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  • Writer's pictureErik Frederickson - Life Coach and Recovery Coach

New York City Lawyer opens up about her addiction, and how common it is with her colleagues.

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

"The morning before I got sober, my breakfast consisted of nearly a bottle of red wine and a few thick lines of cocaine," is what Lisa F. Smith wrote about her own addiction and journey into recovery. A high achieving lawyer and writer, Smith has shared candidly about her journey through addiction and into recovery and the high addiction rates among practicing law professionals.

Immediately after receiving her law degree she realized that the world of high achieving lawyers is filled with alcohol and drug abuse.

A 2016 study done by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs revealed some startling statistics:

-Up to 21 percent of licensed, employed lawyers qualify as problem drinkers

-Lawyers under age 30, it’s 31.9 percent.

-Compare that to 6.8 percent of all Americans who have a drinking problem.

On top of that participants were asked about their use of licit and illicit drugs, including sedatives, marijuana, stimulants and opioids: It was a staggering 74% that admitted to using stimulants on a weekly basis.


Having personally lived through 13 yrs of addiction I can say with one hundred percent certainty that addiction does not discriminate. We should not be shocked when entertainers, athletes, lawyers, and so on come forward and admit to having issues with addiction.

The propensity to try to hide it for as long as possible is a common theme with all who struggle with addiction. The problem with high achievers is that they have the money to fuel that addiction for longer, and the means to try and hide it.

During my 13 yrs of active addiction I achieved some things.

I was an all region football player in high school, pain pills were a close friend during that time.

I made three hip hop albums that received flattering responses from local magazines, I was high the entire time.

I wrote for a university newspaper and ended up receiving scholarship money because of my performance, while I was also snorting Oxycontin in school bathroom stalls.

Of course I was never able to sustain any short lived success, and any success that did come always came crashing down on me.

Our society has come a long way towards breaking the stigma of addiction, but my experience has shown me that a big misunderstanding still exists when it comes to understanding addiction.

We think it is easy to spot the issues of addiction in the less fortunate or "lower class", but did you know that addiction rates are actually higher in the ranks of the high achievers?

In a 2019 article MD Daniel Hochman wrote "Not only are high achievers not protected from addiction, but they are more likely to have it. About 1 in 4 female surgeons and 1 in 4 male lawyers have alcohol use disorder, and executives have 40% higher rates of drug use than other occupations."

Addiction doesn't care about your age, gender, race, bank account, background, achievements or lack there of. Addiction is out to kill, steal, and destroy and whether you are successful or not, it could care less.

We might make more progress with high achievers that struggle with addiction if we understood that addiction can hit anyone, regardless of their work ethic or IQ.




Now clean and sober, Lisa F. Smith had this to say about the process of accepting the reality of having a disease and trying to get help,

"When doctors strongly suggested a 28-day stay at a rehabilitation facility, I refused to go. It would have meant telling my law firm the real reason I had been out “sick.” Instead, I went to outpatient rehab two nights a week. One week and one day after checking into the hospital, I was back at work. It was not a smart approach after being diagnosed with a chronic disease."

She did indeed step into recovery and is now living in long term recovery, but the road was a bit rocky at first.

She continued, "When people learn that I’m in recovery, they often say that they wouldn’t have guessed “that” about me and that I don’t look like a drug addict. Somehow, I don’t think that similar comments are made to people with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis."

How are you looking at people (regardless of their achievements or lack thereof) that struggle with addiction?


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