Bar Bulletin

September, 2004

LAWYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
(410) 685-3993 | (410) 685-7878 | (800) 492-1964

Richard Vincent
Director, ext 3040
Carol P. Waldhauser
Assistant Director, ext 3041

THE LAP ZONE:
"The Voice of Recovery - Part I of II"
By Anonymous (introduction by Carol P. Waldhauser)

Addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs is a chronic disease that is treatable. There are many different modalities of treating this chronic disease, and each person who seeks treatment must find the right one for him or her.

A study conducted by the National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study found that “through treatment the proportion of patients using any drug dropped by 41 percent in the year after treatment…and those arrested on any charge decreased 64 percent; those requiring medical care due to alcohol or other drug use decreased 54 percent.” Moreover, an August 2001 national scientific survey of people in recovery showed that the recovery community wants to convey to the general public the message that millions of Americans recover from alcohol and drug addiction and successfully change their lives.

The number of judges, lawyers and law students from all backgrounds who have found recovery is a reality. These individuals are living proof that the process of recovery can be successful and that there are real solutions to the problems of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

The following (first in a two-part series) is one such lawyer’s story. It looks into this patient and cunning disease through the eyes of a child.

- Carol P. Waldhauser

Part I – High Risk

A huge aspect of alcoholism is the effect that a close family member’s alcoholism has on the rest of the family. This is obvious and has been the subject of what are probably innumerable articles, essays, stories and studies. All of these studies, essays and articles are good and worthwhile. However, they mean nothing to me. Why? Because I have my own story, as well as my own up-close study. In other words, I know what addiction is like, and it is hell!

So in the interest of possibly giving someone else out there some hope or the understanding that they are not alone, I decided to tell some of my story here. I can only hope it helps.

My father has been an alcoholic for as long as I have memories. Similarly, my father’s father was an alcoholic. Moreover, my father’s aunts and uncles were alcoholics. Unfortunately, my Dad was always haunted by his fears and insecurities. There was always someone out to get him, out to hold him back from what he deserved; there were always people against him. He even felt weak and sick constantly. I felt sorry for him.

I always wanted to know my father, always wanted his attention and approval. It was hard for me because he could not give me the attention or approval I needed and deserved. He only had time for himself; his fears and his medication to escape those fears: alcohol.

My dad drank beer. He might include me in things he was doing, but only to the extent that I could be included in things that he wanted to do. Still, I liked doing those things with him. It was all I had, so I cherished the time, things like trips to 7-11 for coffee, smokes and a newspaper on the weekend mornings. Of course, he just wanted the coffee, smokes and paper, but at least I could go with him, as long as I did not interfere or get in the way.

Dad was chaos and instability. You could never, ever know beforehand what his mood might be until he walked in the door. But when he walked in that door – watch out! Then it was time to be very acutely aware. I remember my father coming home and storming back to my parent’s bedroom, yelling and screaming. My mother would have dinner on the table. He would ignore it, remaining in the bedroom yelling and screaming. Oh, I am sure that he had his reasons, but they were totally indecipherable to me. My mom would shepherd my sister and I to the dinner table, and we’d eat as normally as possible as my father continued screaming and yelling in the background.

He was the 800-pound gorilla in the corner, the one that you tried so hard to ignore but never really could. His fears, insecurities and addiction, however, prevented any warm and loving part of him from coming out. It was very sad. He went to all my baseball games drunk. He yelled at the umpires. It was embarrassing because I was a pitcher and he would yell at the umpires every time he thought a call didn’t go my way.

As a child, I was fairly precocious and very smart with the good grades to prove it. Additionally, I was good at sports. It was all a source of pride for me. And my mother showed me that she was proud. On the other hand, my father tried but could not. I never looked at my father’s or grandfather’s alcoholism, nor did I think much about it. Similarly, I never thought that it was something that allowed an escape or a coping mechanism. Rather, it was just something that was. Furthermore, it was never discussed.

And this, really, is the crux of the story. For me, this is where the damage started and had to stop. Daily life in a family with an uncontrollable alcoholic is hell; it is fear and utter chaos. Moreover, it is so often hidden away, ignored and simply not acknowledged. This is where the seeds of later, monumental problems are planted. When I was young and couldn’t understand the invidious disease of alcoholism – when I was most vulnerable to its terrible effects – I just ignored it. I told myself not to notice or even acknowledge what was the scariest, most intense, most disturbing part of my life.

The long-term problems that such a disease has caused me are too numerous to list here. Just know that I am dealing with them and will have to do so for the rest of my life because I, too, am an alcoholic.

♦♦♦

Together, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) and the Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP), through the LAP Staff and the LAP Committee, strive to develop and maintain effect problem solving measures for the individual suffering from alcohol/other drug abuse/addiction, mental and physical health. For more information, contact Carol P. Waldhauser at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, or e-mail cwaldhauser@msba.org.  Remember, we do together what you cannot do alone.

Don't miss next month's "Lap Zone"
for Part II - Treatment and Recovery!

 

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