I remember shoveling mud out of a drainage ditch in an elementary school in Pacifica. It was part of the Sheriff’s Work Program that followed DUI school. I remember not trying very hard. I remember parking near the sheriff station with my temporary license, or my suspended license, remember not being sure which it was, and panicking as I pulled away at the end of the day, waiting for sirens.
It’s been coming up a lot lately, in meetings. Stories of rolling the car, twice, and trying to start it and drive on. Of failing to start it and falling asleep. Of sideswiping semis and walking away.
There were many dark nights.
I’ve been reminiscing about my first AA meetings, the ones I went to when I first started trying to get sober, when I was in and out of the program, a few years ago. But I’ve been forgetting: My first meeting was 6 years ago. It was court ordered. It was the first time I said I was an alcoholic and I said it because I had to and I said it without believing it. I went to the DMV when my suspension was lifted and they said it would take several weeks to get my real license in the mail and I said, “But how am I supposed to get into bars?”
I remember Highway 17 that night, dark and empty. I remember going to San Francisco to find something, remember concocting a backstory for the guys in the bars. Something about coming up there for a friend’s party and having him flake on me. It was already after 2am. I was on my way to nothing. I remember crying in my handcuffs, so fully, big teardrops falling on my lap. I remember the cops saying that they wouldn’t take me to jail because I was cooperating, because my dad was a cop. I remember one other guy in the rehab center where they locked me for the night in a cot on the other side of the room. I remember trying to get his attention.
The first time I drove drunk, it was a surprise. I wanted to go to my new boyfriend’s dorm room on the other side of campus and I didn’t want to walk. I got in the car calmly and drove there. The line had been crossed. I had crossed it. I didn’t know it then, but I had made a deal with myself: as long as I felt under control, as long as no one got hurt, as long as I didn’t get caught, it was fine.