June 11, 2007

(Today’s subject is difficult to talk about, and I’m finding it harder than usual to make peace with the calculated risk of making this public. Consider this your impending-trainwreck warning.)

In December of 2004 I was arrested for drunk driving. This is what happened:

I was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car and taken to the drunk tank in downtown Seattle, which was filled with transients. I was filled with despair and anger and booze, and at one point I simply started screaming, over and over and over. They carried me, thrashing, into a tiny cell reeking of urine. I was held there until JB came and picked me up.

We met with a lawyer. I sat trembling and viciously hungover in his office. He was impeccably groomed and had beautiful photos of his family on the wall behind him.

I lost my license. I told everyone I was choosing to take the bus; it was not a choice. I rode four buses a day to get to and from work, JB had to take me to doctor’s appointments (at this point I was now pregnant). I made excuse after excuse to turn down invitations from friends, unless they offered to drive.

I went to many, many court appointments. I sat for hours in courtrooms waiting for my name to be called, in order to walk to the front of the room and attempt to control the shake in my voice.

Eventually I got a restricted license, which allowed me to drive to and from work. I couldn’t drive in the evenings or weekends, nor could I drive outside of my route to the office and back. In order to drive, I had to get an SR-22, which caused my insurance company to drop me. We had to buy new, expensive insurance.

I pled guilty. It was a damaging choice, but my alternatives were bleak.

I had an interlock device installed in my car at great expense. Before I could start the car, I had to blow in a tube. I had to blow in the tube five minutes after the car was started, and at random intervals after that. There was no way to do this with any privacy. If the device registered an error—if I didn’t blow with the correct amount of force or using the correct method of blowing (it was necessary to make a humming sound)—the car’s horn would be triggered. The device malfunctioned more than once, rendering my car unusable.

The court required me to attend a victim’s panel, where people spoke about the horrific repercussions drunk drivers had caused in their lives. I was also required to attend alcohol classes, and to get an evaluation from a bored, overpaid counselor.

I spent a night in jail, when I was about seven months pregnant (clarification: I was not pregnant at the time of the DUI, it takes a while to go from arrest to sentencing). I wore a prison uniform and was confined to a cell by myself. The cell was pale mint green with a stainless steel toilet and a bed that consisted of an itchy gray blanket and a flat pad. They never turned off the buzzing overhead fluorescent lights, all night long.

The judge made a decision that surprised my lawyer: he offered me a reduced sentence if I completed volunteer work for a nonprofit in a specific amount of time. When Riley was a newborn, I spent hours working remotely for a local cultural resources nonprofit to meet this requirement.

The whole thing cost thousands of dollars.

Today my record is clear, my insurance is back to normal, and I am sober. I could almost choose to believe none of it happened. Except, of course, it did.

Why did I tell you all this? One reason is that when a secret lives within you like a poisonous iceberg, its mass mostly hidden even from your own eyes—too painful to look at, too embarrassing to tell—it creates weight within your soul. I wanted to tell you this secret, to pull it from the frozen place in my memory, shine a light on its surface, and admit its truth.

The other reason is to tell you that I don’t want this to happen to you. The spectrum of Bad Things That Can Happen is far and wide, if you get behind the wheel after drinking. Being arrested is one of the better outcomes you can hope for, and take it from me, being arrested really fucking sucks. While in my case I had a massive problem at the time, all it takes is one night of perfectly non-pathological drinking to screw up your entire year, or maybe your entire life.

Put a cab company’s number in your cell, and use it. I wish like hell I would have.

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Jessamyn
Jessamyn
16 years ago

You are brave and strong, and I’m so glad this is an experience in your past and not in your present. I am proud that I know you even a little.

JennB
16 years ago

Oh my god.
That is powerful.
Thank you for sharing it. And, thank you for making the decision to go “the right way” with your future. You deserve a happy ending.

Aunt Linda
16 years ago

Thank you, love, for this warning. You are brave. AL

Rumblelizard
Rumblelizard
16 years ago

A good friend of mine went through something like this, but she got into a wreck–a head-on collision with another car. Broke her leg in multiple places, knocked all her front teeth out. The people she ran into were also drinking and driving. In the hospital, they handcuffed her to her bed. Then the next morning they took her out of the hospital and put her in a jail cell all day. Wouldn’t give her any pain meds for her broken bones. She screamed in pain for hours and hours. She’s still paying off her fines, and that was years ago.

