Girl Walks Out of a Bar Author Lisa Smith, Life on the Other Side
Lisa Smith's gripping memoir Girl Walks Out of a Bar is a voyeuristic view of a life spiraling out of control and the road to recovery. I catch up with Lisa on life since.
Lisa Smith, is the author of Girl Walks Out of a Bar, her memoir of addiction and recovery in the world of New York City corporate law. She also co-hosts the podcast Recovery Rocks.
I downloaded the audiobook, Girl Walks Out of a Bar: a Memoir, by Lisa Smith to listen to on my 5-hour drive to pick up my son from college.
I don't even remember the drive. I was riveted by the story. I hung on every word and was on an emotional rollercoaster, rocked back and forth from shocked to disgusted to sad.
Just as I was pulling into Oxford, Lisa had checked into Gracie Square, a rehab center in New York, and I was cheering for her. I was doubtful but hopeful she would survive, and I couldn't wait to get back in the car to hear the rest of it.
So how does a nice Jewish girl from a good family who went to Northwestern undergrad and Rutgers Law School become a full-blown addict?
Lisa tells her story, recounting her 'happy' childhood in an upper-middle-class family during the late '70s and early '80s. Plagued by insecurities, a need for approval, and early signs of depression, that honestly, many girls of that age and era were probably also experiencing, the drinking started during high school and continued through college. And then on to New York City in the '90s, the golden years of Wall Street, where money and greed were seen as an attribute.
In the era of the city that never sleeps, nightclubs and drugs were flowing freely, and young, ambitious 20-somethings were burning the candle on both ends.
In the era of the city that never sleeps, nightclubs and drugs were flowing freely, and young, ambitious 20-somethings were burning the candle on both ends. And as a junior corporate lawyer, Lisa and her close-knit group of high-achieving friends were celebrating the end of their grueling workdays with alcohol-fueled nights at the city's clubs and summer weekends partying at the beach.
Lisa's telling of her New York days was a raw, voyeuristic view of a life spiraling out of control. It was disturbing and shocking and left me aghast and cringing. But thankfully, and shockingly, her (short) stint at rehab worked.
You have been sober for 17 years now; Congratulations! Tell us what's happened with you since getting sober?
I stayed in NYC 15 years after getting sober, and that tight-knit group of friends, from the book, are still my friends. I learned that true friends stay with you and support you.
The irony for me was that I became more successful in the corporate world once I stopped drinking. I became present and engaged at the office, not hungover or obsessing over when I could drink next.
Until August 2019, I was the Deputy Executive Director of a 200-lawyer law firm in NYC, which was a significant accomplishment for me and one that previously would have been beyond my reach. After that, I launched my own advisory firm.
But now, I don't practice law anymore. I primarily speak to professional organizations, law firms, corporations, and law schools about my story, focusing on smashing the stigma around substance use and mental health disorders. Beneath the façade of success lies, the reality of addiction. Fear of stigma keeps so many people from asking for the help they need, and the results can be tragic.
Beneath the façade of success lies, the reality of addiction. Fear of stigma keeps so many people from asking for the help they need, and the results can be tragic.
I also met my husband Craig in NYC about a year and a half after I got sober. We've been married for almost 13 years and now live in Southern California. He's never seen me drink! He told me early on I'm a cheap date:)
What has been your biggest challenge since getting sober?
Getting out of my comfort zone of working in law firms (which I did for almost 30 years) and stepping out on my own. It's a big change that took a long time to make, but I'm so glad I made it. When I was drinking, I couldn't imagine what a life without alcohol would look like. I learned that the possibilities are endless.
What is your best advice for women who may be struggling and don't know what to do?
If you're struggling, it's important to know there's no right or wrong way to recover. And no matter what you're struggling with, you never have to do it alone. Community is essential. Now with everyone online, it's easier than ever to connect. I have always been a 12-step person, but that's not necessarily for everyone.
I'd encourage women to check out She Recovers. It is a fantastic nonprofit for women that embraces the view that we are all recovering from something. They host free Zoom support meetings twice daily for women struggling with anything; mental health, substance use or any addictive behavior, disabilities, grief, family issues, etc. And women can participate anonymously if they're more comfortable not being seen.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration to stay on your journey?
I'm most inspired by other people's stories. Early in my recovery, I couldn't get enough of rock stars' addiction memoirs. I read Anthony Kiedis' (frontman for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) memoir, Scar Tissue, and when I was struggling, I would think, if Anthony Kiedis can stay sober, I can stay sober today. Sometimes, it's that simple.
What brings you joy?
When I can have peace in my head and know that I did the best I could on any given day, I feel gratitude and happiness. Two sober feet on the ground is a great way to start each day.
Also, after a lifetime of winters, I'm thrilled to be able to take long walks near the beach all year.
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Let it go - life is too short for resentments or regrets. Stop trying to control what you can't.
Who are the 5 people- living or dead- you would invite to your dream dinner party?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
What is your motto?
We do this together. I felt so alone in my addiction; my purpose is to let the next person know they're not alone.
If you or someone you know is suffering, there is help, support and hope. https://sherecovers.org/
You can watch or listen to Lisa's podcast Recovery Rocks, "where Rock and Roll-loving, Gen X lawyer Lisa Smith is in a 12-step recovery program from addiction to alcohol and drugs. The equally rock-obsessed millennial writer Tawny Lara finds her addiction recovery through blogging. Give them a couple microphones and you get the Recovery Rocks podcast– a new and inclusive discussion for anyone currently in or curious about recovery".
To purchase Lisa's book, Girl Walks Out of A Bar: A Memoir