It has now been just over two years since I was convicted of Impaired Driving. As a result, I no longer require the “I” as a “condition” on my drivers license. Not that it matters much in the near future as I still don’t have a vehicle that I can drive. More on that in a bit.
As I wrote previously, I was surprised in June when I discovered that the condition for the ignition interlock was one year from the date that I could get my license reinstated, not one year from when I did have it reinstated. So for anyone worried about that, as long as you have been through the Back On Track program in Ontario, and you’ve met all conditions imposed upon you when you were convicted including paying your fine and any other costs the court ordered, you are eligible to get your drivers license back and from that date, you have whatever time that has already expired to your credit as far as the interlock requirement.
I could have applied to have my license reinstated last August 2011, but with no vehicle to put an ignition interlock in, as well as a dispute which I eventually won with the Family Responsibility Office, there was no point, really. Every month, my full amount of my income was accounted for in basic living expenses too, so the reinstatement fee did not come easy.
And that is part of the difficulty for me, as I own my own business, and although I do not need to drive to work, it is hard at times to get new clients when you can not drive to their location to meet with them. I had thought I might be a lot further along by now, but unfortunately I am not.
Please think about this if you are ever tempted or think (and hope) you are “ok” to drive after drinking: An impaired driving conviction is a life changer – for the worse.
It is still going to cost me some major dollars to get my vehicle fixed up (it is worth fixing in the long run), and I had hoped that I would be much further on than I am in that regard. However, there have been a bunch of other unforeseeable things and events that have also occurred.
I wish I could say that having a vehicle that I can drive regularly is close to happening, but it seems it is still a long way off. And I miss just hopping in the Jeep with my little son in the evenings and spending a few hours fishing with him like we used to be able to do. That is perhaps one of, if not the biggest non-financial problem – the amount of dad and son time doing special things together in the outdoors like we used to has been severely reduced.
So, yes, as I wrote above – let me repeat it: An impaired driving conviction is a life changer – for the worse.
If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive and risk it. It’s not worth it, I can tell you.
It has been just over two years since my accident and impaired driving charge. I have not driven since then, and part of wonders what it is going to feel like when I finally do get back behind the wheel!
Today, I did finally get my license back – and also had a pleasant surprise regarding the Ignition Interlock Device requirement. But first, I could have had my license reinstated in August of 2011, but I did not do that for a variety of reasons.
First is the cost. In Ontario, there is a $150.00 reinstatement fee. One hundred and fifty bucks has not come easily for me in the past couple of years.
Secondly, I had a dispute with the Family Responsibility Office, who send me correspondence advising me that they were going to take enforcement action which included having my driver’s license suspended. At that same time, the Ministry of Transportation had sent me a letter informing me that they were sending me an application to have my license reinstated. That application never arrived and due to what was going on with FRO, I assumed they had taken action.
Earlier this year in March, the dispute with the Family Responsibility Office was resolved, in my favor which I was of course very happy about! One less thing to worry about.
Now, the nice surprise I received today: I had the belief that once I got my license back, I would still have to drive with an Ignition Interlock Device installed in any vehicle I drove for a full year. This belief was incorrect – the ignition interlock requirement is only mandatory for a year following conviction (in some cases only 3 months). So, this requirement will come off my license in August.
I still do not have a vehicle to drive at this point – but it is a good feeling to have a driver’s license, and also to know that as soon as the hard laminated one arrives with my photo on it, I won’t have to tell people that “I don’t have a license” when asked for photo ID, etc. So, just having it back is very encouraging.
It’s been a long, rough go the past couple of years but this is just one step closer to getting the life I want back!
As soon as I do have a vehicle I can drive again, I am going to be getting myself one of these.
You should too.
A few weeks ago, my reminder letter about my final appointment with Back On Track showed up at my girlfriend’s apartment. I was living with her at the time when I had my first appointment and then the one day education program. When I finally received it, I was a bit panicked as the dates they had in the reminder letter had already passed. The letter asked that I call the local John Howard Society that administers the Back On Track program in my area, so I did hoping I was not too late. Visions of “Fail” crossed my eyes when I saw the dates they said they were available for the telephone interview.
