Lawyers, watch out for these five signs of addiction

Recognizing the warning signs of addiction is a spectacularly difficult thing to do when you are in the throes of it.

I should know that.

I am a lawyer who became addicted to prescription opioids, was struck off the bar, and then spent almost 14 months in federal prison for a white collar crime. Step by step, lesson by lesson, I went through my ordeal.

On May 5, 2021, my law degree was reinstated by the New York State Supreme Court. On August 10, 2021, I celebrated 19 years of sobriety.

Here are some warning signs I wish I had recognized before I got clean and sober.

Plate spinning

As the manager of a law firm, I had hundreds of plates spinning around, maybe thousands. It was way too much, especially with a daily ration of alcohol and prescription opioids. Incredibly, I was always able to show up for work, show up for clients, and be even more successful, until I wasn’t.

I became exhausted and exhausted, ravaged by over a decade of abuse. But I couldn’t find an elegant way out of my predicament.

Lesson learned: Things didn’t get better until I let the plates crash to the floor.

Imperceptible changes

I couldn’t see the day to day changes. But if I had been able to step back and see my life in five-year increments, it would have been painfully obvious. My weight had increased to 285 pounds. I was vomiting blood from anxiety, spending a lot more money than I earned, and taking out home equity loans to subsidize my lifestyle. Family vacations had gone from resorts in exotic locations to using frequent flyer miles to pay for cheaper hotels.

Lesson learned: I suffered from both Perception Distortion and Thinking Distortion.

Lead a double life

Of course, I have become a master at hiding things from my family, friends, colleagues and clients. Or so I thought. But in the end, there were too many liquor bottles and empty pill bottles, and too many missed appointments, too many excuses to hide. The day came when the template was up.

Lesson learned: I was really kidding myself.

“I can do it tomorrow”

I thought I had the luxury of unlimited time. Why do today what I could put off until tomorrow? But it’s funny, the days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. When I awoke from my amazement, a decade had passed, as had a young man’s promise of happiness and success.

Lesson learned: Every day is a precious gift.

Savior Syndrome

And yet, I had good, solid advice for everyone. I thought I was a high level and a stronghold of the community as I was a softball coach, at the school board, a confidant and a friend to everyone around me. When the truth came out, no wonder they were all so disappointed and hurt that they stopped talking to me. I had tricked them all into believing that I was stable enough to take on the responsibilities of a good friend, lawyer and citizen.

Lesson Learned: Like instructions from passengers on an airplane, I had to put the oxygen mask on myself before I could help others.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

The truth, what concept? The road to recovery was paved when I accepted that I was an alcoholic and drug addict. By living one day at a time. By doing worthy deeds. By doing the next correct thing and returning the result.

Lesson Learned: There is a solution, not for those who need it, but for those who want it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owner.

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Author Info

Jeff Grant practices law at GrantLaw PLLC in New York. He acts as a private general counsel for individuals and companies prosecuted for federal and state white collar offenses and other personal and business crisis situations.

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