Alcoholic attorneys are actually quite common in our country. The practice of law is, and always has been one of the most respected professions in the United States. It is vital for the preservation of our country as we know it. Those who choose to become lawyers are among the most brilliant people in the world. They need to be, because the field of law requires them to hold society on their shoulders and handle all of the troubles that are thrown their way. Attorneys handle everything from basic and civil rights to the seemingly trivial matters that affect people in their normal, everyday lives. The world would not be the same without them, and many would say that it simply could not go on without them.
With such an incredible amount of responsibility, it stands to reason that lawyers would constantly feel as though they were under a lot of pressure. This is a type of pressure that people in most other professions would have a hard time understanding. Attorneys frequently need some type of outlet; a place to go, something to do, or someone to turn to in order to relieve some of that stress. It should not come as a big surprise that many of them end up turning to alcohol, and as a result, they become alcoholics. In fact, the problem might be much more serious than most people think.
A national survey was featured in the Journal of Addiction Medicine regarding addiction in lawyers. Of the 15,000 attorneys who were currently employed, it was found that between 21% and 36% of them were drinking enough alcohol to diagnose them with an alcohol use disorder. These statistics are as much as five times higher than alcohol use disorders within the general population. In addition, depression and anxiety were also rated quite high among this specific group of attorneys, which, in turn, feed into addiction.
If you're an attorney with a drinking problem, then you fall into that percentage of lawyers who is suffering with this terrible addiction. Unfortunately, the field of law is almost like a magnet for those who are high achievers, success driven, very competitive people who rarely take the time to properly care for their own well-being. Alcohol seems like an easy way to get away from the stress of the job, and in many cases, it's considered to be a part of the job. Still, once it's taken over your life, it can cause serious problems that affect you both personally and professionally.
The question is, why is alcohol such an integral part of the lives of most attorneys?
Alcoholic Lawyers: It's Woven Into Everything
The problems generally begin during the earliest days of law school. Once you enter into law school, you're taught to work hard, play even harder, and take on the role of a capable, aggressive professional who does not have any weaknesses. During law school, drinking becomes a part of what you do. Everyone does it, and it's seen as being completely normal. In fact, you're considered to be abnormal if you don't drink along with everyone else. Over time, heavy drinking, not taking care of yourself and a lack of balance in your life becomes the norm. This behavior is modeled to law students, as well as to young lawyers once they enter into the profession. Although this type of behavior is not something that only afflicts attorneys, something must be said about the fact that lawyers drink twice as much as doctors do. That in itself makes them unique.
How do you manage to cope when problem drinking is considered to be normal for your place of employment? Actually, most attorneys cope by going with the flow, and doing what everyone else is doing. This usually translates into:
- Drinking because you're feeling stressed out.
- Drinking because you're unhappy.
- Drinking because you want to celebrate with your co-workers.
- Drinking because you need to entertain your clients.
- Drinking because your co-workers have abandoned you for the evening and you're feeling alone.
The list could go on and on. Lawyers who speak out about their alcoholism are made to feel weak, which is why every effort is made to protect their reputations and maintain a façade of normalcy. They're encouraged subconsciously to hide any struggles they feel they may be facing, or better yet, simply pretend that everything is fine.
In addition, it's almost as if the legal profession maintains a lot of pride in drinking to excess, and law schools are even worse. Lawyers who abuse alcohol wear it almost like a badge of honor. Social events revolve around drinking, marketing events revolve around drinking, and the stress that often results from even one day at the office or in the courtroom works to keep alcoholism among attorneys afloat.