One of the conditions of maintaining my law license is that every other year I am required to report to the state of Illinois that I have completed at least 30 hours of continuing legal education. One option that’s available is to purchase and listen to audio recordings of presentations that have been made by attorneys at legal conferences. I recently purchased a package of 30 hours of audio recordings that were assembled from several different presentations.
One presentation that was included in the package was titled “Attorneys and Alcoholism.” The lawyer who gave the presentation is the executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc. The organization was established in 1988 and operates as a confidential helpline service for Pennsylvania lawyers, judges, and law students who are in distress because of substance abuse or mental health disorders.
The lawyer who gave the presentation — Kenneth J. Hagreen — is a former alcoholic who has been assisting other lawyers with alcoholism and addiction problems for more than 35 years.
In his presentation, Hagreen explained what most of us already know: that some people have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism or drugs that causes them to react differently than people who do not have the predisposition.
He also talked about how our life experiences provide the foundation for how our minds develop. He explained that the ability to communicate effectively, make good judgments, control our emotions, solve problems, and set goals depends on the type of environment we grew up in.
Hagreen outlined the three different types of environments that children can be exposed to while they’re growing up:
When the second and third groups of children experiment with alcohol or drugs, they are at a higher level of risk to develop problems. The alcohol and drugs create a sense of well-being and completeness that they can immediately latch onto. With continued use, they begin to believe that alcohol and drugs are an appropriate and acceptable way to deal with their problems and difficulties.
While Hagreen discussed the different home environments within the context of alcoholism and drug abuse, the same environments are relevant to all other aspects of life.
As our culture has significantly deteriorated over the past 50 years, many of the children in our country currently reside in a home that does not provide a safe and nurturing environment.
For those of us who have children who are still in our own homes, it’s important that we help them understand how the different environments that Hagreen outlined affect the mental and emotional stability of the people they come in contact with.
For those of us who have children who are not yet married, we need to make them aware that if they end up marrying a person who grew up in an unstable or abusive environment, there’s a strong likelihood that their spouse may have problems communicating effectively, may lack good judgment, may have trouble controlling his or her emotions, and may have difficulty coping with hardships.
If you happen to be someone who did not grow up in a safe and nurturing environment, there is still hope. If you are a committed Catholic who has an active daily prayer life, you can, over time, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, develop better judgment and better communication and coping skills.
For those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up in safe and nurturing environments, we need to have the humility to admit that there is still plenty of room for improvement of our own communication and coping skills. We are still emotional creatures who can be negatively affected by one or more of the seven root passions of pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, and sloth.
Since the creation of mankind, there have only been two individuals we know of who possessed perfect judgment and perfect communication and coping skills: Jesus Christ and Mary, His mother. It is those two individuals we should seek to model our lives after.