A Change of Perspective
I feared the night was coming, but felt helpless to stop it. I did all the things you can think of to prevent it and yet there I was walking into the ER trauma room, the wife of a drunk driver. What would they think of me? What would they think of him? Did he get what he deserved? What about the others he sent to the hospital that night? Lord, let them be ok, I prayed.
First, let me be very clear about two things. This is not meant to minimize the things he did wrong or remove any responsibility and second this is not meant to minimize the pain or loss that any person or family member has suffered at the hands of the drunk driver.
Like you, I have heard the horror stories, seen the scared straight pictures, and allowed my mind to judge these horrible, deplorable people (drunk drivers). But then I lived it. As the wife of the drunk driver, I can tell you I have had a change of perspective. I now see that there is another victim. The family member of the drunk driver. They too can be innocent and helpless victims.
While each story is a bit different, I have spent months being verbally abused while watching him deteriorate physically and mentally, unable to control this demon of addiction that lives inside him. I have watched him go to AA meetings, counselors, therapists, rehab, all in an effort to fight this worthy competitor. I have watched our bank account dwindle. I have watched the hurt in the eyes of our children. I have watched our friends disappear because it is uncomfortable. I have talked, argued, cried and prayed. I can list all the good attributes of him, but they have become overshadowed by a man who is untrustworthy and undependable. But this story isn’t about him or judging him.
This night I was the wife of a drunk driver. I was lumped into this category by choices not of my own. But the consequences would affect me for the rest of my life. I have spent years trying to avoid this night. I have not gone places trying to ensure he would be happy. I have given up opportunities and played the guessing game of what would make him happy. But addiction is a strong competitor and doesn’t play fair. I am learning it is much less about me and that I am in an life or death battle. My mom spent years telling me life isn’t fair. So I pull up my big girl panties and face it head on.
As I came upon the accident scene that night realizing it was him involved, I was blown away by the respect and kindness shown to me by the police officers, EMS, first responders, and tow truck drivers. Maybe they didn’t know I thought; but they knew. “He’s alive” they said. As I drove the forty minutes to the hospital praying all the way – it was for the victims and their families. They didn’t deserve this. Lord, give them comfort. Be with their families. They didn’t know this night was coming like I did.
As I was escorted into the trauma center at the emergency room, there were police officers, doctors, nurses all looking at me. Or maybe I just thought they were. I deserved it didn’t I? But again, they treated him with more respect and care than I could muster that night. I was mad. I was shocked. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to be alive or not. I wanted this to stop. I wanted off this emotional roller coaster. But that was not a luxury I received on this night. They quickly begin asking me questions, seeking information, providing me with information. It was all overwhelming and yet they were so nice to me. Why were they so nice? Did they not know what he had done; but they knew.
As I left the hospital that night, I knew he would sleep through the night like countless others. But my mind wouldn’t, couldn’t stop. I had to let people know. I had to deal with insurance companies. I had to find the car (it was totaled and needed cleaned out). Would he go to jail? Would he lose his job? Would we lose our house? Do I need to hire an attorney? Lord, how do we make this stop? I didn’t choose any of this and yet I too would be living with and paying the consequences.
I learned three lessons that night and for that I am grateful.
- Kindness Matters: I am blown away by the amount of kindness and respect shown to me and my family by the police officers, EMS, first responders, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, tow-truck drivers, everyone involved and yes, they knew. I pray that I treat others in-kind.
- Prayer Counts: I am a woman of faith and continue to pray for the victims and their families even though fortunately they were treated and released that night.
- Unseen Victims Count: Finally, family members of drunk drivers are victims too. Most likely emotionally drained, we are left to deal with the aftermath that is left behind even telling him what happened because he doesn’t remember anything, including being life-flighted to the hospital.
I share this through anonymity as our story continues. The full consequences have yet to be determined. So, I would ask that you pray for the addicted in this world; that you pray for the family members who struggle to find that balance of love and tough love; and that you pray for the victims and their families; and that you pray for the first responders and medical community who serve so selflessly despite circumstances. I have challenged myself to treat others accordingly as I don’t know their circumstances and like me, they may just be along for the ride.
If you or your family member is a victim of a drunk driver, please let me say how very sorry I am Click To Tweet
National Council on Alcoholism