To the Ones Who Didn’t Get so Lucky

A woman, who suffered the unimaginable tragedy of losing her 15 year-old daughter because someone chose to drink and get behind the wheel, posted a comment on a letter I wrote to my daughter yesterday.

Then, just today, I overheard a guy complaining about how inconvenient it was not being able to drive. He had just gotten a DUI; his car was impounded, and his license revoked. I was reminded once again to be grateful for my life. It is more than I deserve

You see, In October of 2009 I totaled my car under the influence. I did not set foot behind the wheel again until January, 2014. The license was only a 90 day deal, but I couldn’t afford the rest of my consequences. And I wouldn’t trade places with people who don’t feel the burden of their actions for anything.

Being without transportation has taught me invaluable lessons.

I learned to be accountable. Having to rely on other people for transportation means never hitting the snooze button. It means never being late in the morning. It means being responsible, and following through, and not flaking on people. I didn’t do this perfectly, but I got really good at it.

I learned to organize my time, and cut out the unnecessary stuff. Before this, I had never planned ahead much. Transporting small children by bus requires meticulous planning.

I learned to be grateful to bus drivers and cabbies, and forgiving if they had a bad day.

I learned I can walk home from anywhere, if I have to. And that my legs are a gift from God.

I learned that a car is not necessary nearly as often as I thought.

I learned to have compassion, and so did my kids: Compassion for the homeless inebriates on the bus, and for the schizophrenic guy in the back row who seems scary but is just trying to calm the very real voices in his head.

We all learned to judge less, and listen more.

Most importantly, I learned that our lives are lived by the grace of seconds and inches. A few more or less of either that day, and my kids wouldn’t have had a mom. And someone else may have not had children anymore.

DUI seems to have a ridiculously high re-offend rate. Perhaps people need more than 90 days to reflect on the gifts that can come out of it, rather than focusing on petty inconveniences. I know that 90 days after mine, I still couldn’t see its effects on anyone but me.

I’ve been sober for many years, now. It’s hard for me to connect who I am now with the woman behind that steering wheel the night the smoke cleared above the tree I was wrapped around, but I have to make that connection once in a while. Because that night, nobody died. But if I pretend it didn’t happen, and someone out there drinks and drives because I was too ashamed to share my experiences with the world, and my experiences are the only ones she’s going to relate to,

Well, then?

I don’t get to call that accident casualty-free anymore.

I don’t get to risk another life because I’m embarrassed by a choice I made.

This letter is for the people who weren’t lucky enough to walk away from that deadly choice I made. It’s for those whose innocent family members were torn from their lives in an instant.

And to that guy who lost his license,

I hope you’ll count your lucky stars and shut the Hell up.

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