It’s no secret that compared to most other professionals, lawyers have a disproportionately higher incidence of alcohol and substance abuse. As Dr. Jeffrey Fortang, from Massachusetts Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) wrote, “…lawyers are acculturated to present an image of themselves as knowing, capable, even invulnerable or self-sufficient. Yet lawyers are human beings, and thus subject to vulnerabilities and setbacks.” (From the LCL Blogpost, “No Lawyer is an Island”).
Problems with alcohol and substance abuse also affect law students. Law school is challenging; students who are used to academic success may find it hard to compete among equally bright classmates. The changed economy demands more resourcefulness in finding jobs. To combat these pressures, students sometimes turn to alcohol or other substances in unhealthy, and potentially destructive, ways. Sadly, some find themselves subject to school disciplinary action because of alcohol-related incidents. Some face problems with bar admission because their drinking led to drunk driving citations or arrests. Some sit in classes with their peers, seemingly fine on the outside but struggling helplessly on the inside to control a problem that has taken over their lives.
Which brings me to “Jane.” Jane is a second-year BU Law student. She is anonymous, in keeping with the tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which promotes humility among its members and places principles before personalities. Like many students, Jane achieved academic success. Like some students, she drank a lot. She never got fired because of her drinking; never got a DUI; never lost her home due to alcohol. But she gradually realized that she is an alcoholic. Jane has volunteered to share her story because she wants you to know that if alcohol is making any part of your life unmanageable, you are not alone.
If you find yourself having too much to drink too often, don’t wait for your life to “go off the rails.” Don’t risk disciplinary action, or problems with bar admission or bar membership. Don’t wait for yet another relationship to end because of alcohol problems. Seek out professional help.
BU Law students can receive free, confidential services at the BU Student Health Services, 881 Commonwealth Avenue. Another great resource is Massachusetts Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) in downtown Boston, a free, confidential assistance program available to all Massachusetts judges, lawyers, and law students. The LCL website has a section devoted to law students . You also can take an online alcohol/drug self test . (But note from the LCL website: “This series of questions about one’s use of alcohol and/or drugs is an informal inventory of “tell-tale signs” with many items tailored to lawyers. It is not a list of official diagnostic criteria and does not substitute for a professional evaluation (which LCL can provide in person).”
LCL can connect you with lawyers and law students who have similar issues and who are in recovery. In fact, if you want to connect with Jane, our BU Law student, contact Barbara Bowe ( firstname.lastname@example.org), a licensed social worker at LCL, who will make that happen. Don’t wait.
Best, Dean Marx