April 7, 2007--My life was in tatters. Two decades after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, a once-successful legal career had imploded. My ability to hide my issues and wear the mask of the respectable, hardworking lawyer had finally given way to the realities of untreated clinical depression and alcohol and cocaine addiction. On that day, I found myself standing in the parking lot of a Dallas psychiatric facility. It was familiar territory. My first trip there had been after a near suicide attempt less than two years earlier.
My girlfriend at the time came home that weekend from a family visit (she had moved in with me two weeks earlier) to find me passed out in our bed with cocaine laid out on the dresser and alcohol bottles strewn across the bedroom. She knew nothing of my mental-health and substance-use issues. I had a J.D. in law, but a Ph.D. in the ability to hide my issues from family and friends.
As I stood in the parking lot waiting for intake with my girlfriend at my side crying, the following thoughts occurred to me. The first was there would not be a third trip back to the facility; I would probably be dead before that happened. The second was that my girlfriend was going to leave me. The third was that I had reached the precipice of my family's patience. I would always have their unconditional love, but they no longer wished to watch me destroy my life and bear the daily pain that goes with it. At that moment, I knew it was time to take that first step into the terrifying unknown of recovery.
The next day, I walked into my psychiatrist's office and did something I had never done before. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. For the first time, I began the long process of opening up about trauma that dated back to childhood, which I had buried for decades as irrelevant to my happiness and mental health. Later that day, I walked into the rooms of 12-step for the first time. I refused the suggestions of my psychiatrists and my family to consider residential treatment, and this was the compromise. I had always viewed 12-step as something only homeless people and chain-smokers took part in. It was not something that a lawyer would ever...