09:00 AM

Time for dry January?

A new year is a chance to reflect on our relationship with alcohol and other substances

by MOLAP Director Anne Chambers, LCSW 

Many of us reconsider our relationship with alcohol or other substances at some point. Reasons vary and are highly personal, such as making health changes, focusing on fitness, being sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, responding to an unfortunate event, or hoping to please someone you love. Opportunities like “Dry January” and “Sober October” are chances to reflect on our relationship with alcohol and other substances; reset; and consider taking additional steps. There’s something appealing about the clear start dates, the chance to start fresh, and the possibility that someone you know might be trying it, too.  

Recent research regarding lawyer well-being suggests that risky drinking has been on the rise. Patrick Krill, JD, and Justin Anker, MD, with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota recently released the results of a survey taken in 2020. They randomly sampled members of the California Lawyers Association and the DC Bar, with a final sample size of 2,864 employed, practicing lawyers. The found that a significantly higher proportion of women lawyers engaged in risky drinking. In total, 56% of women reported risky drinking compared to 46% of men. In addition, 34% of women reported hazardous drinking compared to 25% of men. Factors that seem to impact substance use included workplace permissiveness toward alcohol and the impact of the pandemic. Male lawyers who reported increased drinking to deal with the impact of COVID-19-related stress were four times more likely to be drinking at hazardous levels; women who reported doing so were seven times more likely. The authors noted this may be an early warning sign since drinking to cope with negative emotions and anxiety can increase the risk of alcohol dependence.  

If you’re thinking about making changes in your substance use, here are some things to consider: 

  • Setting a quit date and sharing it builds accountability and offers opportunities for support.  
  • Substance screening invites reflection about the frequency, volume, and impact of substance use in your life. It also helps clarify reasons to reset and can strengthen readiness for change.  
  • Benefits of long-term sobriety include better focus, more time for work and leisure, health benefits, and greater productivity.  
  • Short-term challenges may inspire further steps. 

Challenges of early sobriety:

  • Problems that have been unnoticed may surface and require attention.  
  • Resetting may call for changes in playmates and playgrounds.  
  • Complacency.  
  • Short-term challenges seem simple at first; maintaining gains can be harder.  

Change is not linear. Motivational interviewing, developed by Miller and Rollnick, conceptualized these stages of change: 

  • Precontemplation – not thinking about change, doesn’t see the behavior as a concern, and may be defensive when pressed for change 
  • Contemplation – involves ambivalence, thinking about making changes, and starting to see the issue as a concern 
  • Preparation – assessing the pros and cons of the behavior, committing to change, and building a plan 
  • Action – taking steps, seeing self as responsible for change, seeking help or support as needed 
  • Maintenance – making changes for six months or more, working on continuous improvement, following up to build new habits  

Getting support can make an impact. Here are a few resources:  

  • The Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at www.mobar.org/molap can offer peer support volunteer connections on request.  
  • You don’t have to go it alone. Peer support can offer meaningful fellowship and support positive long-term outcomes.  
  • Seeking inspiration? Check out the ABA Voices of Recovery series here and a message from MOLAP here.
  • Model policies for law firms are available through MOLAP.
  • Intervention information is available here.

If you’d like support in making changes, call the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859 for free, confidential assistance. We’re here to help! 


Anker, Justin, MD and Krill, Patrick, JD. “Stress, Drink, Leave: An Examination of Gender-Specific Factors for Mental Health Problems and Attrition among Licensed Attorneys,” PLOS ONE,16(5), May 12, 2021.  

Hartney, Elizabeth, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD. “The Stages of Change Model of Overcoming Addiction,” www.verywellmind.com, 9/16/2022.  

Editorial. Motivational Interviewing: Stages of Change. www.recoveryfirst.org/motivational-interviewing/, 5/26/2022.  

Jorandby, Lantee, MD, reviewed by Drevitch, Gary. Why Recognizing Pre-Addiction Could Save Lives, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/18/health/alcohol-treatment-options-lisa-ling-wellness/index.html, 8/2/2022.  

Lamotte, Sandee. Pandemic Fueled Alcohol Abuse, Especially Among Women, but there are treatment options, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/18/health/alcohol-treatment-options-lisa-ling-wellness/index.html, 12/18/2022.   

Miller, William R, and Rollnick, Stephen. Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change, 2nd Edition, Guilford Publications, New York, NY, 2002.