You Are Not Alone—Recovery Is Possible
The Bencher—March/April 2022
By Marot Williamson, Esquire
During law school orientation, when I was 22, a representative from a local lawyer assistance program came to speak to the entire incoming class in a large lecture hall. The representative told all of us to look to our left and then look to our right and said that one of us would become an alcoholic. I remember thinking that would never happen to me. So, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself at Ashley Addiction Treatment (formerly known as Father Martin’s Ashley) when I was 35.
Beginning in my early 30s, I started using alcohol to deal with stress. Things got to the point that my family and friends planned an intervention, hired an interventionist, packed my bags, and arranged for me to go to rehab—all without me knowing until I was told that I was going. I am so grateful that they stepped in and did for me what I could not do for myself; it completely changed my life.
Before the rehab route, I tried going to some 12-step meetings on my own. At the time, I was so embarrassed and ashamed of branding myself an alcoholic that this did not go well. I was terrified about being seen at a meeting. As a lawyer in Annapolis, Maryland—a town that can be incredibly small at just the wrong moment—I did not want to be recognized in a meeting. This is where I was at that point: struggling on my own with active addiction, trying to hide it, and scared to get help.
At the first meeting I went to, I slinked in and tried not to be noticed. I did not understand how the people there could be so comfortable and happy, chatting and laughing with each other without an alcoholic beverage in sight. The meeting started out okay. They went through the routine of announcements and reading the steps out loud. Then to my utter horror, I saw a lawyer I recognized across the room. I hoped that he had not seen me, and I tried to make myself invisible, not daring to speak out loud to the group. Based on what I must have looked like, he had the good sense not to talk to me when I bolted for the door after the meeting was over.
I continued to struggle after attending my first meeting. About a month later, my family held the intervention. When they told me that I was going to Ashley on the spot, I resisted. How could I up and leave my job for a month with no notice? Also, I had young children. The day I arrived at Ashley, my daughter was exactly six months old and my son was five. How could I leave my young children? Thankfully, my mother convinced me that the most important thing was to take this time to invest in myself for my children.
When I first got to Ashley, I was very upset. I could not believe my life had gotten to this point. I did not understand how things could have gone so wrong along the way that I would end up at an alcohol rehab center. Luckily, the despair I felt when I got to Ashley did not last long. Everyone there was so kind and supportive. Up to that point, I was so embarrassed and ashamed about my drinking. At Ashley, I found support and did not feel judged. In fact, it was the opposite; the constant message was that they would love us until we could love ourselves.
I loved my time at Ashley. It was a safe place where I could deal with what was going on in my life and work on getting better. I made friendships and loved being part of the community. It felt so good to get up early there and get going with my day. I quickly settled into the routine and enjoyed socializing with the other women I met. One of the biggest aspects of my time at Ashley was being able to say out loud, to other people, that I was an alcoholic. At Ashley, we constantly practiced introducing ourselves in group sessions as an alcoholic or an addict. For me, this helped take the embarrassment out of saying these words about myself and helped me move forward.
Even though I was very happy at Ashley, something that bothered me while I was there was thinking about how on earth I was going to explain to people where I had been for the past month. At Ashley, they had sessions that dealt with this topic, and it was helpful to talk about it before I returned. Thankfully, my office is very supportive and never made me feel embarrassed. At first, I only told the people close to me in my office. Then, I started reaching out to lawyers who I knew were in the program. As time went on, I felt more comfortable telling people where I had been. Now, I am very open about it.
When I went into a 12-step program after Ashley, the people there were very supportive, welcoming, and kind. I realized that I had found my people. Now, I am one of those happy people chatting and catching up with friends before and after meetings. I actually look forward to meetings because I know that they will make me feel better and because I want to see the people there. In meetings, I find peace and security. I have formed friendships that extend beyond the rooms of the program, especially with my wonderful sponsor, who has helped me so much along the way. In fact, the lawyer who I saw across the room at my first meeting has become a friend and a trusted source of advice.
Yoga has also become a big part of my life. I was introduced to it at Ashley and found a studio right after I came home. When I arrived at Ashley I felt so beaten down, mentally and physically. The focus on physical wellness while I was there helped me get back to feeling like myself. I felt the benefit yoga provided me and have continued practicing over the years. Particularly in the early days, yoga provided me with so much mental and physical strength and confidence. I am now able to go through flows that I did not think possible when I first began.
If you suspect that you have a drinking problem, there is help available. You can contact your local lawyer assistance program or 12-step program. There is even an app you can get on your phone called Meeting Finder. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and it will tell you all the dates, times, and locations of meetings near you. If you are shy about going in person, there are now many meetings over Zoom. You do not need to suffer alone.
As for myself, I will continue taking it one day at a time.
Marot Williamson, Esquire, is an assistant state’s attorney at the Office of the State’s Attorney for Anne Arundel County in Annapolis, Maryland. She is Barrister member of the James C. Cawood Jr. American Inn of Court in Annapolis.