The truth is that most of us are not good at asking for help.
For one thing, the myth continues that asking for help makes a person appear weak. In fact, asking for help empowers the person because it allows them to face chronic problems head-on, instead of being stuck in a quagmire of secret misery.
Another misconception that discourages seeking help is the misbelief that highly successful people are “strong” and don’t need help. The opposite is true. Any great leader knows that he or she is not skilled at everything and that, to be successful, those with superior skills must be relied on too.
Asking for help is still not easy, especially regarding personal problems. Lawyers and judges can be particularly reluctant – or even resistant – to seeking help. We often are not comfortable surrendering to anything.
This is not surprising. In law school, we developed intellectual stamina and analytical skills that gave us academic confidence. While practicing law, we gained confidence in problem solving. The end result: We are not accustomed to asking others for help or admitting any weakness or difficulties. We are trained to solve other people’s problems, not handle problems of our own.
Our admirable attributes of independence and tenacity serve us well right up until we suffer a personal problem that can’t be outsmarted. Alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other physiologically-based chemical brain diseases simply can’t be defeated with analytical skills and confidence. You can’t “lawyer” your way out of chemical brain diseases. As such, the self-reliance that previously served a lawyer or judge well can stand in the way of a path to help.
In the end, and not just for lawyers and judges but for all people, fear is at the core of why most people are reticent to reach out for help: fear of being judged; fear that adversaries will obtain and use information against you; and fear of losing control of the situation.
While an internal struggle between seeking help and maintaining secrecy rages within individuals who need help, time is of the essence more than they imagine. Sadly, it is common that an individual will resist seeking help until the problem becomes a full-blown crisis. By procrastinating and not seeking help early on, more-serious consequences accumulate and the road to recovery becomes more arduous. In the worst scenarios, the inability to seek help costs the person his or her life.
All that said, help is readily available and there definitely is hope. Some of the happiest and most productive people in the legal profession found their way to a lawyer assistance program and received the help they needed. They are happy and healthy again and have escaped the darkness and isolation they previously suffered.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and that holds true for dispelling old stigmas that impede one’s ability to seek help for alcoholism, addiction, depression, and other diseases.
If you are concerned about your, or someone else’s, substance use, alcohol use, depression, or other mental health condition, call the OAAP. Whether you need immediate help or general information, call us at 503.226.1057 and ask to speak with an attorney counselor. Our services our free and confidential. We are here for you.
This article was originally published by the Louisiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. Reprinted with permission.