It was August 29th, 2014. 1 year and about 4 months after I had survived the Boston Marathon Bombing. It was also my nephew, Charlie’s first birthday which our family had just celebrated the Sunday before as a dual birthday/christening celebration. I had just been named his Godmother, alongside my brother who was named his Godfather. My parents had just passed papers selling their custom built, Bristol, New Hampshire house to buy a house on Cape Cod in Brewster, MA. They would be moving in a few weeks.

I was about a year and a half into my Masters Degree with Boston University and trying to figure out how to transition from my current career in financial services into a career in Health Communication. Every job I had seen so far was entry level, which didn’t bother me from a learning and starting standpoint, but there was about a $50,000 pay cut involved which was out of the question on a single woman’s income while having a mortgage. Part of the BU program involved free academic and career counseling so I had scheduled an appointment to meet with an advisor for that Friday afternoon 8/30.

I left work early that day to give myself time to drive into Boston. I was also looking forward to being in the city where I might find a new place to stop for a drink, outside my usual Southern, NH haunts. Unfortunately, the traffic was horrendous and far worse than I had planned for and the longer I sat on 128 without moving, the more evident it became I wasn’t going to make the appointment on time so I called from the road and canceled. I then proceeded to get off at the Burlington exit and turn around to head back home.

My new plan was to stop at the house, take the dog out and change before heading to my usual bar, where I would meet up with the new guy I had just started seeing. I remember feeling pretty half assed about him. He was on the shorter, skinnier side which is not my type at all. I don’t like being with a guy I perceive to be smaller than me. I had just been talking to a friend about this hang up and that being the reason I wasn’t taking him seriously. Plus, I met him at a bar which I also knew never to take seriously. But she told me to give it a chance and keep an open mind. Honestly, going to meet up with him that night was more about me having someone to hang out with at the bar than it was about developing a romantic interest.

That said, we got our signals crossed on timing. I was earlier than expected because I had skipped my appointment and he was working later than expected and kind of decided we probably weren’t meeting up so he didn’t have any real urgency to showing up which annoyed me. I may not have a deep, vested interest in a person or subject but when I have decided I want to do something or I have it in my head how I expect things to play out, I accept nothing less and get peeved….which I let him know with some very stern texts. Even still, for a guy I didn’t care too much about, I was having an overblown reaction, even for me. I think somewhere in the texts was something ridiculous like “if I don’t see you here tonight, I won’t see you ever again.” I’m embarrassed just typing it out now. I am not an ultimatum kind of girl, I don’t threaten. I wouldn’t say that to someone I was deeply in love with and had built up frustration towards. Words like that just don’t come from me, no matter how impatient I may get or whatever disappointment I may be experiencing. Believe me, I had years upon years of “girlfriend” experience with late or canceled dates due to “sorry, golf took longer than expected” or “I lost my keys on the beach and had to dig around for hours.” Whether or not those things were ever true, I will never know and I don’t care. I responded calmly to those things every time and just left it with “have a good time with your friends we can catch up tomorrow.

I was definitely in a “mood” that night. While I was receiving therapy for PTSD and trying various methods for managing my anxiety, I was still knee deep in survivor’s guilt and drinking was how I managed that sector of feelings. I had one bar I especially liked because the bartender knew me and she never left me with an empty glass. I was a binge drinker so there was no time in between and I often went about 5-6 beers deep in one sitting. If I were with people I knew, add a shot or 2 to that mix. So that’s the bar I was at that night.

Just the day before, I had tried acupuncture for the first time. A friend of mine, who was also experiencing PTSD from the marathon, had been doing acupuncture to manage a back problem but found it benefitted her PTSD. Plus, we knew the practitioner from High School and she had her own business. So I trusted the practice immediately because we knew how smart our friend is, that she even studied in China for awhile. People sometimes think practitioners of holistic health are crackpots and I am never entirely sure if there is truth in the stuff either. But I am guided by 2 thoughts on it. The first being, if it can’t hurt you, it’s absolutely worth trying. The second being that is it’s someone I know and went to school with, I am very certain of their level of intelligence and know they don’t have a “crackpot” bone in their bodies. I give you the same assessment on chiropractors as one of my best friends is one and she is fascinating. I can spend hours listening to her talk about how the body and nerve system work. She’s legit.

The effects of acupuncture aren’t always felt the first time. You kind of have to go a few times for a cumulative effect. That said, she did warn me that I might experience a “healing crisis” after this first appointment, it didn’t describe too much what that might look like. I guess a little over emotional. At the time, I hadn’t made the connection but looking back now, I am certain that’s what was going on that Friday and was driving my behavior at the bar that night. 100%.

