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Many Lawyers Are Driven, Successful, Social . . . and Alcoholics

By Kevin Fayle | Last updated on
Sarah Allen Benton has written an article for The Complete Lawyer detailing how many lawyers defy the typical stereotypes associated with alcoholism, while still engaging in problematic drinking behaviors.

These "high functioning alcoholics" (HFAs) are typically driven professionally, with perfectionist and workaholic tendencies, and they often drink with friends and colleagues, rather than alone.  It's often more difficult for these types of alcoholics to realize they have a problem since they are successful and appear normal and healthy to the rest of the world.
Appearances can be deceiving, however, and HFAs can have just as great of a problem with alcohol as someone who fits the more classic image of a drunk.

If you are a lawyer, you're probably well aware of this type of drinker.  In fact, almost one quarter of attorneys who practice for more than 20 years end up developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. 

You also probably know that other attorneys will rarely step in to address harmful behavior associated with alcohol abuse if the alcoholic handles his business and personal lives well. This, combined with the personality traits that lead to a person becoming an HFA, is partly responsible for the fact that lawyers as a profession have a much higher rate of alcoholism than the general public.

Benton lists some of the signs that HFAs exhibit.  In general, HFAs:

  • "experience a craving to drink more after one alcoholic drink"
  • "obsess about the next drinking opportunity"
  • "display personality changes and/or compromise morals when intoxicated"
  • "repeat unwanted drinking patterns and behaviors"
While it's difficult to acknowledge a drinking problem when all outward signs hide the true extent of the addiction, these types of drinkers should still seek help for their problems.  As successful as an HFA is, they could be even happier and more successful once they break free of the bonds holding them to the bottle.

See Also:
High-Functioning Alcoholic Lawyers May Defy Stereotypes (ABA Journal)
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