New York City attorney Lisa Smith was a high-functioning addict, hiding a spiraling alcohol and cocaine habit amid the pressures of corporate law. Attorneys struggle with addiction at rates that are twice the national average, and Smith — who is now 12 years in recovery — wants to change the stigma.
“WE NEED TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THIS ISSUE AND MAKE IT A CONTINUING CONVERSATION IN ORDER TO ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO NEED IT TO GET HELP INSTEAD OF HIDING ALONE IN SHAME AND FEAR,” SHE SAYS.
Deputy Executive Director at a New York City law firm. Author, Girl Walks Out of a Bar, a memoir of high-functioning addiction and recovery.
Stigma I faced:
I am a lawyer and there is a stigma around alcoholism and addiction in law firms. When I went to detox for five days, I told the firm I had a medical emergency and would be back the following week. Then I wouldn’t go to longer rehab because I felt I had to show up back at work.
One of my hopes for my memoir, Girl Walks Out of a Bar, is that it will help to break the stigma at least a little bit.
What I lost to addiction:
I was fortunate enough not to lose a job or get arrested, but that was only by luck. I lost my physical health and became dead inside. I lost hope, peace, and any trace of self-esteem. I lost years of healthy relationships with family and friends. I became someone I hated.
Favorite recovery quote:
“If you’re given a reprieve, it’s good to remember how thin it is.” ~ Dan (actor Heath Ledger) in Candy.
What worked for me:
One morning, when I thought I was going to die and I was out of drugs, I checked myself into a five-day medicated detox in a seedy psychiatric hospital. It scared me out of my mind, but I learned that I am not someone who can drink safely.
After detox, I refused to go to a long-term inpatient facility because I didn’t want my law firm to know what had happened. I started going to 12-step meetings and realized that there actually was life after drinking and if I wanted my life back, I’d better get on board. I still am active in 12-step programs 12 years later. It keeps me sober.
Rules I live by:
1) “Get Up. Get Dressed. Get With The Program.” This was on the wall of the detox I was in. They were three things I hadn’t been doing, but they seemed to make sense and be simple enough for me to try.
2) “Just For Today.” I have never said I’ll never drink again. That would be too much for me. Each day, I make a decision that for that day, I am not going to drink. If I just take care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself.
3) “Just Don’t Be A Jerk.” It’s amazing how much easier life is if I just try to treat other people the way I would hope to be treated.
How I get through the holidays:
I have learned that “No” is a complete sentence. I don’t have to participate in every party or family gathering. I’ve learned to put my spiritual fitness and sobriety first. If I have to go to something that I know will make me uncomfortable (e.g., my firm’s holiday party), I will go late and leave early. I also bump up my 12-step program and talk to my sponsor regularly.
Publishing my memoir, Girl Walks Out of a Bar. When someone tells me it helped them or someone they know, I feel like I have done service for others. I had a lot of advantages coming into recovery, so if I can help the next person, I feel truly grateful and proud.
Shed the Stigma:
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