In the June 2014 issue of NWLawyer, we feature “Life After Meth,” WSBA member Wil Miller’s personal account of his journey through meth addiction, arrest, and recovery. Following his arrest, Miller was suspended from the practice of law in Washington and later disbarred. In 2009, he argued for his reinstatement before the Character and Fitness Board of the WSBA, and in 2010 he was reinstated to the practice of law. You can read an excerpt from his story below, or find the full article in NWLawyer online.
From the very first time I tried meth, I loved it. Nothing had ever made me feel as happy or alive or confident as meth did. That’s because no natural experience can make your brain produce dopamine like meth can. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes you experience pleasure. Normally there are about 100 units of dopamine in the pleasure centers of your brain. But when you use meth, your dopamine levels shoot up to 1,250 units and you stay high for up to 12 hours. At the same time your dopamine levels are spiking, meth is also reducing blood flow to your frontal lobes, hobbling the section of your brain that helps you make good and responsible decisions. It’s a dangerous combination — a perfect storm of addiction.
By the third time I tried meth, I knew I wasn’t going to stop, and soon what started as a weekend ritual of getting high quickly snowballed into extended periods of use followed by debilitating periods of withdrawal. Meth withdrawal can leave you feeling impossibly weak, apathetic, and depressed, sometimes for days. You eat and sleep uncontrollably and sometimes experience crying jags or bouts of paranoia for no reason. It can make you feel like you’re losing your mind.
Being a prosecutor certainly made my addiction much more complicated. I was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and hypocrisy. And although I knew I desperately needed help, I had no idea where I could get it without losing my job. And I really didn’t want to lose my job.
I loved being a trial attorney and a victims’ advocate. After graduating from Duke Law in 1988, I started my career in the Brooklyn D.A.’s Office, where I specialized in prosecuting sex crimes. Three years later, I took a job as a trial attorney and supervisor in the Special Victims Bureau in the Queens D.A.’s Office. Then in 1995, I moved to Seattle to work for Norm Maleng as a King County deputy prosecutor. Being a prosecutor was all I had ever done. Trial work felt completely natural to me — like the thing I was born to do.
That all ended one day in March 1998, three months into my addiction, when a security guard at the King County Courthouse asked me to open my briefcase, which had just gone through the X-ray machine. It was a common request; I frequently had my briefcase searched when entering the courthouse. Only this time, inside, there was an Altoids tin containing drugs and drug paraphernalia.
In an instant, I saw my life crumble before my eyes. I was about to lose everything: my job, my friends, and my reputation.