Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Winter 2016 - Page 32

GARY WAS A GREAT LAWYER when he was sober; now he’s gone By Brian Cuban Esq. BrianCuban.com Dallas, Texas This article first appeared at http:// abovethelaw.com/ S ummer 2013: A muggy, hot morning headed over the 100-degree mark, not unusual for a Dallas summer. I’m taking my usual drive to my favorite Starbucks. I drive past the same bus stop every day. To the average commuter, the bus stop had nothing to set it off from any other. Just one more city hub with people waiting to go to different parts of their lives: jobs, family, shopping. This particular bus stop always catches my attention, because to me it symbolizes more. I know it as a way-station for those in various stages of drug and alcohol recovery and descent. The apartment complex across the street houses many recovering addicts. It’s cheap (by Dallas standards) and within walking distance of a local AA group. The bus line also takes people close to several sober-living homes. Different stories from all walks of life confirm that addiction does not discriminate. This morning, I see one such story with whom I’m intimately familiar standing at the bus stop. It’s my old colleague, Gary, waiting for the bus. Also a lawyer, Gary has an undergraduate 32 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL degree from Boston College, summa cum laude, near the top of his class at Antioch School of Law, and then on to a great sports-related job with NBC in New York City. He wasn’t just a lawyer; he was a distinguished lawyer I’d met Gary in 2003 (four years before I got sober) when we both worked of-counsel to a local Dallas firm. At the time, I was trying to hold my life together between addiction, failed marriages, and an eating disorder. Being “high-functioning” was a blessing and a curse. In my mind, I needed no help despite the daily snorting of cocaine in the bathroom of the firm or on my office desk. It provided just the pickup I needed sometimes, and it all made perfect sense to me. I viewed my law firm bathroom/coke breaks as a performance enhancer that would allow me to do my job better. To make me a more confident attorney, if only for a few moments. I tried a case with Gary — a bench trial contract matter. It was the last time I’d appear in court to litigate a case. Sober and brilliant, Gary ran the show. I admired his skill, but didn’t envy him. Being in the courtroom made me sick to my stomach. A sickness only alcohol and cocaine could cure. I couldn’t wait Winter 2016 to be done with trial. But Gary was truly talented, and he knew exactly what he was doing. We had a good result. Then Gary disappeared. He’d done so sporadically over the years since I first met him. I knew what that meant. Gary would go through stretches of stellar representation of his clients, and then there’d be periods of complaints of neglect, and even rumors that he’d show up to client meetings apparently high. Then an arrest on an outstanding warrant in the middle of a court hearing. Gary’s story was generally known among the local attorneys in recovery. On this day, Gary doesn’t see me drive by him at the bus stop. He’s staring at the ground, just waiting. I’ve called him recently and noticed that his voicemail was full. I know what that means. I suspect many addicts and their families know what that means. Gary has “gone out.” He’s not sober. I pull a U-turn so I can drive up alongside and offer him a ride. He gets in. He’s been to an AA meeting and is headed to the transitional living sober home where he’s a resident. The only thing standing between him and living on the street. National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys