Alcoholism: a Professional Tragedy

Publication year1987
16 Colo.Law. 1947
Colorado Lawyer

1987, November, Pg. 1947. Alcoholism: A Professional Tragedy


Vol. 16, No. 10, Pg. 1947

Alcoholism: A Professional Tragedy

Editor's Note:This article is dedicated to Albert B. Logan, a Colorado Springs attorney for many years, who died March 19, 1987, at the age of 78. Logan founded and maintained Concerned Lawyers from its inception to its current status as an independent and anonymous network of practitioners who effectively assist in the recovery of lawyers and judges from alcoholism and drug addiction. His tireless efforts on behalf of the maintenance of the independence and strength of the American judicial system, and his work in the treatment and assistance in the recovery from alcoholism, won him national and international acclaim. It is necessary that, when discussing the disease of alcoholism, it be done anonymously. The disease itself is faceless---it is no respecter of position, financial status, cultural background, age, sex or occupation. It is truly an equal opportunity disease. The first part of this article defines alcoholism and then describes the personal horrors of one member of the Colorado Bar who was finally forced to face his serious problem. The second part presents twenty questions for self-evaluation.[Please see hardcopy for image]

Albert B. Logan

Alcoholism is primarily a physical, hereditary disease that progresses from a physical predisposition into dependence, characterized by change in tolerance and loss of control over drinking. Psychological symptoms are secondary to the physical disease and are not apparent at the onset. In other words, but for the disease of alcoholism, alcoholics will display the same basic psychology as normal persons, with the same range and statistical probability for abnormal psychology. An alcoholic is, therefore, a person with the disease of alcoholism, to be distinguished from a normal or social drinker, who may be a problem drinker but not an alcoholic.(fn1)

Alcoholism is also a psychological disease. Diagnostically, it is defined as a pattern of pathological use or impairment in social or occupational functioning and characterized by either tolerance or withdrawal. A pattern of pathological use includes daily use as a prerequisite to normal functioning, inability to stop drinking, binges, blackouts, or a continuation of use despite a serious physical disorder that the person knows is made worse by drinking. Impairment in social and occupational functioning includes violence while intoxicated, absence from work, loss of job, legal difficulties, and arguments or difficulties with family or friends due to drinking.(fn2)

Alcoholism is a disease that tells you that you don't have a disease. At every stage, the disease itself prevents the alcoholic from realizing that he(fn3) is addicted. In the early stages, he does not consider giving up because nothing indicates he is sick. He may only be vaguely aware that he needs alcohol more often and in greater quantities. In the later stages, he is frequently irrational, deluded and incapable of understanding what is happening inside him. He cannot see himself as others see him. His whole behavior is governed by his addiction.

My own alcoholism fits the pattern. I am an attorney who has been in practice for twenty-two years. For most of my career, I have managed to maintain a reputation of dedication and reasonably high moral and ethical standards. That is, until about five years ago when my ability to function deteriorated so rapidly that my practice, my reputation, and my personal life became a total shambles in a matter of two very long, disastrous years when I was forced into the realization that I was one of those---an alcoholic.

You see, I grew up in the legal profession, going back at least two generations. From very early, I was made aware of the responsibilities and moral and ethical standards of being a lawyer. I also grew up with alcohol. In our household, the use of alcohol, sometimes in large amounts, was an acceptable way to deal with stress---it was a tool that could be used to meet the demands and responsibilities of professional life. Examples of alcoholism were rampant on both my mother's and my father's side of the family; it was definitely a family disease.

Our family life was distorted. I didn't know why---I only knew that I didn't want to live that way. As a teenager, I "borrowed" an ounce or two from my father's whiskey bottle, only to discover that...

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