Q: After years of heavy drinking that no doubt
contributed to finding myself an unemployed lawyer, I can't say
that I'm a happy or grateful recovering alcoholic. At AA meetings
(and virtually all gatherings, for that matter), I have to try to
keep a lid on my feelings of irritability and
I often hear a degree of hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness or
self-delusion in what others are saying, and at times feel the need
to confront them. I have not really made any friends since I
stopped drinking, and my many efforts to get hired at a law firm
(which happened readily years ago when I graduated from a fine law
school) have had no effect. Am I destined to a future of crankiness
A: Certainly not - there are all kinds of paths toward recovery,
and you've actually managed to stay away from a drink for a number
of months despite your grouchy state of mind. Another positive sign
is that, though you feel annoyed by other people, you seem aware
that the origin of the reaction is within yourself.
The irritability that you describe can be viewed as falling
somewhere within the clinical syndromes of depression and/or
anxiety. In either case, consultation with a prescribing
psychiatrist (psychopharmacologist) might result in a trial of an
SSRI antidepressant. Antidepressants, despite the title, are also
sometimes useful for anxiety and other moodiness, and they are not
By the way, if you've tried these antidepressants before without
much effect when you were still drinking, it's much more likely
that they will have a useful impact now that you are sober. Your
sobriety also means that you are in a better position than in the
past to benefit from psychotherapy, to help you understand the
sources of your bristly reactions to other people.
You may well identify real flaws in their reasoning, or simply
disagree with their belief systems, but this need not cause you to
write them off, and it does not rule out the possibility that they
have something to offer you.
For example, if you are reacting negatively to someone trying to
"force feed" you the 12 steps, that does not mean that you might
not find at least some benefit in the themes, such as acceptance,
honesty with self and ways to deal with lingering guilt that are
embodied in these steps (which tend to foster a non-"cranky"
attitude). Rather than zeroing in on the flaws in what you hear,
you may be able to learn to focus on what ideas do speak to you in
a helpful way.
If, for example, someone were recommending Buddhist or
Transcendental Meditation to you and you found the
mystical/religious aspect of the process a turn-off, you could
still choose to go with the meditative stance and breathing, and
you would ultimately see a reduction in a variety of manifestations
of stress (such as muscle tightness, blood pressure and weakened
immune system). In fact, such relaxation techniques (such as those
taught at LCL's free, weekly Stress Reduction Group) could also
help you reach a more peaceful, less argumentative state.
With regard to the difficulties you are experiencing finding work
- it's tough out there. (We have a group for that, too.) While your
alcoholism probably helped derail your career, ceasing your
drinking doesn't guarantee employment - it only puts you on more or
less even footing with your many professional peers who are in the
Sustained efforts at recovery (from mood and personality problems,
as well as addiction) will open the door to positive change,
however it comes; giving up on yourself certainly will not take you
anywhere you want to go.
Questions quoted are either actual letters/e-mails or
paraphrased and disguised concerns expressed by individuals seeking
assistance from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.
Questions for LCL may be mailed to LCL, 31 Milk St., Suite
810, Boston, MA 02109; e-mailed to [e-mail email] or called in to (617) 482-9600.
LCL's licensed clinicians will respond in confidence. Visit LCL
online at www.lclma.org.