Not Afraid to Be Judged
May 2015

Not Afraid to Be Judged

How a sober lawyer walked through his fear to reach out and do more service

Several weeks ago, the Cooperation With Professional Communities (CPC) committees of Districts 13 and 18, located in the Minneapolis region of Southern Minnesota Area 36, held an AA informational breakfast for professionals. The breakfast is held every two years, as has been the tradition in our district for the past 10. The event is intentionally very professional in format and design and draws high praise from all attendees, whose daily work brings them in contact with persons who may be suffering from a problem with alcohol.

It’s been a real joy for me to be on the planning committee for the past two breakfasts, in 2012 and 2014. Yet, I’ve been reluctant to participate in the most important work necessary to pull off a successful CPC event—inviting the professionals. Sign me up for designing the invitations, choosing the menu, negotiating the contract with the caterer, organizing the speakers, calling the volunteers, or even washing dishes after the event. I will gladly do it all. But invite the professionals that I work with to come to the event? Who, me? Can’t someone else please do that part?

Ten years ago, thanks to long-term sobriety in AA, I was able to pursue a dream to go to law school. Earlier in my career I was a small business owner, and later, an administrator at a local college. During those times, I was very open to sharing with my colleagues my experiences escaping the clutches of alcoholism and my membership in AA. As a result, I built a very close-knit and trusting circle of influence around myself. I frequently found myself in intimate conversations with colleagues, clients and students regarding all sorts of personal matters—including the occasional request for help with someone’s drinking problem. I enjoyed the fact that people felt safe taking me into their confidence, and this specifically influenced my desire to become an attorney. Yet, when I started my legal career, for reasons likely fueled by fear and pride, I became less enthusiastic about revealing my AA experience to my professional colleagues. So when it was time to invite professionals to the AA informational breakfast in 2012, I held back and let others do the work. I was overly sensitive to what my new professional colleagues might think of me and I did not want to reach out and invite them to the breakfast. But something changed this year.

Early on in the planning for the 2014 breakfast, I decided that I was going to do things differently and do my share of the inviting. My renewed attitude was due in part to the example that a few AA members had set for me in performing other CPC work over the past few years, and in part to my growing awareness that the intimate circle of influence that brings me so much gratitude had gradually shrunk over the last 10 years. I realized that my own past experience had shown me that opening myself up to the potential for being judged or stereotyped by my professional colleagues had been a core component to building the relationships of trust and confidence that I enjoyed throughout my early professional life.

So this year I took action and cracked open my professional contact lists. I called, emailed and personally visited judges, attorneys, law students, legal professional associations, leaders within all of my volunteer associations, members of the clergy and law enforcement professionals. I also used the invitation as an opportunity to reach out to, and reacquaint myself with, many of my contacts from my former professions. The response was overwhelming.

Everyone that I invited to the breakfast, regardless of whether they were able to attend, expressed sincere gratitude that I had reached out to them and offered to be a resource in their daily work. A few professionals even requested that the districts organize AA informational talks for their places of work or professional associations. Not only did my small contribution help the breakfast and the future work of the districts, but my circle of influence was strengthened as a result of my taking action to be helpful to professionals—in spite of my trepidation.


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