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12-step program

Thank Goodness I was Sober in Law School

My friend Brian Cuban recently wrote a post about his experience of being in law school while being deep in his alcohol addiction and eating disorder. It’s hard to fathom what that must have been like – going to class after waking up with a hangover, getting smashed when he was supposed to be studying, and puking his guts out as he staggered home. Law school is hard enough without struggling with addiction. I’m so grateful I got sober before I went to law school.

I carry two chips in my wallet - my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour "desire" chip. They remind me how far I've come but also that I have to take it one day at  time.

I carry two chips in my wallet – my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour “desire” chip. They remind me how far I’ve come but also that I have to take it one day at time.

Actually, it’s because I got sober that I was able to go to law school. I never would have had the courage to apply when I was deep in my addiction. Before I got sober, my self-esteem was fragile at best and I was too afraid of failure to try anything that put my desire to maintain the illusion of perfection at risk.

I had plenty of classmates who drank to blow off steam (and who sometimes drank over lunch and came back for afternoon class tipsy or drunk) and/or used prescription stimulants to help them study. I remember one of my classmates brought of bottle of booze and little plastic shot glasses so he and his friends could drink right after they got out of our Con Law final. (That was a bitch of a final. I understand why he did that. That was the only class where I had doubts about passing.) Being sober, I didn’t have the luxury of numbing my feelings with alcohol and drugs or using anything stronger than coffee to study.

Don’t think for a second that I am/was as pure as driven snow. For full disclosure, I struggled with my eating disorder throughout law school. At the height of my disorder, I binged and purged about once a week, but this was mostly an infrequent occurrence during my law school years.

Throughout my law school career, I was fortunate to have strong connections within the recovery community. I was lucky to have a classmate who was also in recovery from addiction. We would talk during our study breaks to vent about the stress of law school and life in general, and be there to support each other. We experienced the discomfort of law school without the option to mollify our stress with recreational substances. It was pretty brutal at times, but it was comforting to know I wasn’t going through it alone.

As a member of a 12-step program, I have a sponsor, and it was fortuitous that he was getting his degree (different field) from Arizona State University while I was in law school. Both being students in difficult programs, he understood my level of stress because he faced it himself, although he seemed to handle it much more gracefully. There were many times I met with him between classes, to touch base about how I was feeling and to make sure I was perceiving and responding to situations appropriately. Just having him nearby was reassuring.

One of the things I’ve learned in recovery is how important it is to stay connected to others. I’m grateful I had strong connections to others in recovery on my campus. They kept me grounded and gave me a place to vent when I needed it.

I also want to give a massive hat tip to my undergrad alma mater Oregon State University. They established a collegiate recovery community with sober housing for students in recovery from addiction. I didn’t even know I had a problem when I was an undergrad, but I’m glad this is available for people who need/want it.

Day 67/90 – 11 Years

Day 67 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I celebrated 11 years of sobriety!

That's My Chip!

That’s My Chip!

Holy fucking shit – how did that happen? In so many ways I feel like someone who is fairly new to the program, sitting in one of the “paranoid seats” at the clubhouse with my back to the wall. But when I think about it, I’ve come a long way from that scared, desperate, lost, nearly suicidal person I was 11 years ago.

So many things have happened since then – amazing joys and terrible sorrows – and I throughout all of it, I haven’t had to take a drink or a drug to manage my feelings.

I am so grateful for my Recovery Family who have trudged the road with me. This is absolutely a program of one addict helping another. I am especially grateful for my sponsor. I’ve been with him for over 6 years. He is the person I count on to tell me when things are fucked up and when I am seeing things as they are.

When I asked him to sponsor me, he told me one of the expectations was that I would call or email every day. I couldn’t believe it. How could he asked that of me? I was nearly 5 years sober. I didn’t need to check in every day. However, it’s over 6 years later and I still call or email just about every day, and I look forward to telling him about my day and how I’m feeling.

Something about this sobriety anniversary feels particularly special and surreal, maybe because so much has happened in the last year – new home, new job, and big personal developments. I find myself spinning my chip between my fingers with a big grin on my face.

I feel like I’ve come a long way, and I know there is much work to be done in the future. I’m looking forward to it.

In case you missed it: Day 66 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I’m wearing KT Tape to manage my leg pain so I can keep running.