I explained to the woman who answered the phone that my letter had been misaddressed and that I had just received it. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when she gave me some alternate dates for my “appointment,” in late May. I’m also thankful I don’t have to make travel arrangements and this appointment may be carried out by telephone.
I need to be ready for the phone call for the telephone interview, and I must commit to no alcohol or drugs for 24 hours prior to or on the day of, the interview.
Another step toward getting my license back – but still not really all that much closer to driving. I still have not been able to come up with the money to get my vehicle repaired (estimate $8,000.00) and even if I can come up with something to do that, I’m still not sure how much insurance is going to cost me.
And my girlfriend is getting tired of all of this. She has been like a rock to me in helping me out – but it’s been stressful on her too. Which only adds more stress on top of stress.
Baby steps. Baby steps.
It is almost a year now since I was in the accident and was charged with Impaired Driving. There are times when life is so friggan frustrating. I am still not sure when I will be driving again, although I could have been driving if I had a vehicle that I could install an interlock device in. But my vehicle is still not repaired – I don’t have the $8,000.00 it will take to repair it.
The other day, I walked about 10KM (6 miles). My feet and legs ached. All to get me and my son a haircut. At least it was not raining, and the weather is warming up in my part of the world.
I look back on this year, and although I realize that driving and drinking is a serious offense, I sometimes wonder if the penalties are too harsh. The financial and personal hardship that results from an Impaired Driving charge are enormous and life ruining.
A few days ago, I admitted to myself that I’m addicted to alcohol. It all came after the end of a relationship which lasted just over three years but was filled with tumult. Today, I actually had a pretty good day emotionally, although I’ve caught some kind of flu or cold bug which didn’t make things pleasant and put a wrench into some plans I had. I was planning on walking over to an AA meeting but had absolutely no energy and didn’t think the folk there would appreciate me sneezing germs into their air.
But I have had a lot of time to reflect as well as read through “The Big Book,” AA’s major publication.
As I reflect back, there are parts of me that wonder why I ever let the relationship go as long as it did. There were times when we both would break up with each other, but only after a few days later we’d be back in touch, saying our “I love you’s” and “I miss you so much” and “let’s promise to do this better next time.” But almost on queue – it was actually just about 3 to 4 weeks… there would be some major issue.
The insecurity issues started almost right away – about a month after the relationship – and they just continued. But it wasn’t the insecurity issues that bugged me so much, it was the accusations. I often told her I could deal with insecurity issues; but accusations are devastating. I’ve seen and researched a lot on insecurity issues, but there seems to be very little about how awful false accusations can feel. These accusations were generally based on some “feeling” I was told, usually. And some of them were quite bizarre from my perspective. Near the beginning of the relationship, I had written an article about hearing my son’s band perform. I had been supporting them for quite some time, and one night I drove 5 hours to hear them. They rocked the place, and it was the first opportunity I had to meet my son’s girlfriend. When the band was playing, his girlfriend discovered who I was, grabbed me by the hand, and introduced me to the other band members’ girlfriends – and we “danced” together for about 30 seconds. In my article, I wrote a short sentence about this – how I was grabbed by the bandmember’s girlfriends and they had me dancing. … and somehow out of that, I was accused of “wanting an open relationship.”
It was pretty nutty. I was about 44 years old, and we’re talking teenage and young 20′s kids here, at a bar who are friends of my son. And not was it just nutty, it was devastating to me to read this. Along the way, there were to be many more outright accusations – some of which were just insidious – and yes, angered me. Interestingly enough, I discovered I’m not alone in this feeling of false accusations:
In canadianliving.com, Stephanie Gray writes:
But what if you’ve been accused of cheating? Jennifer Andrade, 28, now happily engaged, previously had a long-term relationship with a man who made such accusations when he learnt she had been spending time with a male friend. “Being accused of cheating on him was almost as bad as if I had found out he cheated on me,” admits Andrade. “I was devastated.”
