It’s a common and unfortunate stigma. Addiction is often thought of as a “poor person’s disease.” Something that only impacts lower income individuals and underperforming achievers. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. A dependency holds no prejudices and can literally strike anyone. That’s why we applaud notable business leaders who come out and share their struggles. It is not always an easy thing to do, but it makes a powerful point and illustrates how high earners can just as easily fall prey. Prominent attorney Greg Smith is just such an example, sharing his moving experience with the site Law.com.
Smith happens to be the chairman of Husch Blackwell, one of the country’s leading legal firms. He is also a recovering alcoholic who nearly lost everything due to his destructive habit. Now clean for over 31 years, Smith chronicled the harrowing journey it took for him to get sober.
Speaking with Law.com, Smith explained that his intense drinking began during law school. He quickly became a “high functioning alcoholic,” able to build a successful career for himself while still fueling a serious problem. The binging carried over into his early law career and, as Smith described on the site, was fueled by his demanding workload.
“I shared drinks frequently with clients and colleagues and developed the well-worn reputation as a hard-charging, hard-drinking attorney,” Smith explained. “Drinking was so much a part of the fabric of my everyday life, socially and professionally. I often thought, how in the world was I going to succeed if I gave up this habit?”
The mood swings and hard partying cost Smith his marriage (as well as custody of his two young children). Work suffered too, as the habit began to interfere with his productivity. Ultimately, an intervention occurred and, at the age of 33, Smith took a year off of work to concentrate on his sobriety.
Though he thought his career would suffer from a 12-month sabbatical, Smith quickly discovered that wasn’t the case. As he explained to the site, once he returned clean he was able to take his law career further than ever before. Now Smith holds the chairman title and is hoping that his story can inspire other business professionals to live a healthier life.
“We have to quit whispering about this problem,” he concluded. ”I can’t tell you how many people talked to me about their own issues. Once you pull the curtain back, it’s a whole different environment. I think it’s important for people in leadership positions to talk about this.”