After that happened, I developed a horror of drinking and driving. If I drink when I go out, I have one and one only. There is a cab number in my cell phone.

omu
omu
16 years ago

It took courage for you to admit that. I’m happy that you got to a place where you could, and I hope it helps put the secret and guilt of it to rest for you. At the risk of sounding cheesy, now hopefully you can put it in the past and move on without the burden of it looming. Maybe some day you can even share the tale with your little guy and help him understand that reckless actions can have serious repercussions. Maybe.

In any case, you’re not the only one with a looming mass of a secret. You just found the courage to share it. That was very brave.

Sarah
16 years ago

You’ll sleep better tonight.

1) Because you now have this out.
2) Because you’ll make me rethink EVER getting behind the wheel, even if I think I’m “just a little tipsy”.

Thank you.

Moderndayhermit
16 years ago

You know what, everyone makes mistakes. Your ability to own up to them and use your experience as a message to others speaks volumes.

Good for you for getting help and doing well :).

My husband’s therapist told him a beautiful thing the other day, “You are not a bad person, you are a great person who has a problem.”

He is so right.

:)

warcrygirl
16 years ago

I planned a trip to Walt Disney World for my 26th birthday. My fave auntie went with me to also celebrate her 37th birthday. The night before my actual b-day I got blind stinkin’ drunk and made a complete ass of myself (or so I’m told, I don’t remember any of it). I spent my birthday embarrassed, hung over like a rude dog and trying not to throw up on the Star Wars virtual reality ride. I haven’t had a drink since.

It took a lot of courage to write about your ordeal, I don’t think I could be that strong had it happened to me. Kudos to you!

honeybecke
honeybecke
16 years ago

I hope the frozen place inside of you where your secret lay hidden is thawing with relief. No one is pefect and we all make mistakes. (That is such an overused phrase, but only because it is the truth.) Your discipline to stay sober is something to be proud of, and I am sure there are many readers who will read this and relate and learn. Smile, we all still love you to bits and bits!

Heather
Heather
16 years ago

thank you for sharing. really.

christine
christine
16 years ago

Yes, thanks for sharing. I quit drinking in October of 2005, after I passed out on an early Sunday morning, alone, in my underwear, in my apartment, and split my head open. Once I regained consciousness and gathered my wits enough to clean myself up (blood had poured down my face and chest, and all over the floor), put on some clothes and patch up the wound with about 8 Band-Aids, I hailed a taxi and took myself to the closest hospital. I spent a day alone in the Emergency Room, and lied to everyone about how I got the four inch stitched-up gash across my forehead. In fact, to this day, the only person who knows where the scar really came from is my husband.

stephanie brown
stephanie brown
16 years ago

I’m really glad that you are one that learned from your mistakes and looks to help others before they make one. I used to be good friends with a guy who made a big mistake as well. He suffered jail time and the embarassment that comes along with his mistakes. He, however, continues to drink to this day and finds it amusing. And instead of helping people, he contributes to their drinking as well. It’s a sad story and it just goes to show you what a huge monster alcohol truly is….
I am proud of you. You are an AMAZING woman.

M.A.
16 years ago

Hi, L — thank you, as always, for being brutally honesty about yourself. Your timing, for me, was impeccable. I’m very sorry this happened in order for you to get where you are, but I’m also glad that, as you pointed out, it was only an arrest and not something more (not trying to minimize it at all — it sounds horrific and just imagining you in that situation makes me squirm). I’m glad it is behind you, but that it is also in the forefront of your mind enough to share it with us. I heart you.

Julie
Julie
16 years ago

There but for the grace of God go I, and many, many other people I know. I even knew a person who was killed because she drove drunk, and still I’ve done it over and over.

Alcohol equals terrible decisions for me, and I need to quit drinking to excess. You are not alone, and thank you for letting me know I’m not either.

Pete
Pete
16 years ago

Been there, done that. The usual problem is by the time you are too drunk to drive you are way past the point of making that decision. Good post.

Lisa V
16 years ago

I haven’t driven drunk in nearly 20 years. But between 19 and 23 I probably did it 10 to 20 times. There but for the grace of God indeed.

Linda you have worked hard to get your shit together. You have nothing to be ashamed of, you should be proud the way you have faced this whole thing.

