The “High Functioning” Attorney Alcoholic

by Dick on January 14, 2012 · 2 comments

in Addiction, Alcoholism

I came across this post in the Lawyerist today about how alcoholic attorneys are typically “high functioning.”

The author outlines some typical characteristics of “high-functioning” alcoholics:

  • Denial
  • Living a double life of inward feeling compared with outward image
  • Drinking habits including cravings and black-outs
  • Capable of staying employed and high academic achievement
  • Capable of sustained interpersonal relationships
  • Often able to work the system in legal matters relating to issues caused by drinking
  • Often hit bottoms, but are unable to recognize or admit the realities
  • Appear physically well-groomed.

Being a “high-functioning” alcoholic is a dangerous place to be in recovery. In my early sobriety, I spent too much time comparing myself with other drunks who were far less “screwed up” than me, instead of identifying with them. I should be grateful that I still have a loving wife and kids, my career intact and a home over my head. If I continue to drink, I won’t be so “high-functioning.” I will surely lose everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

One day at a time….


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  • anon alkie

    Dick, I found your blog via a comment you left on Crying Out Now, and I’m reading old posts.  I’m glad you posted about lawyers and other HFAs.    My father is a lawyer and is definitely an alcoholic.  For years, I rationalized that he couldn’t be because he was successful, etc.  I then had a similar process with myself (not a lawyer, but a similar type of profession).  I spent years tallying all the ways I wasn’t as bad as those skid row types, but it was so freeing once I finally just surrendered and admitted powerlessness over alcohol.  I’m sure I’ll relate to your journey.  I have 2 years + a few months now, and it has been so, so worth it.

  • Sober Lawyer

    Anon, thanks for reading my drivel!

    We lawyers are very good at arguing with ourselves. We also excel at lying and deception. So it’s pretty easy to justify just about anything…

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