Overcoming Professional Obstacles Caused by Addiction – My Story
January 10, 2020
I spent 2000 through 2003 in law school. I forced myself to understand every word, concept, and argument in each case. I obsessed over legal theories and the “why” behind everything. I loved every second of it. In fact, I received more A’s in my first year of law school than I had in the entirety of my college and high school career. I went on to take the New York and New Jersey bar exams over a three-day period in 2003, passing both on the first attempt. I was sworn in as an attorney and threw myself into the practice of law. I had arrived!
While I was getting black out drunk every Friday night during this period and dabbling with substances here and there, I told myself it was no big deal. My mind, in the early stages of addiction, justified everything into a perfectly logical narrative. I told myself that everyone drinks and parties, especially us lawyers. It was “no big deal.”
Fast forward 10 years later, I would routinely stay up for three days at a time. Just the right amount of substances combined with just the right amount of alcohol can keep you awake, alert, and feeling somewhat invincible. By the Summer of 2013, I was only sober about one day a week or so. The rest of the time, I was either starting or coming off a bender.
As an attorney, my legal mind, ambition, and decision making had all been hijacked by addiction. I was in and out of 12 step meetings and treatment centers. I eventually found myself inundated with attorney disciplinary complaints in New Jersey and New York. I was in full blown addiction. It was anything but “no big deal.” As a result of my addiction-fueled choices, I lost my New York law license and was given several suspensions in New Jersey. Addiction is a taker, it takes what it can from people and everyone in his or her way.
In the summer of 2014, I had pulled together a few bucks to stay in a cheap hotel for a few nights. I didn’t want to sleep in my car again. The place was filled with lost souls, and I fit in just fine. After being up for three days, I took a good look in the mirror and said to myself, “You are a complete loser.” I knew that my life had been overcome by addiction and that I was going to die.
It was in that moment that I became ready. Call it God’s grace (I choose to) or something else, but whatever it was, it gave me the willingness to take massive action and regain control of my life.
It was July 18, 2014.
I have not had a drink of alcohol nor have I consumed a mood or mind-altering substance since that day.
For the first year of sobriety, I put a new career on hold as I was told that I needed to learn how to live life all over again. I spent the first six months of my sobriety working the counter at a local pizzeria for $8 an hour, followed by a job as a “temp” at a call center for the next six months (sounds crazy, but they gave me a desk and a chair, and I felt like a professional again for the first time in a very long time). After building a solid foundation in recovery that first year, I began looking into a new career.
As an analytical person, I always loved insurance and the complexities surrounding insurance policy wording. In August 2015, and with a little over one solid year of sobriety behind me, I took a chance and applied for a job in the insurance field with a company in Jersey City, New Jersey. After several interviews, I was hired to develop new wording for complex insurance policies. I was truly thrilled and incredibly excited!
After a year in this role, and with my new-found courage, tenacity and sticktoitiveness cultivated in recovery, I went on to champion a new product for the company that would become a first of its kind legal analytics tool for insurers. While not currently practicing law, I have been able to leverage my legal mind in a new and unique way. Given where I came from, it truly humbles me that I am now referred to by others as a leader in my new field.
While some of us have harder roads than others, and while my path was anything but easy, we certainly can and do recover, contribute, and exceed expectations!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mitch Tarter is a New Jersey native and a graduate of Rutgers Law School. After surviving addiction, Mitch has gone on to be an impassioned innovator in the insurance and technology fields. He has been in recovery, and active in 12 step program, since July 18, 2014.
The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our Ammon Recovery Scholars Program. Our program goals include: removing financial barriers through financial scholarships; providing strategic support for recipients through offering personal, professional and academic support; and creating a supportive peer community committed to combating the stigma associated with addiction by promoting that recovery is possible. We are committed to giving away at least $100,000 in scholarships annually and are looking to fund education as a stepping stone to stable employment, safe housing and adequate healthcare. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.