The wisdom is that we should find pleasure in the simple things of life. Just now, for me, that would be the simple pleasure of driving myself to the supermarket, putting the groceries in my own boot, and driving back home again... having to carry the bags no farther than the distance from the car to my back door.
Getting my driver’s license back comes almost as a shock to the system, and certainly ranks high on my current list of gratitudes. It’s not that I’m out and about all the time, or even want to be (one of things that a diagnosis of Asperger’s explains is why I seem to be completely happy in my own little world. I’m not afraid to go out. There’s just nothing that I want out there). But it’s a liberation in more ways than one to know that I have my freedom back, that I can go out when I need to, that there’s no need to rely on the good will of others.
Also, no need to carry groceries the mile and a half from the nearest store. If I learned nothing else during my driving exile, I learned that cat food is heavy.
All that said, and not attempting at any level to deny that I’m the one who got myself into this mess, I feel obliged to point out that this law, this system, is idiotic and serves no one.
On the emotional face of it, the gut-reaction level, everyone wants safer roads and anyone with a conscience has to feel moved by arguments put forward by MADD and the other victims of OUI. But to call these arguments lopsided is putting it mildly. It’s not just that they’re all emotion and no brain; that’s the way they want it. They don’t want you to think about it; they have no real interest in dealing with the actual root problem in any constructive or effective manner.
Their naiveté (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that no one would deliberately choose to misunderstand a problem) is complicated by the position of the states and the lawmakers, who on the one hand want to show the populace that they are “doing something” about a problem that they don’t understand any better than MADD, and on the other hand are -- not to put too fine a point on it -- flat-out corrupt.
I’ll just write about the state of Maine, because that’s where I got my OUI last year -- an experience I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, by the way. The state of Maine gives me quite enough to write about.
On the one hand, the state makes a ton of money off of the sale of hard liquor through its tight control of the licenses -- at one time and for a long time, hard alcohol was only available through stores that were directly owned and operated state agencies; now at least the state licenses the right to sell booze to various stores and supermarkets, but it’s still an area of huge profit and moneymaking for them. Now that the state has you all good and liquored up, it makes another ton of money off of the alcoholics who fall victim to extortionate policies that hide behind the law in order to get their licenses back. More on that later. Meanwhile, there’s the ugly rumor going around that our governor is himself an OUI and Driving After Suspension offender who never paid the penalty for his crimes. The stench of hypocrisy is as thick as Rush Limbaugh here in the so-called Pine Tree State.
If that doesn’t stink enough for you, try going through the system, paying your debt to society and then finding out when it’s supposed to be all over that the state could (and routinely does) hang onto your license for an additional eighteen months over and above your legal suspension period, while bilking you for an additional thousands and thousands of dollars in “therapy.”
Ladies and gentleman, I have been through therapy, and this is not therapy -- nor is it even about therapy or “keeping the roads safe.” It’s all about “there’s a recession on and the state needs money and most taxpayers won’t squawk if we bleed it out of the alchies who’ve already run afoul of the law."
None of this even addresses the topic of jail and I don’t want to get started on that just now. I don’t have time to deal with it here. I just want to say this: we have these hard, harsh laws that throw everything in the government toolbox at OUI offenders: suspension of their licenses, harsh fines and even jail time...
... and none of it does a damn bit of good. None of it means shit. I met a young man in the intensive outpatient program who had six OUIs. I met a guy in AA who lost everything that he had five times over.
At one point I asked my OUI lawyer why I was being treated like a criminal while real criminals are out there getting away quite literally with murder. Here in Maine we have a thing called the “Ayla Reynolds Case.” Look it up on the 'net. That guy lives just down the road from me. Seriously. “Waterville’s Finest’ didn’t have any problem dragging me out of my house for committing the Heinous Sin of calling the public Help Line earlier last year, but that guy is still walking around free as a bird. She told me that, in the eyes of the law I was a criminal. I didn’t speak to her after that.
Alcoholics are not criminals. Alcoholics have a problem.
You can put an alcoholic in jail from now until the cows come home, but you’ll never make him any less of an alcoholic that way, and as long as he’s drinking he’s going to be drinking and driving.
The laws are a crock. The laws don’t reform anyone and they don’t make anyone safer. To address the problem, you need to get your alcoholic into therapy and I don’t mean that bullshit “therapy” that the DMV was going to make me sit through, and I don’t mean AA.
I can’t speak for all alcoholics; but I was drinking because I’d lost something and didn’t know how to get it back. It was that simple. With my Uncle Orly, I think the reasons behind his alcohol and drug addition were pretty similar... but nobody could ever give him his son back.
I’m a lot more fortunate. I’m one grateful, lucky alcoholic who somehow got my spirit given back to me. You want to make the roads safe? Stop looking at people like numbers and stop looking at their symptoms and try to see what’s really ailing them. Nothing’s perfect, and I don’t believe that all alcoholics or junkies actually can be helped. But you’ll get further and make more progress by treating them as people with issues, people who lost something somewhere along the road, instead of treating them like Al Capone or Ma Barker.
Maybe it would be a good thing after all to lower the legal blood alcohol limit even further. As long as the rest of the world feels superior to alcoholics, nothing is going to change. We’ll see how fast that situation turns around when everybody and his brother is being swept up in the dragnet just for having one glass of wine with their dinner!
Unfortunately, Garrison Keillor said it best: we live in a culture of “Outcome-Based Morality.”