And it is devastating, and the thing for me was that there were zero females in my life that I “hung out with” or spent any great deal of time. The few that were in my life, which included my business partner was full disclosure to my girlfriend. Most of these accusations, as noted above seemed to be based on “feeling” or what she called her “gut instinct.” Well, what happens when your gut instinct is wrong, and do you simply make accusations based on that? You shouldn’t. I worked for many years in Law Enforcement and saw many times when police officers would target someone simply based on their “gut feeling,” and many times, that gut feeling was totally wrong! I think people like Oprah have it all wrong when they preach, “Trust your instinct.” Or perhaps they are not explaining well enough what that means.
So why did allow this relationship to continue with all of the false allegations? There are several reasons, and may be even more than I list:
1. I loved her: When things were great, they were great! We laughed together, in many ways, we thought in similar ways, she was beautiful, and physically, we seemed right for each other.
2. I hoped: I hoped things would get better. I offered relationship councilling many times over the course of the relationship. I mean, we both seemed to love each other – we’d come back to each other within days of “breaking up” so I figured that I needed to learn something just as much as she did. But even after booking an appointment, she did not come with me. I don’t understand that.
3. The sex was great: Well, it wasn’t super-duper fantastic ALL the time, but it was very very good much of the time. But during some of the more stressful times especially in the past year, it had it’s ups and downs. Stress is definitely not an aphrodisiac.
4. I had fears: What if it WAS all me, and some other guy could make her happy? Is there something I need to learn.. but if so, it’s sure taking me a long time!
5. I had a belief: And this is important to me, especially after going through The Big Book and the concept of a “Higher Power.” I don’t believe in a “Higher Power” that is distinct and separate from the rest of us – that would be almost illogical to me and would require a dualistic approach to The Universe. More on that in a moment, but because of how my gf and I met, and all the amazing coincidences and similarities in our lives, I Believed we were meant to meet and be together. I believed that so strongly, that I ended up giving up time with my sons and on my business in order to try to figure out these “insecurities” and just try to make it work.
As I was reflecting on this, perhaps I had two addictions? An addiction to the relationship along with an addiction to alcohol, and they fed off of each other? When a person gives you little trust and you’ve done nothing to make them have a good reason for being untrustworthy, it’s a personal attack and is devastating. When you are in such a situation, you should run – and that is the advice I used to give to others. But for me, it was different though. Something kept me from ending it completely. And as it went on, the more tumultous it became, the more money and time I spent on trying to make things right… and ended up with lots of resentment and feelings of isolation in the end.
Getting back to The Big Book, it talks of a “Higher Power.” I was brought up in a Calvinistic sort of family – God was Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent but Independent of Man. For reasons that are far too long to write about here and after many years of thinking, I came to reject this – and considered many other types of religious and spiritual points of view. In the end, I believe(d) that all things are God. Everything that is, Is God. Nothing is separate from God, and so it is the energy of the Universe that makes things happen. To this end, I believed that is what was happening when I met my GF.
So I’m a bit stuck on this “Higher Power” thing, because it has let me down (I think).
And, I’m pretty sure I had more than one addiction – I was addicted to trying to make things right with my GF so that we could enjoy more of what was good about the relationship and get rid of the accusations which were often a direct attack on me and something I absolutely abhored and found devastating to me.
So as I think about that, and consider joining AA, will AA simply become another “addiction?” I don’t know.
I know that before I met her, I was an alcoholic. I didn’t think of myself in that way before I met her as my drinking didn’t cause issues for anyone else. Being self employed, I really did not have to have a schedule, rescheduling an appointment after a night of working and drinking was not too consequential, and my little boy still had lots of time to spend with me.
I was interested in other women, sort of in the sense I could be attracted and enjoyed talking, but none had caught my fancy enough. I had no plans for a long term (or short term for that matter) relationship. I liked being single and not having to answer to a woman for anything I wanted to do like going fly fishing, visiting a museum with my boy, working until all hours of the night. But when I met her, I was blown away and WANTED to have a relationship with her. Having said that, I likely in many ways was not the best guy as far as “being normal” and having a “normal schedule” was concerned. And I take responsibility for that, and am still at wits end at times, to figure out how to change it, especially my night hawk sleep patterns.
But I did drink a lot back then. But it bothered no one. It didn’t seem to be harmful to anyone. At least, no one said anything or worried.
There was no one to say anything or be worried.
I think and I’m not making excuses, that my drinking got worse though after I met her. She saw me as having a drinking problem and having an odd schedule, and that brought up insecurities in her life. I don’t know for sure. But it would piss me off to no end. And I LOVED her, and had no desire to be with anyone else, or flirt with anyone else, but she seemed to see betrayal in everything. She absolutely was horrified by the thought of me “going outside the relationship” (which ultimately had the effect of making me feel isolated) but it was ok for her to make her accusations – which as I once explained to her: Not only are you now accusing me, but you are bringing someone else’s character and motives into question.
For me, it brought up old wounds as well. Years ago, I was often suggested as having a reputation as a “Lady’s Man,” and being young, it was … well.. enjoyable in some ways. But the reality is the reputation was not exactly reality. Indeed, I had many issues and regrets about that reputation, which was based on half facts, and many of those regrets I wasn’t sure what to do about. I suppose I could be charming at times, when I had a few drinks, and being told I was charming was rather nice, to say the least. I spent 4 years of my childhood in a hospital and entered high school with enormous self esteem issues; the things I wanted to excel at, I didn’t but I could show empathy and did so, and that became “charming.”
For the decade or so before I met her, I mostly rejected the advances of woman. I had a few relationships, but they were mostly very short lived. I wanted to focus on my children as much as I could, and help them with the business I had started. Did I have thoughts at times of being seduced or getting into some kind of relationship that would last for decades, until I died? Yes, I did.. and I thought about being the seducer as well, but that was not my priority, nor my desire. At the same time, I did flirt, but it never went further than that.
So when I met her, I was blown away. Totally blown away. My friends and family were shocked that I said I had met someone that I wanted to pursue a serious long term relationship with. And where it all went wrong, or what my projections were to her, I really don’t know. For it was not long – about a month after we met, that I started to read about “issues” she was thinking about with regard to me and other women. Most of them were silly from my perspective; one I could understand to a point due to a living situation I was in – but in actuality, that was an original attraction to both of us in that we lived with someone of the opposite sex for financial reasons and we “understood” that.
I remember telling her when she brought up her insecurities, that I really didn’t have time for them. I mean.. she was welcome to call and verify the information I had told her; the information I had told her was not new – it was full disclosure a month previously. I still have copies of that correspondence. So in accusing me, she was also in effect accusing the other person as well. And I wonder if many people who have insecurities about others, ever think about that fact!!!
I remember drinking one night, after reading the email. And drinking some more. And becoming angry and angrier, that not only was I being accused of something, one of my friends was as well. It became very personal to me.
I got a reply to the effect, “Sorry. My insecurities are because a boyfriend cheated on me 30 years ago… I’ve always had them ever since.. give me a second chance and I’ll work on my insecurities.”
I really liked this woman a lot, so I gave her a “second chance.” Shortly thereafter though, she confided in my sister-in-law about another insecurity she had about me. This from a woman that said that you should never “go outside the relationship” – but she took it upon herself to express to my brother’s wife an insecurity, which was silly at least in my eyes and if I were to tell you what it was – it involved a Facebook Group of people who had the same name as me.. which was fun… and funny.. she suspected that all those profiles of people that shared my name, were me. Fake profiles I had invented.
I loved this woman but had major issues with the accusations she was making. Drink and alcohol was a comfort to me.
This is not the only example, and I can provide more examples… one day, I scored 69 points in a Scrabulous game – a woman I have not had contact with in 30 years posted a comment to the effect, “nice score.” Now… knowing my own information about sexy imagery, I did have a clue that she might have been making a reference to the number… and wasn’t sure I wanted my sons to see that. So I deleted that comment. I was then sent a message from my girlfriend, “You deleted that comment pretty quick.”
