Lessons 11 Years Later

At the time of sitting down to write this post, it has been 11 years since the morning I woke up on the floor of the Alachua County Jail and knew in that instant I would never take another drink. Today, by the grace of God, I am 11 years sober.

For those of you who don’t know my story, on December 14, 2009 I was arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) after the leaving a work Christmas party. At the time I was a felony prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office in the 8th Circuit (Gainesville, FL – my hometown). That morning I would appear as a defendant in front of the same judge I just practiced in front of the for last year and who I admired greatly. A few days later I would resign with no idea if I would ever practice law again. Recently divorced, with two small children, and no driver’s license or job – I was forced to move us in with my mother. Because I was a prosecutor at the time, my arrest was newsworthy and made the local papers, tv news, etc. My alcoholism, which I had battled for years following the death of my brother and had gone to great lengths to conceal, was now fully exposed for the world to see. I was totally humilated. Rock bottom.

Having stood in their shoes, I have a deeper sense of compassion for my clients and it informs my work as an attorney.

Mercifully, shortly after my arrest, I received a call from the Public Defender’s Office offering me job. So less than a month later, I held my head high and I walked back into the courtroom. I would spend the next 5 years advocating for other addicts in my work as a defense attorney. It was some of the most meaningful work of my life.

In those first days, the white hot shame of my experience is what kept me sober, but eventually through years of therapy and my faith in God, sobriety has become the foundation of my entire life. Over these last 11 years, I have slowly rebuilt my life brick by brick, learning to love every broken piece of myself, reassembling it with compassion, honesty, and finally acceptance. Healing my addiction was a long hard road. For many years, I did not even celebrate the annniversary of my sobriety, but I have learned that to fully heal from our past we must own all of our story, even the ugly parts. My strong faith, the happy, healhty wife and mom I am today, the courage to open my law firm – none of that would exist without that broken mess of a girl on the floor of the jail.

I have learned to fully heal from our past we must own ALL of our story, even the ugly parts.

Today I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from my experience. It has given me a deeper sense of compassion for my clients. I know I am a better attorney because I’ve stood in their shoes. It has also brought me closer to God. I believe our wounds are sacred, because it is in the broken places within ourselves that we most come to know God. And our wounds become our wisdom, if we let them.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction today, know this: none of us are alone in our pain. The world breaks us all at some point or another. What matters is that you don’t stay down, but you piece yourself together and get back up and keep moving forward. If there is anything I can do to help you or someone who know in crisis, please reach out to me or share this post with them.

My prayer is that in sharing my story someone else may find comfort and hope. For the one thing I know for sure after 11 years is this: there is hope. There is always hope.