When the Victim of Drunk Driving Is a Recovering Alcoholic
One moment you’re proud of yourself for attending yet another Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The next, you are being thrown around like a rag doll inside the vehicle sobriety gifted you. Being sober does not absolve us from being victims of drunk driving. I am proof of that.
I was reluctant to even have frequented the meeting. It had been at least five weeks since I’d parked at the church in preparation of joining a large circle of men willing to get vulnerable, pray together and even hold hands. I knew I was one of them. I did not know whether my absence would have even been noticed. It didn’t matter. I was there to treat my alcoholic. My sponsor reminds me that it is the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the program, that actually treats the disease. He explained that the meetings simply treat the vessel, the human, the alcoholic or host in which the “ism” abides. Knowing the solution prevents the spiritual parasite of sucking me dry of any potential of leading a normal life. Living in the solution builds confidence in myself, trust in others and faith in God.
Having relapsed several times over the past twelve months since entering recovery my participation in the program and meetings of AA is infused with a newfound rigorous honesty and deliberate lack of concern regarding what others think of me: alcoholic or not. Returning to a meeting long missed and not identifying as a newcomer communicates something like, “Yeah. You guys haven’t lost me. I’ve been working. The gifts of the program are actualizing. I’m here to check-in.” More recently, I’ve realized that ‘checking-in’ does not require verbal participation or sharing. As a young buck among veterans, I take consideration in simply being in attendance to listen. Rather than being preoccupied with what I want to share, I’m fully present; actively listening and offering feedback both verbal and non-verbal. This return to a six o’clock men’s meeting was just that: a non-verbal check-in. My attendance was participation enough - an admirable option of the program.
Birthdays were celebrated. Shares about experiences (often dubbed war stories), strengths and hopes were offered. And a fraternal respect abound. Upon releasing hands after the closing prayer, I was still in prayer. I was grateful I made the decision to go and allowed what I heard to sink in. The plans for the rest of the evening were simple. Being that I served my spiritual need for the day, it was time to address the physical and mental needs required by my daily human experience. The scenic route appealed to me. Dermot Kennedy playlist was in full swing. I was at peace when I came to a stop at a light I’ve approached hundreds of times.
After five quiet seconds at a standstill, my life changed. Everything went silent. I was no longer a 190 lb. man — just a sack of meat inside a flimsy case of skin. A yell I had never heard project from my vocal chords escaped without warning. My neck craned as my buttocks lifted out of my seat. My forehead met the sunroof and that’s when everything went dark.
The car was rolling forward when I came to. I was on the opposite side of the intersection headed straight toward a tree. I had to gain my wherewithal quickly before I experienced yet another collision: head-on. But as I reached for the gear shift, a shooting pain restrained me. I tried to look left and right but the mobility of my neck was severely limited. All I can do is step on the brake. My SUV came to a halt only a few feet away from a large tree trunk. In my rearview I saw the luxury sedan that hit me. It’s totaled. The front end pancaked. No wonder I can hardly move.
The driver of the sedan exited. Finally, I thought. Oddly enough, he did not approach. In fact, he did not even look my direction. The driver that just hit me had no idea who I was. He had no desire to know if there are children or an expecting mother inside my vehicle. He had absolutely no concern for who he just rear-ended. And with that, he got back into his sedan and drove away, turning out of sight down the cross street. I felt helpless but able enough to stretch and grab my cell phone. I dialed 911 and explain that I had just been rear-ended. That I was hurt. That the other driver left the scene. Within three minutes, patrol cars, a firetruck and two ambulances surrounded me. I affirmed my name, my age, my address and my sobriety. The other driver, the perpetrator could not do the same. An officer of the law informed me that the other driver was being investigated for driving under the influence. I was heartbroken.
Upon arriving at the emergency room, I conceded to myself and to God that as an alcoholic in recovery I absolutely had to forgive the man who did this to me. He did not check on my well-being because the powerful influence of alcohol took away his concern for anyone else. He did not care to know who I was because the veil of intoxication paralyzed him with fear. He acted cowardly because the negligence prompted by his drinking sent him into flight rather than fight.
Presently, I’m in pain writing this. Here we are several days after the accident and I’ve made it clear to every physician that has treated me since the accident that as a man with 116 days sober, I cannot be prescribed narcotic pain-killers. The respect I received from medical professionals and law enforcement officers alike is unparalleled. That’s not why I admitted my choice not to use drugs to sedate the pain. In working steps one through eleven of Alcoholics Anonymous, the inclination to lie and take advantage of any available form of escape has left me as long as I make a conscious decision to practice steps one through three daily upon awakening.
I concede that I am an alcoholic and my life is absolutely unmanageable when I drink.
I hit my knees as a declaration that the Spirit of the Universe can and will restore me to sanity.
And, I decide to turn my will and my life over to the care of that All Encompassing Intelligence with a simple admission of “Thy will be done.”
From there, come hell, high water or a drunk driver; my sobriety will not be deterred. Though my body weak, incapacitated and in pain; my spirit has grown muscular and strong thanks to the existential coaching of my sponsor and the practices of love, tolerance and acceptance shown me through my fellows in the program. Alcoholism has once again brought me to my knees, but now I know how to get back up. I rise above the drunk driver’s mistake and forgive myself for once being just like him. And ultimately, I forgive him for not knowing the harms he would cause when he took that last drink. So, here we are. Writhing in pain and tempted to brute, the ability to work my program was not lost. No man, no lost soul, no inconsiderate driver can take me away from the love of God and it is for that reason I will share it with the world.