The PBI Blog

Laurie J. Besden is an attorney who openly shares her story of addiction and what she has found in recovery. She is the executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania.

What do you wish more legal professionals understood about addiction?

It’s treatable. The prognosis is good if help is sought. Cancer patients seek treatment and addiction is no different. It’s a medical disease, as recognized by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

What do you feel is the biggest hurdle faced by attorneys struggling with addiction?

Reaching out for help. If you look at the legal profession, the majority of skills required to be a successful lawyer are counterproductive to balance and healthy living. Lawyers usually have Type A personalities; they see things in black and white with very little gray area, they are self-reliant and problem solvers—until the problem is their own.

Creative sentencing played a key role in your story—what is your perspective on the value of creative sentencing?

Creative sentencing gives both the Judge and the Defendant an opportunity to work together on the same goal: having the defendant succeed in his or her recovery. It gave me a role, and added a layer of accountability with the Judge, which was a source of motivation and accountability for me.

If there was one thing you would encourage people to do to help eradicate substance abuse, what would it be?

Remove the stigma—the barrier to help and treatment is the stigma that is attached to substance abuse. Like diabetes, substance abuse and mental health disorders are very treatable.

What has been the most amazing part of recovery for you?

There are so many amazing things each day. As basic as it gets, I wake up today instead of “coming to” and I go to sleep at night instead of “passing out.” I see colors. I feel the change of the seasons. I have goals and I accomplish them. I not only have emotions, but I feel them. I consider my sentencing Judge, Judge Carpenter, a friend and truly credit him and Dave Farrell (Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers volunteer) for saving my life.

To learn more about Laurie’s story, and the role creative sentencing and support played in her recovery, check out the on-demand ethics course “Don’t Give Up 5 Minutes Before the Miracle,” a collaborative effort between PBI and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. 

Help is available through LCL

One in three attorneys will need our help at some point in their careers. If you, a family member, or colleague is suffering with a substance use and/or mental health disorder, contact LCL’s Confidential Helpline for free, safe and supportive services 24/7/365. Call 888-999-1941. Information is also available at