I was drinking my beers alone and having a great time checking my social media, chatting with my bartender, talking to the people next to me. I had lobbed my threat off to the boy and expected never to see him again because I knew the threat was outrageous and unreasonable. What guy would actually respond to something that arrogant? Don’t they all say they hate “crazy” women who pull shit like that? I was drunk but I still knew I was way out of line.

He showed up. So, ladies, if you have been second guessing yourself all these years as to why they call you crazy, they hate you but they stick around and then say they hate crazy….it’s a real thing. You aren’t crazy. They really do it and they just hoist the “crazy” label onto you because they know they are the ones with the waffling behavior and they can’t explain themselves to their peer group when they really do want you but their friends think they are nuts.

I digress. He had shown up and we did a grape crush shot. It was a nostalgic choice of mine linked to the last guy I had been involved with. He was a big fan of them so every time we met up at a bar, there was always one waiting for me. He was peripherally linked to my marathon bombing experience and kind of the reason I was in the place where I was at the time the bombs went off. Had I been in any of the other 5 locations I had considered minutes before, I’d be dead or severely wounded. Where I was had not been a coincidence so my memories of him were still following me. We had the nastiest break up but I also felt this weird gratitude towards him which was something else I thought about when I was drinking.

The boy told me he had picked up an early shift the next morning so he couldn’t stay long but wanted to see me, even if it was for just one drink. After the shot, he left and I stuck around to drink a few glasses of water to sober myself up before driving home. Yes, I drove drunk frequently during this period of time. I am not at all proud of it. I had this weird single girl reasoning in my head about needing to be cautious about money which is why I didn’t want to call a cab, as well as the safety concerns of being a drunk girl alone in a can with a stranger. For some reason, I felt it was more fiscally responsible and physically safer to “take care of myself.” That’s the kind of idiotic reasoning which occurs in a drunk brain left alone to make its own decisions.

There was a McDonalds just a few buildings up from the bar so I figured I’d drive the super short distance there, get a hamburger and then park the car for awhile to eat and stay off the road. I was attempting to do the “right thing” even though it was still wrong. I measured “wrong” by degrees. I was t out of the parking lot for 10 seconds before realizing I was being pulled over by a cop so I pulled right into the McDonalds parking lot to deal with that. I knew I was in deep shit.

I got handcuffed and arrested after failing the sobriety test. I literally got put in the back of a police car and driven to the police department where I proceeded to get booked and have a mug shot taken. I was absolutely mortified, terrified I’d lose my job, unsure of what I’d tell my parents, no idea who I was going to call for help or how I’d get my car back. Once I got put into the jail cell, I melted down into a massive panic attack, combined with an asthma attack. I didn’t have my inhaler with me and was gasping for air, begging for medical help and to be taken to a hospital. I remember the officer on duty saying “if you can ask for help, you aren’t really having an asthma attack.” Asshole. I certainly was having trouble breathing and it didn’t get better until I finally did get home and use my inhaler. I’m a privileged white girl who was just thrown in the drunk tank for a few hours. If you think those stories of people dying because of lack of medical attention are exaggerations, you are grossly mistaken. Imagine how much worse I would have been treated had I been Black. Trust me, police are abusive and overly hopped up on their masculinity and power.

Additionally, when I eventually read the officer report of the arrest, I saw that she had lied about the circumstances in which she said she had cause to pull me over. She had said something about yellow lines and swerving that she observed from a certain direction she was coming from, but had she really been coming from that direction, she wouldn’t have seen me at all. To this day, while I was guilty, I promise you, I didn’t cross the yellow lines. It was physically impossible for that to have happened in this scenario. She had just been sitting in the bar parking lot and decided to follow out the “red car.” There was a rumor that had been happening recently all over Nashua, specifically towards the end of the month when quotas were more important. They were just following people out of bar parking lots banking on the odds they’d bag someone. It had actually happened to a friend of mine months before after we had met for dinner. He was sober but they followed him out of the lot and put him through all the sobriety tests before letting him go. I am not sharing this to absolve or excuse myself in any way. She made a “lucky” choice and I am fortunate in that so that I did not harm anyone else on the road, something I would never have been able to live with. I just want you to know, they do lie, they can be shady and they do cheat the system. Black people aren’t lying to us.

Back to cell. I don’t know how long I was I there, probably 4-5 hours. I had suffered a complete nervous breakdown. This was the worst possible thing I could have done and it wasn’t something I was going to be able to keep solely to myself. I knew I was getting my license revoked for at least 8 months, regardless of any other outcomes which might occur after hiring a lawyer. I had no idea how I was going to get to and from work, that’s all I cared about….paying my bills and staying employed. I’d never be able to get hired anywhere else with a “record” so I had to hang onto what I had, no matter what. I was totally out of my element as a criminal and taking advice from the boy on the phone as my 1 phonecall. He told me not to allow a breathalyzer test because the outcome could be worse than just taking it on the chin with an 8 month license suspension. I literally needed advice on how to be a criminal.

