Looking out for ourselves
I remember sitting in that courtroom and hearing the hours of talk about suffering, violence, and grief. One by one, people who looked very strong turned out to be broken people who lived in pain because of what hate had done to their son, their brother, their friend. I was sitting at the counsel table where people are not supposed to cry. The doors were shut and I couldn't leave. I couldn't get those images out of my head. I just wanted a drink. But then I remembered my uncle. Or, I remembered about my uncle. He grew up on a hardscrabble farm with his brothers and immigrant parents who spoke only Lithuanian. He quit school at about 12, to work in a factory alongside grown men. Nobody really knows for sure when or if my uncle died. But the presumption is that he did, and that it had to do with his drinking. His drinking problem. My parents told me about my uncle early enough that I was always on the lookout for myself, that I wouldn't drink too much because of what we think happened to him. And that thought had mostly kept me in check. But when horror got in my face in that courtroom, I just wanted to escape from it. It was a frenzied feeling that I had never felt before. But somehow I remembered about my uncle and instead I went to see a play. And I reflected on what I had seen in myself that day. Our work in the law is hard, and important. The pressures and stresses are real and we all need some way to escape, now and then. If alcohol or drugs have become a steady escape, for you or a colleague or someone close to you, there is help. The Lawyers' Assistance Program, or "LAP" (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.illinoislap.org) is a free, confidential service available to anyone facing a substance abuse problem in themselves or in someone they care about. Many fellow attorneys around the state have been trained by LAP as intervenors, to help people understand how their problem is impacting those around them, or just to listen. Call the LAP at 312/726-6607, or the LAP Hotline at 800/LAP-1233, for information on how to be of help or how to be helped. Making the call might be hard, but it could be an important and good change.
Susan Witt practices in the area of Plaintiff's medical malpractice and major personal injury with Gilbert & Witt Law Office in Rockford. She is a member of the ISBA Committee on Minority and Women Participation and the ISBA Assembly.