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Left to right: Kathleen Keenan Kindred, Robert H. Thompson and Thomas A. Thompson
Top: Robert J. Heller and Patrick C. Cook Bottom: Jonathan K. Winemiller and Michael J. Costello
serious violent offenses, and things got
dangerous quickly. As a result, I spent
more than two months locked up in solitary confinement for my own protection,
in a 9 x 6 foot cell with bright fluorescent
lights that could never be turned off.
There were many days when I thought I
would lose my mind.
Despite that, I will always value the
time I spent in prison, the vast majority
of which was really helpful. In prison, I
was safe from temptation during the early fragile years of my recovery. I could
never have afforded the two-year inpatient drug rehab I needed. Prison served
that role in my life. In prison, I met hundreds of men whose lives had been destroyed by drugs, especially meth. For
many of them, the drug had taken their
teeth, destroyed their skin, and left them
with horrible burns from meth lab accidents. Some had lost their minds.
In prison, I learned that this was the
insanity I had helped foster when I got
involved with meth, and this is what I
would become if I went back to using
it. It was a life-changing lesson and
an amazing gift. And although I will
always do everything I can to keep my
clients out of prison, I genuinely feel I
was lucky to go . . . and even luckier to
have lived through it.
It was also from prison that I started
writing letters to everyone I knew. That’s
how I finally reconnected with family and
friends. When their letters came flooding
back in, I realized I was no longer alone in
my struggle, and I began to believe that if
I could stay clean, I just might be able to
get my life back.
The Washington Supreme Court
doesn’t allow disbarred attorneys to
work as paralegals in Washington, but
other states don’t have that rule. So after my release from prison on Sept. 12,
2004, I moved my parole from Seattle
to Wilmington, North Carolina, where
I reunited with my family and got a job
in a civil litigation firm as a paralegal
and office manager. I worked there for
the next eight years.
During those eight years, I got involved with the North Carolina State
Bar’s lawyers assistance program (or
LAP, as it’s called). LAP trained me to
be a volunteer and let me serve as a
mentor, monitor, and recovery coach
for other drug-addicted lawyers. LAP
also got me speaking at CLEs, high
schools, and community groups about
It turns out you
don’t really need
“faith” to benefit
from a 12-step
meeting. All you
really need to do is
talk and listen.