Confessions of a Drunk Driver

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A New Life

The logistics were difficult -- a foreshadowing of what my new, restricted life would soon be. He drove me to the towing service, where I wrote a check, just the first of many I would write in the months to come. Then he drove me in my car the 30 minutes to my rural home, hitchhiking on the lonely country road to retrieve his own vehicle. As he disappeared from view, I looked out at my Jeep in the driveway. There it would sit, and here I would sit, dependent on the kindness of friends to get around -- to the store, to appointments, including with my lawyer. And for how long? Potentially a whole year, if I was convicted. What on earth, I suddenly realized, would I do about my business? How would I live if I couldn't drive to the city or anywhere else on a writing assignment? Or to teach?

Four days later my father, mother, sister, uncle, and two sons (24 and 22), all of whom live several hours away, came for a long-awaited extended visit to celebrate my uncle's birthday. My elder son immediately asked why I couldn't drive my car to do this and that. I mumbled something about a mechanical problem. I freaked out when my father bought the local paper, worried that my arrest would appear in the police briefs. It never did. To this day I'm not sure why. And to this day I have not told my family what happened.

Though the visit went well, I noticed, as I had so many times before, how many members of my family -- excluding my sons -- would look forward to the end of a day so they could hit the beer or wine...two, three beers or glasses of wine before dinner and then several more during. I saw clearly now that my dad and my uncle had drinking problems. When I was a teenager I vividly remember my father returning from parties displaying drunken behavior, slurring his words, suffering from hangovers the next morning. That I had a drinking problem, too, and that it had now landed me in deep trouble, was something I felt I simply could not tell them. That night I had one or two glasses of wine, from what I recall, but I did not get drunk.

Soon I was describing those kinds of evenings -- and more -- to the private alcohol-abuse counselor my lawyer recommended I hire to show my trial judge I was serious about addressing my problem. She would report my family background and personal drinking habits to my lawyer for my trial. She did not agree with my decision not to tell my family. She saw owning up to my problem as a necessary part of my recovery. I decided several months ago -- at her urging -- to tell certain key friends instead. And they, including my best friend, my now on-again boyfriend and local friends from a women's spiritual circle, have provided the understanding and support that I needed and still do. It really helped when all of them, to a person, reacted by saying the same thing could have easily happened to them.

My counselor, with more than a decade of clinical experience in substance abuse and mental disorders, diagnosed me as being depressed and, if not already an alcoholic, on my way to becoming one. By my counselor's definition, even my weeknight average of three glasses was too much. And with that, she sent her first report to my lawyer.

Continued on page 4:  Negotiating for Daily Life


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