April is recognized as Alcohol Awareness Month.
Following news of increased substance use over a year into the pandemic last year during Alcohol Awareness Month, we covered how self-awareness can help us address problematic habits, including alcohol consumption that doesn’t necessarily amount to a diagnosis. Generally, wondering whether you have a problem with alcohol suggests you already know enough to explore reducing or eliminating it. Other common questions lawyers have about drinking habits are answered here by Dr. Jeff Fortgang (LCL MA staff clinician and licensed alcohol and drug counsellor). He explains the threshold for clinical treatment around loss of control and how it relates to sobriety, noting the significance of harm reduction.
A new resource guide published by the Institute for Well-Being in Law (written by Vice President Anne Brafford) shifts the conversation beyond individual habits to the broader culture of the legal profession as well. Providing resources for individuals as well, Anne offers suggestions from policies to alternative activities for those in leadership positions, highlighting research that shows “workplace drinking norms can powerfully influence whether and how much people drink (Bacharach et al., 2002; Neighbors et al., 2007; Patel & Fromme, 2010), and can predict problem drinking even more so than stress (Hodgins et al., 2009).” Anne also includes resources for allies inside and outside of the workplace.
With the goal of shifting culture specifically within the Massachusetts legal profession, a new series spearheaded by Superior Court Assistant Clerk Amanda Rowan is being published by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Well-Being Committee, with help from LCL MA Staff Clinician Dr. Shawn Healy. Launching the series, Amanda’s article shares important messages both for the profession as a whole as well as lawyers struggling with recovery:
“Instead of being shunned or judged, I have been met with only support and kindness. It has built a foundation for bonding and connection I wouldn’t have thought possible with my colleagues.
The reality is that this disease is everywhere. The number of people who are struggling or in recovery or who have a loved one with addiction is stunning and never ceases to amaze. And while my personal experience “recovering out loud” to others in the legal field has been overwhelmingly positive, I am also very aware that the stigma, though changing, is very real.
. . .
It is time we take responsibility for the fact that lawyers have a staggering rate of alcoholism and addiction, and we owe it to each other to create an environment in which our biggest fear is not one another.”
The top barrier lawyers cited to getting the help they need is ‘not wanting others to find out they needed help’, according to the landmark study The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2016.) As Shawn explains in the introduction to Amanda’s article, “The fear of ‘what might happen if others know’ can often feel more uncomfortable than the actual burden with which we are struggling. This is because the ambiguous ‘what if’ is usually answered with the worst-case scenario in our minds. This imagined worst-case scenario helps maintain the stigma. So, what helps to break the stigma? Hearing real stories from those who have felt that fear, persisted through it, and come out stronger on the other side.” Any lawyers in recovery who would like to submit an article for consideration to be included in the Mass Lawyers Weekly series can contact shawn@LCLMA.org.
PEER RECOVERY MEETINGS FOR MASSACHUSETTS LAWYERS
LCL MA RECOVERY PEER SUPPORT MEETINGS. Our confidential peer support group meetings exclusively for Massachusetts lawyers, law students, and judges continue to meet (at least) twice weekly online, with plans for those and additional meetings held across Massachusetts to return in-person meetings in May 2022 are in development with our Peer Volunteer Committee. Our meeting listing is available here.
APRIL 29TH at 12PM! SPECIAL PEER RECOVERY IN-PERSON LUNCH. Our Peer Volunteer Committee has organized a lunch to reconnect and explore what the organization can do to support those struggling with addiction in the legal profession most effectively. We have limited space available for this event; please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free & Confidential Consultations:
Lawyers, law students, and judges in Massachusetts can discuss concerns with a licensed therapist, law practice advisor, or both. Find more on scheduling here.