Yes, I did! I didn’t think it was appropriate from someone I had not seen or talked to in 30 years, but we had something in common and were “FB Friends” due to a high school reunion I helped organize several years previous – but in my GF’s eyes, I must have been responsible. Things like this drove me nuts. I loved her, but nothing I did was good enough; instead, she seemed to judge me by whatever external event came up, no matter how silly.
And I did not know how to deal with it. She once accused me of getting “fresh with her sister” for asking her sister if she had warm sleeping bags for a cold camping weekend trip that was planned. Apparently, asking about sleeping bags is intimate, but it’s something I did all the time when visiting Tent City in Vaughan, Ontario.
I wanted her to believe in me, but there was so much criticism. I could go on and on about the events that have aroused her suspicion and days of silence between us, and me feeling that I needed to spend enormous amounts of time to reassure her.
I ended up resenting it. I could go on and on, but I won’t. But if you are a suspicious person, perhaps you can realize you have just as many issues as the alcoholic. When you privately make a suspicious thought about one person, as far as relationships go, you are not just suspecting one – but at least one other person as well.
What and where and why exactly is your issue?
It’s funny, in a peculiar sort of way, that I became even more of an alcoholic because of my desire to try to be what I could to someone else, instead of demanding that they deal with their issues. That IS my responsibility; it’s not blame. What were my issues back three years ago, that I was willing to let someone dictate to me their insecurity issues, and somehow, I was going to be or should be responsible for them?
I don’t know.
But I am responsible for me. Somewhere along the way I lost that.
This blog has many purposes to me. There are only a few that know my identity, and for now, I’d like to keep it that way. The embarrassment and shame I felt when I had my accident and then subsequently charged with Impaired Driving was – and still is great. There are still a number of my friends and acquaintances who do not know that I was charged and convicted with Impaired Driving.
One of the purposes of this blog was that it could be a place where I could write about my experiences of Impaired Driving and if it could prevent others from getting into the situation I found myself in, then that would accomplish a goal for me. As well, I enjoy writing and often find that writing is far more therapeutic for me than talking verbally. I am not always comfortable talking; words can be mixed up and misconstrued, I find. Writing allows me to try to be precise in my meaning, and also allows for a record of what I actually said, and then if my meaning wasn’t clear, I can correct it.
Another purpose of this blog was that while I was writing about my experience, perhaps I could also generate some kind of income from writing about experiences. Business has been crappy, funds are extremely tight, and maybe some might be interested in purchasing their own personal breathalyzer as a result of my experience.
Having said that now, I’d also like to reiterate that if you have an alcohol problem, a breathalyzer may not be the best choice for you. You might need to seek help for the disease of alcoholism.
A third reason for this blog was to publish information as I discovered and researched it about impaired driving. There is a lot of misinformation out there and as much as I also believe that if you have an alcohol abuse or addiction problem that you need help, it also concerns me very much to see some liberties and freedoms away from those that enjoy a glass of wine and do not have an addiction problem. I see some of the new regulations that are coming into place in some Provinces of Canada as being very disturbing in the sense one is treated as if they are guilty before they are allowed to defend themselves in court. I do not see this as being helpful at all to those who may have an alcohol addiction.
And not everyone has an alcohol addiction. I recently saw an ad on television where a young man is talking about how he likes to drink, but he’d “never be stupid enough to drink and drive.” This ad bothers me – it really does nothing at all to help someone who is addicted and has a problem. I’m concerned about the label of “stupid.” In fact, anyone who drinks is at risk for driving impaired. Anyone of us could be “stupid” enough to risk it. But generally, I’m not a stupid person, and I have an above average IQ. However, what seems to have been lacking in my life is wisdom.
I am sure there are many emotional reasons for this; although I’ve thought and attempted to be “strong.” Years ago, I was considered a “strong” person. At times, alcohol increased my “strength” in some areas, it seemed.
