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After the Bar

Personal & Financial

The Other Happy Hour: How to Navigate Alcohol Culture

Radiance W Harris

The Other Happy Hour: How to Navigate Alcohol Culture
DaniloAndjus via GettyImages

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It starts in law school. The happy hours, the alcohol-filled pre-gaming before the alcohol-filled parties, and the all too frequent nightcaps after a long day of work or studying become commonplace. You quickly become consumed by the alcohol-drinking culture without even realizing it, and these law school habits are often unconsciously carried over into your legal career.

The American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation revealed that up to 20 percent of lawyers have a substance abuse problem, and more than one in three practicing attorneys are problem drinkers. Further, the rate of alcohol abuse is significantly higher for women lawyers than for male lawyers (39.5 percent compared with 33 percent).

Arguably, excessive alcohol consumption is a coping mechanism for many American attorneys who fall victim to the legal profession’s highly competitive and stressful demands. However, prioritizing self-care can be one of the best and most effective ways to navigate the alcohol culture and resist the urge to overindulge. 

Caring for Yourself

Choose to focus on caring for yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In doing so, you are more likely to excel in your life and career and less likely to succumb to the legal profession’s stress and pressures, which can lead to problem drinking. I have personally experienced and seen how powerful and transformational a commitment to self-care can be. I have witnessed colleagues overcome alcoholism, depression, weight gain, and more.

Prioritizing self-care can be a total life changer in terms of increasing joy, positivity, patience, wellbeing, and having a sense of control over your mental health, livelihood, and time. One attorney at a Fortune 200 company shared the benefits of regular self-care in her life, stating that “[t]aking better care of myself through regular exercise and good sleep has helped me avoid a lot of bad habits, such as alcohol and fast food, that are often associated with the inherent pressures of being a lawyer at a fast-paced and stressful job.”

Taking Responsibility for Your Needs

Self-care is about taking responsibility for meeting your personal physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. It is the conscious act of spending time engaging in behaviors and activities that bring you absolute joy and nourish you in all areas. At the same time, it allows you to avoid people, situations, and experiences that deplete your energy and happiness.

Easy Ways to Implement Self-Care into Your Daily Routine

  • Exercising regularly (yes, even walking counts)
  • Listening to or reading something inspirational
  • Engaging in prayer or meditation
  • Eating whole, unprocessed foods
  • Drinking a green smoothie
  • Writing in a journal
  • Getting at least seven hours of sleep
  • Talking regularly to a coach/therapist/close friend
  • Saying “no” more often
  • Disconnecting periodically from your phone, email, social media, and/or the news

Add time for self-care into your calendar just like everything else in your life. After all, it is a very important “happy hour” with yourself.