Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_Apr 2014

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26 In the brightly lit, frigid hospital corri- dor, John waited on the hospital gurney, twisted in pain. With nothing left but his thoughts, John remembered a time when all he wanted was to be an attorney. And, he was. To John it did not seem so long ago that he was regarded as an American success story. As a brilliant criminal defense attorney, John earned the respect of his peers. He received enormous acco- lades for his outstanding work in the community and as a father. Suddenly, and in sharp contrast, these posi- tive thoughts were interrupted with more recent negative thoughts. "It's just coke that you smoke," the dealer said. "It's direct." John remembered when he first drew on the pipe and blasted off into the ecstatic edge of consciousness. It was John's escape from problems, as well as the responsibilities of his professional and personal life. Within months, the drug owned him. Soon, John lived solely to fill his crack pipe. John's addiction was so overwhelming that it destroyed his relationships and law practice. How did a prominent lawyer get to this point? How does anyone get to this point? Many people, including those in the legal profession struggle with unhealthy, expensive, and often life-threatening addictions or other compul- sive behaviors. These include alcohol, drugs, com- pulsive gambling, and compulsive sex. Lawyers should be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease in order to promote prevention of addic- tion in your practice, your community, your fam- ily, and yourself. Why should a lawyer become involved in the referral processes for the diagnosis and treatment of an addict? First, the National Drug and Alcohol Commission describes substance abuse and addiction as a national public health problem that affects millions of people and imposes enormous financial and social burdens on society. It destroys families, harms individuals and communities, and chokes the criminal justice system. Further, it is a disease that can affect anyone, regardless of age, cultural background, or profession. Finally, lawyers are in a natural position to make a differ- ence in the lives of their clients, their co-workers, their communities, and even themselves. Basic Facts According to the most recent figures from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, substance use, including under- age drinking and the non-medical use of pre- scription and over-the-counter medications, VIRGINIA LAWYER | April 2014 | Vol. 62 | LAWYERS HELPING LAWYERS The Spiral Downward: Identifying Addiction by Carol P. Waldhauser April2014VL_vl0414 4/2/14 5:25 PM Page 26

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