But now, I’m on a hamster wheel, just spinning and spinning, nothing changing except the hamster wheel seems to be going deeper and deeper. And somehow, I have to figure out a way to get off that wheel.
Alcohol was a major factor in my relationship with a beautiful woman that I love(d) very much and that has just ended this past week. And the stress of that lead me to the bottle even further. A few days ago (Thursday night), I reached a point of Rock Bottom and couldn’t stop crying. I was having panic attacks, and felt I was about to die. Interestingly enough, my ex-wife of over ten years ago had told me that if I ever wanted help, I could call her spouse. “When you are ready.”
I called. He has helped me. He reached out to me, and I can’t express my gratitude enough. I have had tears running down my face as I look the train wreck of a life that I’ve had for quite some time. I told him that I know that alcohol has at times, had an allure of being helpful to me. It’s been helpful in dealing with some of my emotional pain. Pain that goes back decades but I thought I was strong enough to deal with on my own. Alcohol IS helpful in that regard, in the sense it alleviates it for awhile – but the problem for me is that two drinks are not enough, three I’m only starting to feel something, after 5 I want more, and then it exaggerates the pain and makes it worse, and I become an angry person that I am not. Or that I don’t want to be.
My ex-wife’s spouse points out however, and says,
“The brain is a huge sponge and any mind altering drug rewires the hard drive and important parts of the brain stop working. It misses steps like an engine misfiring till that cylinder doesn’t fire at all. When I say months to actually sober up I’m dead serious..”
He then asked me a pointed question after suggesting that in three months, I will “firing on all cylinders” and likely won’t even want a drink:
“What do you have to lose by giving this a shot. Compared to what you’ve tried so far.”
Nothing. At this point of my life, I seriously have nothing to lose by giving it a shot and giving up alcohol. The alcohol has had much allure many times, but it’s also far more of a train wreck right now.
One of the discussions that came up when I attended the Back On Track Education program in Ontario was the consequences of trying to travel internationally after an impaired driving charge. Most of the discussion centered around Canadians traveling to the United States and whether they would be stopped at the Border and sent back to Canada.
In the class were a couple of professional drivers who had previously made commercial trips across the border between Canada and the United States, but after their impaired charge, were reluctant to do so. From the discussion, it seemed that there was nothing official preventing someone who had an Impaired Conviction that was tried summarily and not as an indictable charge from going to the US. However, a US Customs or Immigration officer could, of their own choice, turn a convicted Canadian away.
There was discussion about lying about your conviction at the border. It is quite possible that a US Customs or Immigration officer won’t go very deep into checking out your background although US Immigration officials probably have access to CPIC – Canadian Police Information Centre computers and may be able to access the record of your conviction.
But if you lie about your conviction, you could be turned away and then banned from the United States for lying about your criminal record. So that is probably not a good idea.
If you are a Canadian planning a trip to the United States, an option may be to contact the US Embassy and talk to them directly about your situation. A Visa may be something you would want to obtain before your trip. However, that carries its own consequences too:
If in three years after you have done your sentence and paid all your fines (assuming it was a summary conviction offence you were convicted of – if indictable, it’s 5 years) and you apply for and receive a pardon, your Criminal Record will in a sense, be “hidden.” The file is not entirely destroyed – a record still remains – however, it is usually purged from normal background check channels.
After you have received a pardon, and you then travel to the United States, technically you could reply that you have no criminal record. The way the question should be worded is something to the effect, “Have you been convicted of a criminal offense for which you have not received a pardon?”
If the US Immigration officer is not satisfied with your answer, and decides to dig deeper, they will not discover your Impaired Driving conviction if you have received a pardon for it.
However, if you decide you want to travel to the US, and obtain a Visa, there will likely always be a record in the US of your criminal record. Obtaining a pardon for a conviction in Canada does not purge any record of it in the US or any other country if the record exists.
Out of our classroom discussion, it seems a Canadian who has been convicted summarily of an Impaired Driving charge in this country has the following options:
- Make your trip to the US and lie at the border about your conviction. You risk being found out and then further banned from the US for lying about your criminal record.