Emily
16 years ago

I would like to give you a hug, but alas, I cannot, because technology has not developed that far yet. So I will raise a bottle of Gatorade to you tonight (FREE Gatorade, at that — yum!) for being strong and not letting a shitty situation get you down. And hey, at least you got it behind you before Riley was old enough to know what was going on, right? That’s gotta count for something.

Kait
16 years ago

Thank you for talking about this. It seems like the pat answer is always “Oh, I’d never drink and drive”, and to admit anything else is pretty much unthinkable. It takes a lot of courage to admit this.

H
H
16 years ago

“…when a secret lives within you like a poisonous iceberg, its mass mostly hidden even from your own eyes—too painful to look at, too embarrassing to tell—it creates weight with your soul. I wanted to tell you this secret, to pull it from the frozen place in my memory, shine a light on its surface, and admit its truth.”

Thank you for this post — not only for the lesson about drinking and driving, but also for the message about secrets. How I wish I had realized this earlier in my life.

Erin
Erin
16 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Though I hate to admit it, there have been several times when I have driven while more than a little tipsy. You have really made me think about how stupid that is.

Thank you for being so brave!

Leslie
Leslie
16 years ago

I would imagine if you haven’t saved lives or grievous injury today, you’ve saved jobs, reputations, relationships, and the above-mentioned thousands of dollars. Your testimonial should also be required reading in driver’s ed classes since celebrities are teaching young people that drinking/drugging and driving is a rite of passage when they, more than anyone, have the money to call a cab — hell, or hire a driver for the night.

Despite the expense and the disruption, I hope you don’t feel you were treated too harshly, even for a first offense. You changed your life for the better as a result, but so many people don’t. The first arrest should be a wake-up call; I don’t believe people should get another chance after a second arrest. Habitual drunk drivers are like pedophiles: They can’t be rehabilitated, and their risk to others will only escalate.

Elizabeth
16 years ago

I really respect that you put this out there, and then wrote about it so well and so openly. Somehow it’s even more intense that you went through so much of it while pregnant – I don’t know even what to say really, I can’t imagine. Thank you for sharing this.

Mary O
16 years ago

Wow. You are very brave and I so admire you. There has been so much in the news about drunk driving lately… celebrities doing it, people who have been hurt by it and now your story of what it is really like to be caught. I have come to the realization that I can NEVER drive after even having only one drink. There have been times in my past when I have driven when I probably shouldn’t have, and it’s only by pure luck that your story wasn’t mine as well. Thanks for sharing.

Laura
16 years ago

Congratulations for conquering your demons. You have built a wonderful life for you, JB and Riley and you deserve to enjoy it!

Leslie
Leslie
16 years ago

I’d be interested in hearing, though, how you happened to be driving that night. Where were the friends who should have kept you from being behind the wheel?

Deanna
Deanna
16 years ago

Wow. I’m floored. Not by the admission, but by the strength it took for you to share this experience. I’m so impressed and moved by this entry. Just days ago I handed keys to a friend I knew shouldn’t be driving. He made it home okay, but I’ve felt like a total arse for not standing up to/for him. I’m not saying I’ll have the gumption next time, but I know I will certainly think twice.

Again, wow. Thank you for sharing this, stranger that you are to me, you have made an impression.

erica
16 years ago

It took a lot of courage to post this, Linda. Thank you for sharing an undoubtedly embarrassing and painful memory with us so that we may learn by your example.

I’m so glad that you didn’t hurt, or God forbid, kill anyone. That guilt would not have been so easily assuaged.

I’m also glad to know that you learned the valuable lesson in all that mess. So many of us turn a blind eye to the lesson and instead, blame others or those pesky “circumstances” that led to the mistake.

Sheesh. This therapy minute brought to you by “I’m not a shrink, but I’ve paid a helluva lot of money to one.”

Jessica
Jessica
16 years ago

Thank you for your story. And thank you to the commenters, this is easy troll territory.

DDM(Sonia)
16 years ago

You are terribly brave, and I thank you for sharing your experience. You should be so proud of the woman, wife, mother and friend you are today.

victoria
victoria
16 years ago

This entry was AWESOME. Thank you so, so, so much for sharing it! I am so sorry you had to go through that but so glad that the ultimate outcome was positive.

zu
zu
16 years ago

OMG.

Wow…you are brave for telling the internet.

Thank you for sharing.

Someone somewhere will learn from it.