The boy came to bail me out. By the way, he was also a little younger than me. The asshole police officer asked if this was my son. He was a few years younger but not that much. This officer was literally trying to be a dick on purpose because the boy was nervous about my breathing and asked if they had done anything to help me which they knew they had not. On the drive home, all I could do was apologize profusely for making him bail me out and driving me home. I also had to pump him for info on what was next. He had to explain to me how to get my car back from the impound lot, that I’d need to pay in cash and I’d need a lawyer.

I went into my normal task oriented “execute” mode and called a cab, had the cab drive me to the bank and wait for me so I could withdraw cash from the atm, then drop me off in the worst part of town at an impound lot while I waited for it to open to get my car back. I’d have 30 days where I could still drive before having to stay off the road so I also went through a mental list of all the appointments and errands I’d need to get done in a short period of time. I made sure to schedule my flu and pneumonia shot. Yes, this is the kind of stuff popping into my mind during this crisis. I was trying to put off the inevitable phone call I would need to make to my parents later that day.

Honestly, if I could have thought of a way to get through this without telling them anything, I would have. I was so ashamed of myself. I knew my family had been worrying about me for a while but just standing by the side and not saying anything because they wanted to respect my space and my process. I also don’t think they knew it had gotten this bad. They were very understanding about the PTSD. My father has it, they get it. They are very tolerant and non judgmental about the various behaviors which can come with it. But my dad never used alcohol as a treatment so they hadn’t seen that aspect before. The only reason I did tell them was because of the 8 months I wouldn’t be able to drive. I visited them frequently so there would be no way to dodge them for 8 months. I also needed to be able to pick up groceries, prescriptions and get my hair done every 6 weeks. Yes, that was part of the “list” I’d need rides for.

When I called them, I expected so much criticism. It’s how they had dealt with me my entire life. They were quite comfortable rubbing my nose in the shit of my mistakes and reminding me of all my personal shortcomings so I braced myself for it and told myself, “this time you deserve it so just take it and don’t talk back. Keep your mouth shut, do whatever they tell you to do and hunker down for 8 months of free reign criticism.” But that’s not at all how they responded. My father actually told me this could happen to anyone, even him. It doesn’t even take that much alcohol to be over the legal limit and “normal” people drive like that far more often than they admit – that I just got caught, I hadn’t done anything a lot of other people weren’t doing. They also showed great empathy towards me for how much I must have been internally suffering from the bombing and they were so incredibly sorry for my pain. They offered to call my siblings to tell them for me so I didn’t have to keep re-experiencing this trauma.

True to form, Dad went into problem solving mode. He said something about how if he could get me out of this, he would but that this was something he didn’t have any experience with and he didn’t know any criminals so he just didn’t have any advice at the moment. He knew this was the kind of thing you can’t get your kid out of and that I’d have to walk the walk through the whole thing but he would help me any way he could. A few minutes after I got off the phone with my parents, the phone rang again and it was my dad. He realized he did know someone who knew criminals “Rick, the builder. I called him. He spends a lot of time down your way and he gave me the name of the best lawyer for this. He’s got lots of friends who have been through this.” Rick the builder was a really colorful guy who had built my parents’ house and also shared a boat slip with my dad so we saw him often and really enjoyed him. But you could also tell he’d been around the block and knew some elements our family hadn’t been experienced with.

This call from my dad actually made us both laugh. He was so proud of himself for finding a resource and dipping his toes into the criminal world to help. He was also a little excited I was going to get a good lawyer who had a history of dealing with the Nashua police. Again, no one was absolving me here. But a little “stick it to the police” was warranted. I also think there was an underlying theme around not passing judgment on people. You hear stories about people getting arrested for DUI and you just assume they are all scumbags, which the police also assume. It’s more likely that they are real human beings battling a deep trauma and using a substance their genes predestined them to, just like the alcoholic genes in my family. Deep down, I was a harmless, caring, wonderful person who wouldn’t hurt a fly, doing something to soothe my pain which could have killed other people. Never my intent, I think I was really playing Russian roulette with myself. Other people didn’t enter my thought process because all I could think about was guilt over surviving that bombing. It’s just so much more complicated than people like us can really explain. I actually considered myself lucky to have been arrested for this. It could have been a lot worse.

