8 SUPERLAWYERS.COM A TTORNE YS SELEC TED TO RISING S TARS WERE CHOSEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROCESS ON PAGE 14.
In high school, I got a DUI a couple of hours
before the Northridge earthquake hit. My dad and
stepfather came to pick me up at the Calabasas
substation. I think I got home around 2 a.m., put
my head down on the pillow, and by 4 a.m. the
world was shaking.
The epicenter was probably 15 minutes from
where I lived. It was a weird experience because it
was the strongest earthquake that’s hit in my lifetime, and it kind of refocused my family. The timing
felt uncanny. I was ready for severe consequences.
Then the next day, because this earthquake hit,
they had other things to focus on.
I had to go to teenage alcohol prevention meetings, but I hadn’t hit bottom. I went there, drank
coffee, smoked cigarettes, ate donuts or cookies,
got my card signed. Then I went to Indiana University and continued to experiment with drugs and
alcohol. I did not show up to classes hardly at all—I
got a 0.89 GPA for three semesters—and I almost
got a second DUI. I crashed my car into a light
post in front of a Denny’s. I had been drinking, and
knew I couldn’t get another DUI, so I ended up
leaving the scene of the accident. I did two days in
Monroe County Jail, failed out of Indiana University
and came back home.
There, I got further and deeper into drugs and
alcohol—burnt most of my bridges, broke up with
the girlfriend, lost my apartment, lost my job and
ended up back in my mom’s house. That led to
my intervention and going to rehab. It’s the place
where I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous.
PINE PINE FREEMAN
‘The Most Empowering Thing
I’ve Ever Done’
Scott Tillett’s battle with substance abuse AS TOLD TO TREVOR KUPFER
Nobody likes to admit they need help. It’s not a
comfortable thing—especially in our society, where
self-sufficiency and independence are so valued—
but just admitting that I didn’t know how to do this
and that I needed help, that’s a big component. It
feels like a shortcoming, a failing, like you’re weak.
In reality it was the most empowering thing I’ve
I went through the steps. I made amends to my
family and people I hurt. I had a problem that was
bigger than alcoholism; I had a problem with myself.
I just wasn’t a good person. I had to change the way I
thought, the people I interacted with, the way I interacted with people. It’s not one thing—it’s everything.
When I was 26, I was accepted to Chapman and
got a degree in psychobiology. Then I applied to
most of the top 20 law schools and was serially
rejected by almost all of them. It was kind of a
blow to my ego in terms of 3.8 pre-med GPA and a
98th percentile on the LSAT. The reason, I think, is
that I told the truth on my law school admissions
essay—how I had struggled with alcoholism and
drug addiction. There’s a high recidivism rate for
alcoholics. I think a lot of these schools didn’t want
to take a chance.
My family is back in my life now and I have
regained trust from people who swore never to
trust me again. People know they can call and
depend on me.
So for those who feel unemployable, whose family has written them off, who don’t have any hopes,
that can change. It is possible. The most important thing is starting the dialogue and removing
the stigma. It’s a disease, and not something to
be ashamed of. I still have trouble talking about
this and I’m 16 years sober, so I can imagine how
uncomfortable it is for someone still struggling.
I know successful people who struggle with
drugs and alcohol and look like they’re fine. They
drink, and manage to stop shaking long enough
to stand in front of a jury to deliver their opening
argument. Then at lunch, they need to have another drink so they can get through the next part
of the trial. It seems like the easier, softer path is to
continue doing what you’re doing. It seems like it’s
an insurmountable task to quit. But it’s not.
Where to Turn
The Other Bar is a recovery network with more than
30 meeting locations throughout the state “specifically
for attorneys and people in the legal profession,” Tillett
says. “You’re with others who know what it takes to survive
and thrive in law while also maintaining sobriety.”
Telling their stories