Lawyer Well-being: A Call to Action.
By Keith A. Call.
Two short stories: Story No. 1. I met “John” in March of 2017. He was twenty years old, extremely personable, worked at a fast food joint, and dreamed of owning his own business. He was also severely addicted to alcohol and homeless, having recently been kicked out of a sober living home after months of expensive rehab followed by relapse.
I came to know John closely over the ensuing weeks and months. I remember being sleepless, thinking about my friend trying to stay warm and dry through a rainy, snowy night. I knew he was in a sleeping bag under a tree behind a bank in our relatively affluent suburb. I wondered if he was using alcohol to help him get through it. I saw him lose a few jobs, get kicked out of the gym where his family bought a membership so he could shower, and spend time on Rio Grande street giving in to his demons. I wondered if he would die.
Fortunately, John is now on his way to recovery. He has spent the last several months living and working at the John Volken Academy, a therapeutic community near Seattle that operates a two-year in-patient program. I hope and believe he will succeed.
Story No. 2. Actually this story is a conglomeration of many stories I have experienced. I have lunch with a colleague who, after blustering through how great life and law practice is, becomes deeply personal and expresses how stressful his life is, full of long working hours, high expectations, conflict with clients and opposing counsel, uncertainty about the future, and work-life balance problems. I feel both empathy and anxiety, perhaps in part because I can so easily relate. The experience reminds me of lawyer friends whose lives and families have been significantly impaired (even lost) after they turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. It also makes me think of many people, known and unknown to me, who suffer deeply through the rigors of law and life without the aid of artificial substances.
As lawyers, chances are you have stories like these of your own. They might...