The car is totaled and my right side is tight and stiff and stubborn. I saw him coming, in my rear view mirror and I knew. He tried to brake at the last second but he’d been going so fast and the impact was great. I hit the car in front of me and then we all sat stunned. He took off, and the woman from the car in front of me stood on the sidewalk with me and I saw her beautiful big eyes and jet black hair and her fear.
Her sari’s colors were bright and she said she had been on the way to temple. Oh bless you, sweetheart.
He took off and we were shocked. We found out soon enough that he went on to create another accident, sending one woman to the hospital and many witnesses into a confused lack of control. Just like that, a drunk driver changing lives. It happens all the time.
This time, we survived. I heard from a witness that the woman who went to the hospital was going to be fine. I heard that the hit and run driver was caught. And the world spins on and you never get to know what will happen next. That’s one of the hardest parts, and I think forgiveness is a way of not staying tight and stiff and stubborn.
Later that night, I told a short version of this story on Facebook, with more detail than what’s here, I guess. I was kind of free-writing, still in a state of shook-up shock. After all, I had just dropped off Asher and I was on my way to get Miles and what if what if what if….could I forgive then? I don’t know.
I told a fellow sober friend that I have this desire to go see the kid in jail. That I feel sorry for him, even though I know that angers a lot of people. I understand him while I don’t. My soul does, or something. I texted her, “Is that weird?” and she said, Yes. :) But I get it. Part of wanting to forgive yourself, probably. My former self is what she meant, the one that drank too much.
That’s it, I think. Forgiving him even in the midst of the whole thing came naturally because when you’ve truly been in someone’s shoes, that’s the only way you know how much forgiveness is needed. But maybe forgiveness isn’t even the right word because the reality is that I haven’t even gone through anything like others have–lost someone or my ability to walk or other tragedies. I’m talking about love, I suppose, and I’m not talking about love because I’m so damn good at it. Trust me, I can be quite bad at it. I don’t know exactly why it rushed in so quickly. It’s just that I saw this kid, in my rear view mirror, after he plowed into me going about 55 into a red light line of cars, and I knew him, you know?
The athletic build and hair grown out just enough to be trendy, not unkempt. The baseball cap pulled down low with tufts of that mussy brown hair coming out around his ears. Rugged looking t-shirt and then the way he held his hands to his head while he shook it back and forth in disbelief. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and there he was, drunk on the highway, crashing into innocent people who were just trying to pick up kids from birthday parties or go to the temple.
People always say they can’t believe someone would make the choice to get behind the wheel drunk. And yes, I understand. It’s horrible, the risks that are taken and why why why? Isn’t it so obvious, not to do that, right? And I also don’t know how many times I was FINE, just FINE to drive. My friends were taking my keys or offering rides and I was FINE. Not wasted! Not even feeling buzzed! I’m FINE. Because that’s how not fine I was. So not fine that it made perfect sense to only me to call myself fine.
It is rare that someone makes a responsible decision when drinking.
Is that an excuse? For the boy who hit me yesterday and for the millions of others that have taken lives? No, it’s not. They are wrong. I was wrong. He was wrong.
Our system is broken and that kid will most likely get his license back one day not too far off, or drive before he has it and the statistics show that he’ll drink and drive again. This is the very nature of the beast. In many lives, alcohol is the driving force, the king, the greatest need, the god. And gods need striking down and carrying off to make room for redemption and the problem is that the boy who was in my rear view mirror and could have been my nephew or my future boys, God forbid, has to do that for himself and doesn’t know how and has his addict brain so messed up that there’s a good chance he doesn’t want to strike down anything other than the barriers to the bottle. And he’ll paint you another picture and conjure up justifications and even after nearly killing people on the highway, he’ll find a way to say I don’t have a problem. It was just that this happened or he did this or they wouldn’t give me a ride or I had a particular celebration that got out of control just this once.
A journalist wrote about tragedies recently and for the life of me I can’t remember where this article was, but he was saying that if you write about something dramatic, ask yourself if you’re doing it simply for the telling of the story, or are you sharing it because it will effect change? Do we need to see horrific photos from an accident or a natural disaster? Well, that depends. If a town is struck by a tornado and the graphic photos will engage complacent people to action, then that’s what it takes. But if I see an accident on the road and tweet it and Facebook it, what am I asking for, other than attention?
I hope somehow, in some small way, this post inspires action. I don’t need or want attention for this but I want conversations, even just a few, to strike up around it.
What this boy needs is love, and that couldn’t be more vague or fluffy sounding, so what exactly does that look like? A jail cell will keep him off the road momentarily, but then what? Court ordered rehab? And then what? Here’s to hoping he’ll take a forced experience and make it his own experience, of his choosing.
Lucas, I really do hope that for you. I woke up in the middle of the night, a few times last night, and there you were behind me. And in a flash of a moment I saw us sitting together and all I could say to you, while I searched my cluttered mind for something that would pack the right punch and came up short, was, Dude, I hope you get better. Because you know that any of my recovery slogans are going to sound trite and until he’s more of a grown up, you know he’s going to somehow go back to thinking he’s invincible.
It is so rare to be there right at the tiny sliver of a moment when someone has had enough, when they’ve opened themselves up to surrender but only by way of jamming a foot in a door that keeps closing by way of an addict mind, like a noose, tight and stiff and stubborn.
This is what I love about people being truly engaged in a recovery program, one in which others will come around them and understand them and allow them to say the ugliest things and support them every single day as they try to come to terms with the fact that they cannot drink. And if they don’t make it? Oh the prayers that they will walk back in, another day, before it’s too late. So often it is the only road to freedom, and to safety for any innocents that happen upon the path of a drunk, his self will run riot.
I know people take unconditional love and stomp all over it, especially addicts. I’m sorry if that’s happened to you. I’m sorry for each of us, because it took me a long time to stop stomping, to really regret my selfish and reckless mistakes, and to change my life. My sobriety is priceless, like the lives of the people on the highway, making their way to birthday parties and the temple.
Lucas is priceless, too. That’s the twisted reality of grace, and we could not survive without it, not one of us. I extend it to him because it is also mine, you guessed it, wrapped around me — tight and stiff and stubborn.