- Tell the truth about your conviction and risk that the Immigration Officer who asks you will be in a bad mood and decide that you are a risk to US Security for an impaired driving conviction.
- Contact the US Embassy and apply for a Visa. If you do this, assume that a record of your criminal conviction will remain forever in US records.
- Wait until you can apply for and receive a pardon.
This is just another cost of impaired driving. The sad thing is that because alcohol impairs judgement, it is actually very easy to end up driving when you shouldn’t. As we learned in our Education class of the Back On Track program, 100% of all drivers who drink, even just socially, are at risk of an impaired driving charge. You may say, (like I did), “Oh, I don’t drink and drive” and perhaps think that it is safe to drive after just a couple of drinks – and end up getting done for an Impaired, Blowing Over 80, or a DUI as it is called elsewhere.
A personal breathalyzer could be a solution if you use it, that could help you make a more informed and wise decision when your judgement is a bit (or more than a bit) impaired by consuming some alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can have pleasant effects – and as we were taught in our Back On Track education seminar, there should be no judgment upon you if you use alcohol in a way that is responsible and for it’s pleasant effects. But you must be aware that it can have an effect upon your judgement – even your judgment of how “safe” you are to drive. Getting a BAC reading might quickly help you realize you’re not “good to go” as far as driving, and keep you from these costs and consequences that even include decisions about traveling internationally.
You can get your personal breathalyzer here.
I hate buses. I haven’t been on public transit for about 20 years until today. I guess I hate them because of my experiences on the TTC back in the day when I’d often have to hop on a subway or take one of those dirty buses in Toronto. I have not been looking forward to taking a bus, and since my impaired driving charge, have managed to avoid them thus far. Getting from the small city I live in to the town where my office is located and my youngest son lives involves using my thumb or getting some help from family for a ride. There is no public transit.
However, in the small city I live, thumbing a ride while walking down the city sidewalks just wouldn’t be appropriate and I can’t always get a ride. This evening, I decided I wanted to head downtown, and figured I may as well try out the public transit here.
Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I arrived where I wanted to arrive in about 10 minutes – a third of the time it would have taken to walk. The bus was clean, and although there were quite a few riders, there were seats available. I was a little embarrassed having to ask the driver where I was supposed to put my ticket – there were two boxes up beside him. When I used to sometimes ride the TTC, there was just one box where you deposited whatever you were using to pay for the ride – coins, bills, tickets or tokens.
As I glanced around at some of the other passengers, I wondered if there were any others riding the bus that were in the same position as me: driving was not an option after an impaired driving charge.
Thankfully, in the small city I live in, the public transit is quite regular and from what I’ve researched, it’s not too difficult to get from one part of the city to another although one would likely have to switch buses at least a couple of times. My destination just meant one bus ride – no transfers needed.
Still, I sure miss the independence of driving my own vehicle.
The other day, I wrote that I had attended the education session of Ontario’s “Back On Track” program – the remedial program that drivers in Ontario who are convicted of alcohol related driving offenses must attend prior to having their drivers license reinstated.
As I previously wrote, the facilitators of the education class were very good. They did a great job at keeping the day moving along and although I was expecting a long dry boring day, that was not the case.
In my class, there were 23 people scheduled in however one was a “no show.” Unless that person that did not show up has a reason such as serious illness or death in the immediate family, they have forfeited the approximately $600.00 they paid and will be marked as a “fail.” If that person wants their license back, they will have to reapply to the program and pay the fee again.
Upon my arrival, I noticed that there were a wide array of participants including all ages. There were some who were in their early 20′s as well as people in their mid to late 50′s. Both men and women were in attendance, and from every walk of life – unemployed to business professionals. Most of us were obviously concerned and ashamed of the fact that we were now officially “criminals” in the nation of Canada.
One of the things that was stressed by the facilitator was the element of confidentiality in regard to discussions that might take place in the classroom. The confidentiality was stressed due to the fact that many of us have perhaps chosen not to tell all of our family and associates about our drunk driving conviction. That confidentiality about personal details that some may share in the classroom was asked to be held in the utmost of respect.
