Maybe you have been the drunk driver, but most likely now you are the woman who came to my aid after I was hit, the nurse who took my vitals, the friend who sent me flowers.
I am writing in the dark, by hand, hoping my words make sense tomorrow morning. The light of the screen hurts my head because I have a concussion.
Two weeks ago, I was hit by a drunk driver while heading out to pick up my CSA box on a Thursday morning. I saw him coming toward me on the wrong side of the road at about 50 mph on my neighborhood street. I screamed “Nooo!” and waved in a desperate jazz-hands gesture just before impact, hoping he’d see me and swerve away at the last moment. He didn’t. In a split second, our cars were connected in a sickening crunch. I didn’t hit my head. No glass was broken. I was just shaken—hard. He stared into me, wild eyed, threw his car into reverse, then drove away.
I exited the vehicle in an adrenaline-fueled rage, yelling expletives as I tried memorizing his license plate. A Good Samaritan came to my side and asked if I was ok. Just as she did, we heard a crash from around the corner. He had hit someone else.
By the time I turned my car around and drove the block to where he was, his vehicle sat wedged into the side of a gigantic hauling & demo truck. I saw several men holding a man of about 60 who was bleeding from his head, belly distended from the bottom of his white tank top. He fought them in slow-motion until first responders arrived. “He threw a tequila bottle from the car” one neighbor told me. “He smells like alcohol” another said as he was taken away in an ambulance. I kept my distance, took my police report and drove my leaking car home, thanking the Universe the crash wasn’t any worse.
After a trip to urgent care, I found the seatbelt left a bruise and I had a pinched nerve causing a tingling arm. A few days later when the right side of my head felt strange, I saw a neurologist who performed some tests. One was the Romberg test, where I was asked to stand with my feet apart, arms out and eyes closed. I found myself frustrated, normally a yogi still doing handstands into my 50s, yet here I was swaying to the right, unable to balance on my own two feet in a doctor’s office, right side up. Later research revealed that the Romberg used to diagnose my concussion is the same one sometimes used by law enforcement to determine DUI.
I have my issues but have never been addicted to anything, nor had a problem with alcohol. It just never agreed with me. I am one of those annoying people who could drink occasionally in college, then not do it again for months or years. I also grew up in Washington, DC, very involved in the punk scene and heavily influenced by the idea of “straight edge.” My partner doesn’t drink and by my 30s I eventually just quit altogether, no big deal.
But I have loved many addicts. Some who have left this earthly plane in the most cliche of ways. Some of whom I’ve had to let go. Some who have turned their lives around. I have benefitted from Al-Anon.
This accident brought all of that to the surface. Why did this happen to me? Why was I repeatedly the one on the other end of the “making amends” step, dammit? As my anger with the driver subsided, I recognized that his drunken state at 11:30 on a Thursday morning was evidence of his own pain. I thought about all of my friends who have worked so hard in recovery to become better versions of themselves.
To anyone who has done or is doing the work, I want to say thank you. Please know that the sharing of your stories over the years helps me to have compassion for this man who has wreaked havoc on my life, his own, and undoubtedly others.
Maybe you have been the drunk driver, but most likely now you are the woman who came to my aid after I was hit, the neighbor who held onto his fellow man in the name of justice, the EMS who treated the offender, the nurse who later took my vitals, the friend who sent me flowers in the aftermath, the client who sent me groceries, the yoga teacher who offered healing words of support.
Whether this will be this man’s rock bottom before getting help is not for me to say. I don’t believe in silver linings—you get what you get and deal with it. I am getting better every day. Yes, this incident sucks… and I am lucky to be alive and to know you. I wrote this thinking maybe someone reading it might recognize themselves and decide who they want to be in their own narrative.