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High-Functioning Alcoholic Lawyers May Defy Stereotypes

Posted Apr 14, 2009 8:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Lawyers and other professionals who are high-functioning alcoholics may defy the stereotypes—that alcoholics can’t maintain a career or care for their families, or that alcoholics always drink alone.

Personality traits such as perfectionism, overachiever tendencies and a workaholic nature may help high-functioning alcoholics succeed professionally despite their disease, according to mental health counselor Sarah Allen Benton, writing in the Complete Lawyer. She writes that it’s important for alcoholic lawyers to reach out for help, even though they may appear successful.

Benton cites statistics from a study in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry that found problem drinking in 18 percent of lawyers who practiced for 2 to 20 years and in 25 percent of lawyers who practiced for 20 years or more.

High-functioning alcoholics may be well-respected, but they experience a craving to drink more after one alcoholic drink, they obsess about their next drinking opportunity, they display personality changes when intoxicated, and they repeat unwanted drinking patterns and behaviors, according to the story.

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs can refer lawyers with addiction problems to groups that can help.

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