I chose to drive when I shouldn’t have five years ago this week as it happens. Life was pretty dark back then, and due to my own lack of judgement and restraint it was about to get a whole lot darker.
For me it was a combination of insidious factors, which for years I conveniently ignored. Perhaps the the seeds were sown by the fact that - slowly but very steadily - heavy drinking had kind of crept up on me. My mates had always loved a beer since we were all teenagers; my family also tended to gather at events which were always alcohol-centric. Having a few on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (regularly even Thursday night too) just became the norm, for several years; and my ex-wife being an ex-barmaid turned hairdresser also loved a drink. In our 20s and early 30s, this was entirely normal, and despite the frequency of savage hangovers there was absolutely no lasting damage done, generally ever, and my life was generally happy and successful.
As the years rolled on, work got busier, I got older and less fit, began playing football and generally exercising less, which at the time didn’t seem to make too much of an impact; but was probably offsetting the weekend hedonism a little more than I had ever bothered to notice. Although I didn’t feel as well in my 30s as I did in my 20s - and clearly my lifestyle was to blame - I didn’t notice enough. As my career progressed I began to fly more, entertain more, socialise with work more. Whilst this was immensely tiring and made me feel worse and worse, I still wasn’t noticing; because it was all actually rather fun. But there were other things I wasn’t noticing beyond of course the ever-increasing alcohol consumption and frequency of that, notably its effect on my mental (and not just physical) health, perhaps even my (failing) marriage, and not least the propensity alcohol had on any particularly significant bender for me to imbibe on other substance of intoxicance. Which didn’t always end well.
So by 2017, although flying high career-wise, still fairly young and with a lot of promise ahead, I really wasn’t happy. I was most likely alcoholic at this point given the patterns of drinking (regardless of the semblance of control I believed I had, largely because I could stop if I really had to), completely burnt-out from all the travel and stress, and deeply unhappy in a marriage that despite producing two beautiful kids had gone incredibly stale. She had seemingly no intention of wanting to remedy things despite my trying (in fact pleading with her) to several times. I ended up falling for someone else I worked with, leaving my wife in the autumn of that year, and switching jobs at the same time (workplace relationships were very much frowned upon at the group of companies at which I was a director at the time - I had little choice really, and left before it all came out).
Leaving the ex-wife and the erstwhile job were never bad decisions. What I left them for were. The new job turned out to be dreadful, and the people who hired me complete snakes. After leaving my wife, the new partner wouldn’t leave her fella at the time, and wouldn’t for over another six months. This, the stress of the relative ‘comfort’ of what I’d walked from to where I found myself, the loneliness (I really wasn’t good on my own for a number of years) etc. all plunged me into an absolute pit of despair, and it was over that period the accident happened.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was almost definitely my behaviour making a lot of this worse. I didn’t feel like me unless I’d had a couple of beers, and slowly this began to permeate life. People were getting concerned. Frequently alcohol must have been smelt on me when it shouldn’t have been (or was odd to have been), and although I don’t recall making a habit of DUI, I was frequently getting smashed every day while WFH to get through the mental torment of what life had become. Mornings became a regular occurrence of walking to or taxiing wherever the car had ended up. Often I didn’t recall arriving home the night before and it would sometimes take a minute or two to realise where I’d left it.
On the day in question, the girl I had been waiting to move in and I had been arguing the entire week preceding, mostly because of a reticence on her part I had no idea I was probably fuelling more than any other doubt she may have had. I dread to think what I drank that week, but every day I was waking up feeling rough by then. I did my usual trick of driving to the local, having a couple, driving to another, leaving car there and carrying on. I had no intention of driving home that day. However, as (bad) luck would have it, my ex and the kids came into the same beer garden I was lamenting my life in. It would have been rude to leave, and since we owned two houses and had a divorce ongoing (I lived in the smaller one we used to let out, but we needed to sell it to properly divide everything), so I took the opportunity while I saw her - despite being pissed - to get her to sign some paperwork to authorise me to sell the second house. While this was ongoing, new girl calls informing me she’s sorry, she’s coming over, she’s ready to sort it all out.
I panicked because I knew if I told her the truth (firstly that I was pissed, and secondly that I was with the ex-wife - no matter how innocent the chance or reasoning) she would probably be gone for good. So against any better judgment I should have had and despite my ex pleading with me not to, I picked up the keys and headed off. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and set in motion a turn of events that would see me lose my job, eventually another relationship, my reputation and more than a few friends and family.
There is a lot here I’ve missed out, and a lot I can’t really bare to impart. But despite some of the nasty things said and done to me during and since that period, I have come to realise that I do only have myself to blame, and let down an awful lot of people (both still in my life, and both sadly and happily not) for which I am truly regretful. Although I never physically hurt anybody, I am sure I was equally as nasty and hurtful over that period, because I simply was not in control.
It’s absolutely no coincidence that neither my life nor my mental health began to improve, until I met someone better suited to me who convinced me to finally stop. I’ve been dry ever since, and although I’m not quite back to where I was yet, I’m damn close, and with a much better mindset to propel me through the remaining gap, I hope.
Life is very different now. Mornings have gone from my least to my most favourite part of the day. Sleep (until recent unrelated events) is mostly now never a problem. It’s great being able to drive whenever and at whatever time of day, because you know you’ll be fine. Whilst I’ll always miss that buzz at the beginning, I really don’t miss being pissed.
It’s worth mentioning that psychotherapy and particularly psychological therapy (CBT) also helped massively to get me back on track.
Despite massively regretting what I have done to this day, it doesn’t weigh me down as much anymore. Some of the people I no longer see or who drifted away, I really don’t miss; the friends and family I love dearest thankfully (mostly) never gave up on me. Whilst it’s true I go out nowhere near as much now, I don’t mind that at all, and al much happier enjoying a quieter evening. Partially that was the shame perhaps, especially in the early days; but it’s now more because - without alcohol - pubs are actually quite depressing places. There are much better ways to socialise, if you can be bothered to scope these out.
As said many times before on here, it’s amazing how often with those of us dumb enough to fall foul of DUI there is always a back-story, a mental issue, or a life situation that is crippling us inside. Yes, there are some selfish scumbags out there who really don’t care. However, very few of them ever seem to make it here, where you’ll mostly find people just like me… someone who thought this would/could never happen to them, because they don’t do it often or indeed ever, but simply on one particularly bad day just let life events, temptation, and above all intoxication override a sensibility that during good times would never have come into question.
We are all sinners, and we all **** up once in a while; and a DUI is never a good character reflection, it must be said. But it’s how we atone or recover from these things that mostly defines us, and our character. The choice to drive that day was a bad one, but the choice to recover is always there.
So that’s my story I guess. Blew 102, 24(18) ban, whopping four figure fine. Took three medicals and a temp license to get the full back, but it’s back, and I’m keeping it.