Oria
Oria
16 years ago

When I was 14 years old (so, like, a million years ago!), I was riding on the back of a motorcycle with no helmet. I KNOW! But there was no helmet law and, you know, I was 14 and thought I was invincible. Actually, the probability of an accident never crossed my mind at all. We were driving down a 45 mph road in Oly and a woman pulled out in front of us. She stared right at us and started to slow down so the driver of the bike tried to go around in front of her. She sped up, hitting us ~ causing us to hit her. Whatever the case, the driver was shoved into the fuel tank (thankfully he can still have children. He has 4!) and I was ejected off the back of the bike, flew for approximately 50 ft and came to a grinding halt against the concrete. Coma, broken limbs, broken face (the gross part is that my eye palette fell and my eye fell back in my head. I have no memory of this, but it sounds creepy, huh?), road rash, plastic surgery, tubes hanging out of my nose (strategically taped to my forehead was a water weenie that came out of my nose. The look was very hip.). Ok, so I lived and I have no ill after effects from any of that.

I had to tell the story of what happened before I could get to the woman driver. She was drinking. She was, by today’s standards, over the limit. But then, when the laws were different… She had been in 5 accidents PRIOR to nearly killing us. Every time her license had been restored. She never called the hospital to ask how I was. She never sent flowers. She didn’t call my mom to apologize. She sent a letter though. In the letter she calls me ‘The Girl’, she didn’t use my name at all. She asked that my mother sign a waiver absolving her of her part in the accident so that she could get her license back. Her excuse was that she doesn’t live on a bus route and she had to drive her children to school. Well what on earth was this woman doing driving drunk @ 5:50pm on a Thursday for?

Drinking and driving is no joke. It is deadly serious. I am really proud of you for all you did to quit drinking ~ and for posting about it all. Not just this post about the DUI, but all the bravery you have shown putting your struggles out there. You are amazing, and you should know it.

Janet Powell
Janet Powell
16 years ago

(((((— big cyber hug —))))

You have tremendous personal courage, AND a big heart for wanting to talk about your experiences so you can help others. I tend to beat myself for my mistakes, and I have to keep reminding myself of the old adage: “Good judgment comes from experience; and sometimes, experience comes from the exercise of poor judgment.” The best thing we can possibly do when we make a mistake is to learn its lessons.

When I think of the problems my “poor judgment” could have caused during my drinking days in my teens and twenties, I thank God on bended knees for my life, and that I didn’t injure myself or anyone else, or much much worse. I really appreciate all that I have.

Are depressing thoughts in your mind more these days because of the tension of the remodel, by any chance?
Janet in Miami

Christina
16 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

I had a come to moment but nothing like that – It was New Year’s 2004 and I hated my place in life. I was newly and happily married but I hated my job, my family to some degree, and my husband’s “job” and all the people associated with it (semi pro hockey did not agree with me…) I got unmercifully drunk while watching his New Year’s game. Basically by myself – well if you count the two young men whom I sat with and chatted up the whole time. I do not remember anything about the evening, my poor husband feared for my life and said he wanted to take me to the ER to have my stomach pumped he was so scared of and for me and I was horribly rude to him apparently.

The next day I was so ill I could not come out from under my covers to see what the new year brought to me AND I finally threw up at 5:00p that evening. I was mortified that I was still doing that at the age of 30 so I stopped doing it. I do occasionally have a drink but never more then 1 and usually only at my home with my husband together. I fear being that way again and I fear further the consequences of those actions beyond that but mostly I would hurt my son on so many levels more then it could ever hurt me financially.

Thank you for sharing once again.

natalie
16 years ago

You’re very brave to put this out there. Thank you.

Alex
16 years ago

Sundry, you never cease to amaze me. Thank you for telling your story. I applaud your courage and your candor.

Linda
Linda
16 years ago

“Bad Things That Can Happen ” ??? Really? Is that what you call it? You were seven months pregnant and DRUNK? You are not brave. Nor are you strong. You are a weak, selfish human being. I am done reading your crap. You deserve what you got. Thank God your son is alive and healthy.

Chiara
16 years ago

Love you.

Kimberly
Kimberly
16 years ago

Thank you Linda for being a terrific person. My little brother-in-law has a drinking problem that everybody wants to skirt around. He had two DWI and countless minor-in-possessions before he even turned 20. He had mommy and daddy pay the thousands and thousands of dollars to bail him out of trouble. He lost his license for five years. He still drinks (he goes home and drinks a 12-pack because he’s “bored”) and beats up women but the in-laws and him swear he does not have a drinking problem. They swear up and down it’s just the cops out to get him. NICE. He’s only 25.

