SUCCESS STORIES

“I owe my legal career, if not my very life, to FLA.  Before I started law school in 1980, I thought I was an ordinary student.  Yes, I over indulged at a campus party now and then.  I occasionally did not exhale.  I graduated at the top of my class and was accepted to law school.  Midway through law school, my alcoholic mother was killed in a car accident — she was drunk.  I no longer could contain a lifetime of repressed grief and rage.  I sought solace in cocaine, which launched me into a five-year nightmare of addiction.  I destroyed most of my relationships, racked up a mountain of debt, lost one-third of my body weight, and came close to unintentionally killing myself.  I was emphatically denied admission to an another state bar — twice.  So, like many delusional addicts, I moved to another state thinking I could leave my problems behind.  Wrong.  After moving to Florida, I was introduced to FLA.  I got clean, and I fully embraced FLA’s support.  I was conditionally admitted to The Florida Bar in the 1990s.  I have enjoyed a great career since then, serving as a local bar president and, ultimately, on the Board of Governors.  I have personally witnessed many lawyers and law students whose careers and lives have been enhanced, if not saved, thanks to FLA.  I am eternally grateful, both for myself and for others like me.”

***

“Thirty years ago, I finally admitted to myself, and then others, that alcohol had beat me. It no longer helped to relieve my depression and anxiety, but my abuse of alcohol had become my biggest problem. I knew I was defeated and was contemplating suicide. Realizing I would need to be clear-headed to be successful in ending my life, I resolved to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and stop drinking long enough to make a plan for suicide. I made a phone call, attended a meeting, and committed to attend a meeting every day and not drink a day at a time. I did and it worked. I felt better every day and was no longer sure I wanted to die. I was, however, unemployed with no prospects and no confidence that I could ever practice law again. Then, after an AA meeting, I was introduced to Bill Kilby, who was the program director for FLA. He introduced me to other lawyers in recovery and assured me that I could and would work again. Then, he offered me a job with his practice. My self-esteem was so low, I felt completely inadequate to accept this, but with his encouragement and help, I began to feel like a lawyer again. The years that have followed have brought great blessings as well as challenges. AA has enabled me to stay sober and deal with life on life’s terms. FLA helped me resume my career and gave me the opportunity to help other lawyers struggling with addiction and related problems. To both, I will always be grateful.”

***

“When I first heard of FLA back in 2008, I was in a sorry state.  I felt as if my life was over (I was in my early 40s and a solo practitioner) and that I was a total failure.  I was severely depressed, I had been avoiding going to the office for months, and I was neglecting my clients and my cases.  I rarely left home and avoided contact with everyone unless I absolutely had to. I thought about suicide often.  When I showed up in court for a hearing one day, I broke down in front of a judge and couldn’t stop crying.  Luckily for me, the judge told me to call Dr. Weinstein at FLA, and I did.  It was the best move I ever made. I began attending the weekly group sessions with Dr. Weinstein.  Over time, I learned to accept the fact that depression was not a flaw in my character but that it was a disease that could be treated and managed, just like diabetes or high blood pressure. At Dr. Weinstein’s suggestion, I saw a psychiatrist and began taking anti-depressants.  The early months were very difficult for me.  I had been raised by a family that strongly believed in “not airing dirty laundry in public,” and it was hard to admit to total strangers my feelings of failure and inadequacy.  Over time, though, I started realizing my own potential.  The group sessions were absolutely instrumental in my healing.  I was amazed to hear that other lawyers were having issues with their lives and their careers, and that I was not alone.  The group became a sounding board where we all provided unconditional support for each other.  Even if I didn’t have anything to say in a particular week, I always came away from the meeting with food for thought in my own life.  Slowly, I started to understand that the key to happiness was within myself and not dependent upon the outside world.  I started doing things that made me happy in both my work and professional life, instead of just doing the things I thought I was supposed to do. I stopped practicing law and became a paralegal instead, and I absolutely love my job.  Through the insights I gained during the time I spent at FLA, I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.  I cannot thank Dr. Weinstein and FLA enough.”

***

“I had lost my practice.  I had lost all of my savings.  I had lost my marriage.  I felt that I could not look my children in the eye.  I had resigned myself to being disbarred and declaring bankruptcy. I had been committed to the psych ward for a total of nearly 30 days due to multiple suicide attempts.  Using funds I borrowed from my parents, I was seeing a psychiatrist twice a week for medications and “talk therapy.” But I never felt that I was talking to someone who understood what I was going through and, more importantly, someone who could give me a glimmer of hope that I might be able to have a worthwhile life again, until I came to Florida Lawyers Assistance.  It took many years, and lots of hard work on my part, but today I have rebuilt a life, a marriage, and a career to be proud of.  FLA did that for me.”

***

“In Spring 2009, I made my first call to Florida Lawyers Assistance (FLA) while in my counselor’s office in a drug and alcohol treatment center. Michael Cohen answered the phone.  This was my third time in treatment for alcoholism and, at this juncture, I was unemployed, unemployable, and broken. I had been a practicing attorney in Illinois for seven years and moved to Florida where I hit my alcoholic bottom. I wanted to continue to practice law but was terrified that, because of my alcoholism and numerous times in treatment, I would not be able to get admitted to The Florida Bar.
Michael shared his story and said to me, “Stay sober, be rigorously honest with the Bar, and I can help you.” It was at that moment that I no longer wanted to give up.

I proceeded to work with FLA on a voluntary basis and was then offered a three-year conditional admission from the Bar. I have gone on to have a wonderful legal career here in Florida and have continued to be involved with FLA throughout the years. It has enhanced my recovery and my life in invaluable ways, and I will always be grateful that Michael Cohen was on the other end of the phone that day in 2009 in my counselor’s office.”

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