Presidential Liaison, BAMSL Board of Governors, 2019-20
Attorney, The Gunn Law Firm, P.C.
Originally published in the August 2019 issue of the St. Louis Lawyer magazine. View in the archives.
I was born into a family of lawyers – my grandfather was a judge in the City of St. Louis, my father is a lawyer and I have five uncles who are lawyers. I was presented enormous advantages as a young person, but no level of parenting could have imparted to me the good fortune I was receiving. I went to private grade school, high school, college and law school. I got a clerkship with a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals and ultimately went to work with my father at his firm.
I have lived in three different homes, moving "up" each time. I had two wonderfully healthy children. Objectively, I had more good fortune than any person deserves.
But I was depressed, anxious and looking for relief in alcohol. I was making those around me miserable. My family was suffering with me. Things looked to me to be normal. I mean, things get tough as adults and we need to suffer to ensure those around us have what they need, right? The comfort the ease of my life should have provided was completely elusive. I just did not get it, but I could fake it away from home. Most of those closest to me had no clue.
With suggestion from others, it finally dawned on me that help was available. My first therapist listened, which on its own was of some true benefit. My doctor prescribed anti-depressants, which helped tremendously for a time, then did not, then did, in a more tempered way. My second therapist employed an approach different from the first, utilizing more dialogue, and providing tremendous support and guidance.
Over the course of years prior to seeking help, I picked up the phone several times to call the Missouri Lawyers' Assistance Program (MOLAP: 1-800-688-7859), but just could not follow through. Refusal to admit that we might benefit from the help of others seems a trait amplified in lawyers. I was the embodiment of that.
After seeking assistance, I still knew things were not quite right. While in a therapy session, during which I was very hung over and in a very dark place, I experienced a feeling of true dread. Not until then did I realize that something else had to change. With the hangover a palpable presence, drinking seemed the most reasonable target. I decided on the spot I would not consume alcohol again. And I have not.
Now? Life seems so much more clear, calm. Time has stretched to the point that small disruptions previously triggering a spike in blood pressure and more aggressive vocal reaction now are received more for what they are, small disruptions. The compulsion to control and be right have dissipated. I have never felt more like me.
No path in journeys like this can be exactly the same, but the notion that we are alone or that suffering is just something we must endure need not prevail. We do not cease to grow and progress simply because we are adults and settled into a career. Evolution in a positive direction is available to us all.
The first step is often the most difficult, and the most important, but we must know and take care of ourselves. Like we are told when we fly, the best way to live is to put your own oxygen mask on first, then tend to the needs of those around you.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255
or text "Hello" to 741741.
Missouri Lawyers' Assistance Program (MOLAP): 1-800-688-7859
Illinois Lawyers' Assistance Program: 312-726-6607