Personal Lives

Sober 35 Years, Pa. Lawyer Sees Award as an Opportunity to Help Others

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Sober 35 years, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer John Duffy credits a determined counselor for getting him off “the good ship Cutty Sark” and putting him on the right course.

Nineteen days into a 30-day rehab stint, Duffy was resisting treatment and planning his upcoming return to the bottle. But then a determined counselor came back to the facility one night and spent eight hours of his own time talking to Duffy about how he had conquered his own demons—and how Duffy could conquer his, too, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Since then, Duffy—who considers his 1974 graduation from the rehab program one of the major accomplishments in his life—has devoted much of his own time to helping others overcome alcohol addiction. Among his efforts, he has served on the board of directors of the nonprofit Richard J. Caron Foundation for 20 years, and is a founding governor of the Pennsylvania Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers recovery group. His wife recalls how he would refuse to represent clients unless they agreed to deal with their drinking problems.

When he learned that the highly regarded Chester County Drug Court planned to make him the second recipient of its Osceola Wesley award (Wesley himself, who died earlier this year at age 81, was the first), Duffy felt undeserving of the honor. But then, characteristically, the 76-year-old attorney recognized a potential benefit for others, the newspaper recounts:

“If just one person reads in the paper that this happened … and then says, ‘If that old guy can do it, then so can I,’ it will be worth it,” Duffy says.

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