On November 11th, a Dallas County Assistant District Attorney was fired after an alcohol fueled confrontation with an Uber Driver. The driver recorded part of the confrontation. It’s not the first time that such a confrontation has made national news. Who can forget the Miami doctor who found herself front page news and was fired in similar circumstances.
As I have watched the facts and controversy unfold , I have done some reflecting on my past. Particularly all the negative events in which being intoxicated played a direct role, but which there could have been positive lessons that were not realized at that time. Those times when drinking changed me from a generally nice and laid-back person (at least I think so) to one of the biggest assholes in Dallas. It was a regular occurrence.
When we are in the middle of problem drinking, self-awareness can be elusive. It is often more about avoiding the consequences and feelings that would allow us to do a sober self-examination. Avoiding accountability. A scenario played out countless times around the world. In reading her story, I see myself before I went into recovery.
I remember a particular weekend during the summer of 1997. I had gone to Pacific Beach, California, with some friends. One night while there, I was so intoxicated that I was unable to give the cab driver (well before the era of Uber and Google Maps) coherent directions to the place I was staying. He asked me to get out. I refused. I began arguing with him. Berating him for being an idiot in not understanding my drunken gibberish.
I had become the “angry drunk.” He stopped the cab and demanded I get out or he would call the police. I did get out. I puked on the side of the road and staggered away. To this day, I have no idea how I made it home.
The next morning, there was no self-reflection. As I told my friends the story between trips to the bathroom to vomit as a result of the hangover and attendant spinning room, it was all about how the cab driver had been an idiot. Not my fault. I had no clue that I had a drinking problem. That awareness would not come for another 10 years of negative events related to my drinking and drug use. Loss of my career as a lawyer, failed marriages, etc. I had also previously been to jail for a DWI, but no lesson had been learned. As I listened to the audio of this district attorney berating this Uber driver, I was listening to my voice all those years ago berating a cab driver. I wish I could find and apologize to him as part of my 12-step amends.
As to this assistant district attorney, regardless of whether termination was an appropriate sanction to fit the incident (there are diverging opinions on that), or the “he said/she said” aspects, this is not the first time alcohol has played a part in someone losing a job and won’t be the last.
When someone gets past trying to save his/her job, deflection, and denial (which is pretty normal in these things), one can only hope there is some serious reflection on the real primary trigger. The drinking. While this may be the exception, in my extensive anecdotal experience and observations these things are generally not a one-off. The consequences change but the song often remains the same. Of course, anecdotes are not data, and this may indeed be the one and only time this person will ever be in this horrible situation. I don’t know her. I don’t know her drinking habits beyond what’s reported in this incident.
Even if it is a one-off however, when being intoxicated on any level changes who a person is to a “angry drunk,” it bears reflection on the decision to drink at all. Some of the nicest people I have known sober have turned into the worst possible versions of themselves intoxicated. I know people who would not be considered frequency-based problem drinkers (or binge drinkers) but have chosen not to drink at all because becoming intoxicated changes them for the much worse, and once that line is crossed, it’s like a freight train headed for the nearest consequence.
From my perspective as both a lawyer and a recovery advocate, the Uber driver’s release of her personal information, disparate employment treatment, and Dallas County politics are all distractions from the primary issue. Jobs come and go. Problem drinking (if at play here) is generally progressive. More incidents, more lost jobs, and worse. Get that figured out above all. In a profession with a problem drinking rate of over 35 percent for lawyers in her age group, we owe it to ourselves to get it figured out.
Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption (affiliate link). A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.