The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

July 20, 2013

Dead lawyers and dying young people

RICHMOND — My first news last Sunday was seeing that Cory Monteith, a star on the television show Glee, was found dead in his hotel room.   

 Although Cory was Canadian, his problem is American. We have a drug problem in the United States that is not going away.

 Heroin has suddenly become a drug of choice. Anyone who does heroin has to understand that the stuff can easily kill you. They also have to know that they can get addicted and never get off of it.

 They do it anyway. They have such a powerful need to escape reality that they will get there by any means necessary.

 I understand addictive personalities. My wife is one of the few people in my universe who is NOT addicted or recovering from anything. She grew up on dairy farm with a close-knit family.

 It’s too simplistic to credit her loving family for her lack of compulsive behaviors. Some people have loving families and become addicts anyway. Some clean families produce one addict. Some families of addicts have members who stay clean.    

 If someone has figured out the code, please let the rest of us know.

 I just read a heartbreaking story about a young man in my community who died from a drug overdose. His parents did everything right, but he got hooked and stayed hooked.

I’ve seen people go to the doctor for a bad back, get a few pills and a few months later, they are committing armed robberies to feed their new addiction.

 There is an army of dedicated people trying to solve the problem. They have an impossible job.

Many people ask me how I am able to work with the finances of people like lottery winners and injury victims, where statistics show that the overwhelming majority will run through their money in five years or less.

 I finally realized that I am the financial analogy of a drug and alcohol counselor. I have to look at the number of people I save, not the number that don’t make it.

 We have to start looking at our national addiction policies in the same way. One day at a time, one person at a time.

 The drug problem stems from the fact that people can get their hands on incredibly powerful stuff and that a lot of people are looking for an escape.

 Although I knew more than my share of drunks, to this day, I have never even seen cocaine, heroin, meth or heavy drugs used with becomin addicted immediately.

Although I think the “just say no” concept was simplistic, I feel fortunate that I never had to say no. No one ever offered.

 Thank God.

 There has been a well-documented run of suicides by Kentucky lawyers in recent years, and I went to the Kentucky Bar Association convention looking for answers.

Unlike many states, Kentucky has an excellent Lawyer Assistance Program for people fighting addictions, depression or anything that might keep them from practicing law in an honorable manner. My longtime friend Yvette Hourigan heads the program and is tireless in her efforts.

 I knew most of the attorneys who died and talked to friends and relatives of others. My conclusion is that suicide, like addiction, is one day at a time and one person at a time.   

Everyone had a different story, but they all came to the sad conclusion that dying was better than living.

 A longtime recovering addict once told me that most addictions are the result of loneliness.

Like the lyric that Cory Monteith (and Meat Loaf) used to sing, it can be “cold and lonely in the deep dark night.”

 I’ve never been good about telling people that I love them. If you’ve gotten an “I love you” from me, you are on a very short list. Although my emotions are normally for the world to see, expressing love does not come easy. Until now.

 Many successful addiction programs are those where people feel love and support. A couple of days before Cory died, I saw an old friend who is close to his second year of sobriety. I’ve known him for nearly 20 years and most of the time he was off the wagon. But I always had a gut feeling that someday he would turn it around and am thrilled that he has.

 Letting people know you care about them may not be a universal solution for the addiction and suicide problem facing the nation.

 But it doesn’t cost anything to try.


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