What I Was Really Thinking When I Drove Drunk

February 23, 2024
A text post that reads, "Addiction is like this force lurking in the background, and it's one goal above all else is to survive."

When my kids were little, before my alcoholism presented itself, I never drove after drinking. To the point where if I’d had so much as a sip of wine, I would call my husband and ask him to pick up our youngest from their playdate on his way home from work rather than risk getting in the car myself.

Within five years of my addiction being active, I was driving drunk frequently.

I remember one time right after my husband had told me he wanted to separate, and I was not coping well. My drinking had been building for years, but at this point I was really falling apart. So I went out to a bar for dinner and drank all the way until last call. Then I drove home.

There was no thought of “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “This isn’t safe.” That wasn’t even on my radar. I just got in my car and went.

Before leaving the parking lot of the bar, I registered the pressure of something scraping up alongside my car, and then the pressure stopped and I kept on driving.

I woke up the next morning from what I now know was a blackout and went out to the garage. I gasped at what I saw. All along my gray Honda Civic, from the front left quarter panel all the way to the rear, was this bright red gouge from where I’d scraped up against a parked red car.

You know what went through my mind in that moment? It wasn’t “Oh shit, what did I hit? Did I hurt anyone? This is scary, I need help.” None of that.

It was “Get rid of the evidence.

I found a rag and buffed every trace of red paint from that car before my husband, who I was still living with at the time, saw. I don’t know how long it took me or where I found the physical strength to manage it, but I did it. You could still see the scrape, but it wasn’t as obvious.

Another time…

I was drinking at a bar in the afternoon, as I did every afternoon back then, and decided to head to a different spot. I got behind the wheel, having already had 3-4 big glasses of wine, thinking I was fine.

It was the time of day school was getting out, so traffic was heavy with parents picking up their kids, and there was a line at the red light in front of me with only a few cars getting through at a time. So I was in that line and went to hit the brake, but my reflexes were slow from being drunk, and I tapped the bumper of the minivan in front of me.

It was a small tap, and the van moved forward as the light turned green, stopping again after a few cars…and I tapped her bumper again. Then a third time.

At which point the woman driving put the van in park and got out of the car. As she walked toward me, I wasn’t thinking I should apologize or make amends. I was thinking, “Oh shit, I’m gonna get in trouble.”

But all she said when I rolled down the window was, “I have kids in the car. Please stop.” And then she got back in her car. I drove to the next bar and kept drinking.

The last one I’ll share…

It was a few months later, and I was again driving home from a bar around 1am, fully intoxicated. It was a country road in Massachusetts, and I passed a police station set back a ways from the street.

I remember rolling my window down and screaming at the top of my lungs toward the police station, “You’re not doing your fucking job!” Then I rolled the window up and drove the rest of the way home.

What do you think I was really saying when I yelled that?

My addiction was screaming, “You’re not doing your fucking job,” but me? Deep inside, below all my pain and gunk and ickiness? I was crying out for help.

I tell you all this to help you realize that the Kate in these stories was not me; it was my addiction.

  • The real me would never drive drunk; my addiction drove drunk all the time.
  • The real me would own up to my messes and try to fix them right away; my addiction avoided taking responsibility for anything.
  • The real me was desperate to stop what I was doing, to get help; my addiction said fuck you to anyone who tried to get close.

Addiction is like this force lurking in the background, seeking ways to get stronger without anyone knowing, until it’s completely taken over. And it’s one goal above all else is to survive.

Your loved one is not their addiction.

It’s in knowing this, in truly accepting it, that you can begin to approach this illness in a different way.

Your power lies in recognizing that you are getting caught up in thinking it is about you.
Your power lies in catching yourself thinking that you are going to change them.
And your power lies in understanding what their real problem is and what your real problem is and that those two things are different.

All of that is something you can work on right now. And if you want help doing it, you can join us for our next Stop the Chaos Study Group starting March 7.

You’ll have access to

  • 6 hours of video content, accessible as soon as you register
  • An early copy of my upcoming book, diving deep into our family recovery framework
  • Additional worksheets and resources to guide your recovery skills
  • 4 live study group sessions facilitated by me and one of our MVP students

If you’d like to join us, register for Stop the Chaos HERE, and make sure to check the box for the live study group to join us on March 7th.

We’ll guide you through the steps so you can start to create change and see just how good it feels to be out of the chaos addiction has you stuck in.

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