Stressed-out lawyers get help to battle addictions

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Lawyers are often portrayed as master manipulators, gunslingers who are always in control while making life miserable for the other side.

But the need to project that perfectly-in-control image leads some lawyers into alcohol or drug addiction, says Michael Crowley, chair of the American Bar Association's commission on lawyer assistance programs.

Crowley, who practises law in Austin, Tex., is part of a panel that next week will address ``addictive and other destructive behaviors'' among lawyers as part of the Canadian Bar Association's annual conference. The three-day conference begins Monday in Ottawa.

In the conference's 88-page program, a capsule summary of the destructive behaviors seminar begins: ``Lawyers should never confuse having a career with having a life.'' It stresses that the seminar -- titled Creating Balance in Your Professional Life -- will focus ``on the recovery process and the wealth of support that now exists in Canada.''

Lawyer assistance programs now operate ``in every state and in every province,'' Crowley said in a telephone interview from Austin. An assistance program for lawyers in Texas features a 1-800 number that is monitored around the clock. The hotline now gets ``about 400 calls a year,'' said Crowley. ``That's up from two or three calls a year before we got the 800 number.''

While reliable statistics are scarce, Crowley feels the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse among lawyers is much the same as it is for non-professionals in other walks of life. In Canada, it's estimated that between 5.3 and 6.5 per cent of the country's adult population are alcoholics.

The Canadian Bar Association represents the legal profession and has more than 34,000 members across the country.

Credit: OTTAWA CITIZEN