheck, colleagues, loved ones and the state Bar association should mind their own business.
When a lawyer is addicted to drugs or alcohol, their pain and suffering affect many more people than they realize. One family member’s addiction can bring dysfunction to the entire family unit. Addicted lawyers cannot adequately serve their clients or fulfill the commitments they made the day they were admitted to the Bar. More than losing the trust of family and clients, impaired lawyers also erode the public’s faith in the justice system.
Staging an addiction intervention allows an addicted lawyer to experience the full consequences of their behaviors. As family, friends and colleagues describe the impact the lawyer’s addiction has had on their lives, the lawyer can no longer remain in denial.
The stress of legal practice can be crushing. Tight deadlines, long hours and pressure to compete for business can understandably lead to a need to “escape.” Impaired lawyers may need help from a trusted therapist to understand how the “reward” of drug or alcohol abuse is actually a death sentence.
While stress may be an unavoidable part of legal practice, resorting to drug or alcohol abuse is never the solution. In drug treatment, impaired lawyers learn better tools for stress management and develop healthy coping skills. Through yoga, acupuncture, meditation, exercise, counseling and the fellowship of a 12-Step program, impaired lawyers can become happier, even more successful practitioners.