Linda, you are amazing to tell us and thank you for doing so. Thank you for being so strong and an inspiration to so many of us.

MotherGooseAmy
MotherGooseAmy
16 years ago

I am sorry to hear this you had to experience this unfortunate circumstance. Fortunately it made you a stronger person in the end. I also want to extend my compliments to JB for taking care of you when you really needed him. It’s so important to have a husband who is always there for you, forgives you, and believes in you. You are both lucky to have each other.

Amie
16 years ago

Oh, I so, so, so empathize. My husband and I have both gone through something similar, at different times in our lives. It is the scariest, most humiliating thing. And I had the exact same reaction as you. I started screaming and crying, and they had to put me away in this little room while I waited for someone to come get me. God, it was horrific.

jonniker
16 years ago

This takes balls, dude. Big, hairy in-your-face balls, and I mean that in the best way possible. For that, you should be very proud.

xoxoxo

Colleen
Colleen
16 years ago

Um. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m pretty sure that the night that Sundry spent in jail when she was 7 months pregnant was part of her sentence, not the evening she was arrested.

Schnozz
16 years ago

Ah, I think most of us got that you weren’t pregnant at the time. No worries.

I liked this post. If you hadn’t mentioned it, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that this would be the sort of post to bring the trolls out—it’s not as if you sat here and blamed anyone else for what happened. It’s simply a post about mistakes, and who doesn’t make those? Kudos to you for owning yours. There’s nothing trainwrecky about that at all.

kate
16 years ago

Yes, I agree with the prevailing sentiment here; what you did in talking about this took a lot of guts and courage. In doing so you have admitted something you aren’t at all proud of and yet it will help others see the forest for the trees when they are in this situation. I had a friend who got drunk (really really drunk) and then got in his friends brand new car and drove it home, on the way he slammed into some parked cars because he passed out (thankfully no one was hurt). The cops showed up and took him to jail for the night. But he told no one of this incident for over 2 years until he finally admitted to me that there was a warrant out for his arrest because he never went back to court and ignored all the court notices. By the time he admitted this it had snowballed into a much bigger issue, he had also ignored court orders that pertained to the damage that he has caused (the car owners were now trying to sue him). It took a long time and a lot of money to finally get out from under the financial burden of the charges. Sadly I don’t think he learned anything from the experience. He did stop drinking but now denies that drinking was the real reason for the accident.
I am impressed that you have taken responsibility for the whole enchilada.
Thanks Linda, you rock (you can still rock with a 1 year old).
I want to emphasize that I “had” this person as a friend, I ultimately found that I could not be friends with someone like this, someone who will never take responsibility for their actions.

Swistle
16 years ago

You wrote that so well. It made me read slow and take seriously.

Emily Ann
Emily Ann
16 years ago

You are one amazing human being. I’ve been reading your site for over a year and this post compelled me to finally delurk. Linda, you truly are a beautiful person with a fuckload of courage. Rock on my sister.

GoingLoopy
16 years ago

I’m glad you shared your story. Something similar happened to a close friend of mine…he got lucky on the license part, because the cop who arrested him was stupid and didn’t follow procedure, but it was a very sobering experience for him as well. Drinking and driving is irresponsible, true, but the only thing that separates you from a lot of the rest of us is that you got caught. I know my friend’s experience helped the rest of us to have some better judgment. I know your story will do the same for a lot of your readers (and let’s face it, is a good reminder for those of us who don’t get our party on that often and therefore have especially poor judgment when we do.)

You appear to have your shit together, or at least more than a lot of people do, you have a great hubby and child, so no more beating yourself up about the past, ok?

Liz in Australia
Liz in Australia
16 years ago

You are a very brave woman. Thank you for sharing this – I really believe that in doing so you will have made the difference to at least one person.

I was “lucky” in that I didn’t get my licence until after I’d had my daughter (I was 23), so the occasion never arose for me. My sense of responsibility changed bigtime after I became a mother, which was just as well because I was a reckless idiot beforehand. But I have sat through my younger brother’s conference which was part of his sentence after he was done for DUI, and it was unbelievably powerful stuff, with mothers and other relatives of victims of drunk-drivers telling their side of the story. Not an easy thing to admit to, and I honour you for doing so.

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