From Underdog to Top Dog

I’ve always excelled in what I’m doing and seen myself as somebody who would go to college and crush it in my career.

What almost ruined my life was an addiction to prescription painkillers from the age of 17-25.

My junior year of high school, a Doctor prescribed me a painkiller for my recovery after surgery for a wrestling injury. In a year, I went from a kid who took his first painkiller to a kid who would do painkillers before school to a kid who would always have a bag of painkillers to a kid who showed up high at senior prom on a bunch of painkillers and an ecstasy pill. 

James Helm, Youth Sports Sex Abuse Lawyer

While I’m living this way, I get great grades,

I’m considered “cool and edgy” because of drugs, and I’m the President of the Class, the guy on stage announcing the prom king and queen, good friends of mine. I actually had pride in my lifestyle even though I was hiding it from my parents. (A little context, it was 2010, and it was the middle of the opioid epidemic. Everybody on my football team had tried painkillers, and so had lots of my friends). 

My girlfriend knew, and when we broke up right before I went to college, she called me a “pill head.” I didn’t see myself that way, and her label bothered me so much I vowed not to do pills at Penn State, which I upheld for two years. But then I joined a fraternity and I was back to the races with the pills.

In my junior year, I told my parents about my drug issues because I owed several guys in our fraternity thousands of dollars, and I had no way out. 

I felt so awful I cried my eyes out.

Prior to this, my parents had the utmost confidence in me, but after my confession, they questioned my future. I went through withdrawals in their house, and one of my biggest regrets was my mom having to see me like that. 

this was my rock bottom.

I thought I was a bad person. I was lying to the people I love, and I was full of crap. The opposite of self-confidence is the feeling no matter what you do, you’re destined for the bad life you’re living. 

Law school was a new shot at life.

I stopped doing drugs and applied myself working on both a Juris Doctorate and an MBA at the same time. I went from the 99th percentile admitted to the top 10% after the first semester. But addiction is a bitch, and in my second year, I fell back into the pills.

It all came to a head one day after a week in Las Vegas drinking and doing drugs. I took a red-eye flight home and went straight into a legal writing seminar. I had my first-ever panic attack, which felt like a heart attack, and I thought I was going to die. I left the seminar and urgently called my therapist who said, “Are you finally ready?” 

I was finally committed to getting sober, and I found recovery in 2016 with the help of a 90-day outpatient rehab program and a twelve-step. I’ve been sober since. 

I’ve been sober since.

James with her mom, standing proudly at TopDog billboard

I graduated near the top of my class and landed a dream job offer with a well-known and respected law firm in Philadelphia at $120,000 per year. I shocked everyone when I turned down the position and instead started my own injury and accident firm, TopDog Law Personal Injury Lawyers.

Most people had written me off as someone whose life would be ruined by drugs. The beautiful thing is that God put me through the experience for a reason. What was once my biggest liability is now my biggest asset. I’m grateful for my struggle and wouldn’t have it any other way. It allows me to connect with people on a deeper level and offer my experience, strength, and hope to those who are dealing with addiction or going through the devastation of a catastrophic injury.

I could have told a story about how successful TopDog Law Personal Injury Lawyers is and how we get our clients top dollar because we do, but I choose to honor my story and share my struggle with painkillers because everyone has a struggle of their own. 

I believe we should all share our scars.

My hope is always that just one person looks at my journey from someone addicted to drugs to a successful lawyer/entrepreneur and says ‘What if I can turn my life around?’

Wrongful Death Lawyer James Helm cheering in front of TopDog Billboard
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