The facilitators did want us to participate, ask questions if we had any, and at the very start of the day, introduce ourselves and tell the class how we arrived at the classroom session. We were also asked what the hardest thing for us has been since our impaired driving charge.
After our own brief introductions, the facilitators began their own introduction to the program and stressed the following:
1. They were not there to give the attendees a “hard time” about drinking or about their drinking and driving conviction
2. The classroom session was intended to provide information and assistance with tools we could take back with us to prevent drinking and driving in the future.
3. We were encouraged to share what we had learned with family and friends to help them prevent a situation where they might drink and drive.
4. That there was not just “one type” of person that is at risk of drinking and driving: Rather, anyone who drinks and has a drivers license could be at risk, regardless of their walk in life, their gender, their background, their race, creed or colour.
5. That the intention of the program was not to be “anti-alcohol.” In fact, the two facilitators stated that they themselves drank on social occasions. Rather, the classroom session was to help drivers separate the behaviors of drinking and driving.
In accomplishing their goals, I feel the facilitators did a very good job. They pointed out that they were not going to ask us to stop drinking – that was a personal choice. Some perhaps had chosen to completely stop drinking alcohol after they were caught driving impaired while others had made choices to continue drinking – but the point was to separate drinking from driving.
As well, there was information provided about how alcohol is metabolized by the body, the many factors that can contribute to the length of time it takes for alcohol to be broken down into carbon dioxide and water completely (to where there is a blood alcohol concentration of zero), as well as information about health risks of heavy drinking.
Some of the information I have to admit I found a bit extreme – such as the suggestion that if you’ve had 5 drinks on one occasion, you are “binge” drinking according to medical studies on the affects of alcohol. But at the same time, it is useful to have a variety of opinions and understanding how those opinions are formed.
The session wasn’t just all about alcohol education either. One of the things I found very interesting was that the facilitators spent quite a bit of time on Canadian Law and helping people understand what exactly “Care and Control” of a vehicle could mean. Many might be shocked to learn about the situations that they could possibly be convicted of “Care and Control While Under the Influence” – indeed, one of the odd situations applied to one of the persons in attendance at this session. I’ll discuss that in a later post.
As well as legal information, the facilitators spent some time discussing with us how we could eventually apply for a pardon for our drunk driving convictions. I thought this too was very good and certainly showed that the intent of the classroom session was not to make us all feel bad, but rather to assist us going forward.
In the afternoon, we learned about how we can modify our own behaviors and thoughts by examining the thoughts we had that lead up to our own “incidents” and being aware of them. By learning this, we could make better decisions in the future about occasions where alcohol might be a factor, both planned and unplanned events.
All in all, it was an interesting and informative day. Personally, I still think that the $600.00 fee is extreme though – it is almost as if there are financial penalties upon financial penalties in relation to this particular crime that are extreme and are not found in the same degree as other crimes. But that is my opinion, and as the facilitators pointed out near the beginning of the day, “We know there are many things about impaired driving, the rules, regulations and more that you think are unfair. But, we’re not hear to discuss the fairness or lack thereof – that’s not our job, and we’re not going to engage in debate about this. We’re only hear to give you information about what is, and what you can do to prevent this again in the future.”
Whether or not the $600.00 fee is “fair” or “justified” after taking into consideration all the other financial penalties is for another discussion. If you’re in Ontario, you have to pay the fee and take the course if you want your license back. And after taking the course, and wondering what it was going to be all about, I know there are others who are in the same position and what I can now say is that if you have an attitude of being interested and learning, you’ll get a lot out of the day. You may even find that it will motivate you to take a closer look at your own alcohol use (like it did for me) and not necessarily make drastic changes, but changes that will be helpful to you and others you love.
My thoughts on the assessment portion of the Back On Track program.
The homework that is assigned after the Back On Track Assessment
The first exercise in the participant workbook – homework assigned before you attend the education class