Lawyers’ Assistance Program
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Treatment, Recovery and Relapse
Treatment assists the alcoholic or addict to accept that they have a disease and, also, accept responsibility for their recovery. They must come to understand that there is no cure for addiction and that successful recovery is based upon total abstinence from alcohol and all other mood altering drugs. They must believe this or face relapse.
Recovery is a life long process of personal growth and change with the addict having to take personal responsibility for their own recovery. Their recovery is most likely to succeed if they are willing to get involved with a 12 Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
In today's climate of managed health care and shorter inpatient treatment stays, it is increasingly more difficult for attorneys to accept these basic tenants of recovery before they leave treatment. Thus, LAP holds several confidential lawyers meetings throughout the State to encourage newly recovering attorneys to get involved with AA or NA.
These 12 Step programs are designed to create awareness of and change the addict's way of thinking and behaving; thereby, allowing him or her to live a life free of alcohol or other mood altering drugs. Without this change, the addict will eventually feel overwhelmed by their problems or, alternatively, feel empowered by their successes either of which brings forth the return of their denial and a resumption of their drinking or drug use. The disease and its destructive progression is reactivated.
A 12 Step Program helps an addict to admit the need for help, accept that help by attending and participating in 12 Step meetings, complete a process of selfexamination, admit their wrongdoings and make appropriate restitution, and help others to recover from their addiction.
This new system of thought and action counters the addict's denial system and allows the addict to live alcohol and drug free.
Nevertheless, years of alcoholic drinking and drug usage causes serious and widespread destruction throughout the body (malnutrition, hypoglycemia, autonomic nervous system dysfunctions, cortical atrophy, and brain amine depletion). The healing process can take years to complete.
Meanwhile the clean and sober attorney may feel anxious, nervous depressed, moody and wanting to get high. These feelings can be expressed and responded to in the 12 Step meetings. However, this only works if the attorney attends and speaks up, asking for help.
For the attorney who is willing to embrace the 12 Step Program, a new life of usefulness and happiness can be found. Even those who only halfheartedly get involved with these programs may, in time, find the rewards such that they increase their involvement.
It should be noted that there are some attorneys who suffer from both an addiction and a psychological illness, such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder. A proper diagnosis followed by appropriate medication and professional counseling will complement their 12 Step Program. Caution is called for as many medical professionals are not properly trained in this area. LAP can provide guidance on which professionals have the requisite knowledge and expedience to properly diagnose and treat these dual illnesses.
Understanding Relapse - The Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome
It takes a long time to recover from the damage caused by alcohol and other drugs. All major organs, the central nervous system and the body's cells in general are all damaged and their functions disrupted first by having too much alcohol and then by its removal. This physiological dysfunction affects how the recovering addict "feels" which, if not understood, can lead to relapse. Continuing depression and anxiety are not uncommon. Compounding these feelings are emotional swings and confusion as to why life's problems are not going away now that the drinking and drug use has stopped. These problems came about through many years of addiction and will require many years to resolve. Once the initial relief of getting into recovery wears off, these problems can appear insurmountable and trigger a desire to escape through a return to drinking. A proper diet, exercise and a weekly visit to a treatment counselor or therapist is not enough. Active participation in a 12 Step Program is necessary to help the recovering attorney to understand what is going on and how to appropriately handle their emotional swings and problems on a day to day basis. A judge who is concerned that an attorney may be struggling with their recovery or has relapsed should contact the local LAP volunteer immediately.