That weekend my mom came and got me because she insisted I shouldn’t be alone so I went back to their house and stayed in bed for 3 days straight as I headed into a major depressive episode. I skipped work that Monday. I called my boss and told him what happened because I knew I had to report it at work for compliance reasons and he’d see the report. I called our compliance office to find out if I was going to get fired and what the next steps were. They were actually pretty great. They assured me this wasn’t going to get me fired at all. I needed to report it for compliance reasons and it would be on file related to my financial licenses but that no one other than my immediate boss would know and it wasn’t a fireable offense. In fact, they said “ you wouldn’t believe how many of your co-workers have been through this. We just had a call from a mom who got pulled over after a work outing on her way to pick her kid up from daycare. It happens all the time at all levels in this company.” I felt relieved by that.

Next was getting back to work and figuring out a plan for commuting when my 30 days was up. I looked into bus lines. I calculated how much it would cost to take cabs every day. I web searched everything I could think of and was coming up with nothing. In the meantime, my boss finally pulled me into his office at the end of that first week. “So we need to talk about the message you left me and stop avoiding it. This isn’t a big deal, Christine. I’m not upset with you. I’ve done it, my friends have done, your co-workers and friends have done it. You just got caught. That’s all. You’re not a bad person and this doesn’t impact your job.” I normally wasn’t a big fan of that boss but he was pretty amazing on this. We’d later find out he had a substance abuse problem himself so it makes sense looking back on it. When his issue blew up and did cost him his job, I was able to show him a level of grave no one else did. I texted him to let him know that I was sorry about what happened, that I didn’t judge him and that if he ever needed anything, he could talk to me.” He never responded which is fine. I just know myself and that had this not happened to me, I would have been incredibly damning of him as I had always been the “ right and wrong” police until I learned from personal experience, just how grey the in between lines can truly be.

A co-worker and friend picked up on my stress and pulled me into a conference room one day to find out what was going on with me. I made her swear on her first born child to never tell anyone what I was about to tell her, that it could never get out at work because I would be judged and they’d have a real reason to never promote me. She promised. When I told her how I was trying to figure out how to get to and from work the next 8 months, she offered to drive me. I was on her way so it was easy for her. I took her up on it. I had no other choice. I felt terrible every day for putting her through this inconvenience but she never once complained and she went out of her way to keep my secret. If people saw us getting in or out of her car together or walking into the office together, she was always prepared to say she was helping me out while my car was in the shop. She saved my life and my job. By solving this problem, I was able to obtain some type of “normalcy” in order to get through those 8 months without feeling like a total loser.

During that time, I also met with my lawyer and prepared for court. He watched the video of me in the police department. He said he was actually impressed with how clear headed I was and that my speech was incredibly coherent. He said they were even bringing in some guy in shackles behind me while I was standing at the front desk and I was completely unphased by it. While he knew I was guilty because I admitted it to him, he felt there were some overreactions and flaws in the police department’s process. He felt we might be able to fight the charges altogether but there was a chance we could lose. Despite my confidence in him, the consequences of losing, even if chances were slim, were consequences which would have had me not driving for probably another 2 years and I couldn’t put that onus on anyone else. I needed to be back on the road in 8 months, no matter what. Plus, I’m an Irish Catholic. We have incredible guilt and repentance issues. I knew I was guilty. I didn’t feel right about trying to fight the charges. I wanted to accept responsibility in a way which would have the fewest and least painful consequences. 8 months off the road and $6000 to the state were easy to live with. Plus, he got the charges downgraded quite a bit and it’s just something I’d have to have on my record until it eventually ages off….a timeline I believe has now passed.

It’s a humbling process to be a privileged, good, white girl sitting in a courtroom with a bunch of other criminals pleading their own cases. I went to court but it’s a process of sitting and waiting to be called while a bunch of other cases are handled. I was sitting near people brought in from jail, in their jail wardrobe and shackled. While I was scared of them, I also had the presence of mind to consider myself no better than them. That was the first time I started understanding white privilege. I didn’t have that phrase in my vocabulary at the time but I understood I had done something just as bad as they did. However, I had family support, I had my job, I could afford the top lawyer and I would go back to my normal life, just little more embarrassed by myself than usual. I knew that my circumstances were the only thing which separated me from those people and they also could have come through their crimes successfully if they had my upbringing and my means. Their lack of those things pretty much dammed them into the system as well as increases their risk of recidivism because even when they do get out of jail, they don’t have finances, family and finances to fall back on. Not only that, I’m sure they don’t have a no choice of privileged white friends and co-workers giving them the “approving” wink of “could have just as easily been me, Doles.” If nothing else, I did start learning a different level of compassion and a new way of looking at people which continues to only become stronger and more beneficial.

I have never really told this whole story before. I have gone through moments in time, bits and pieces where I had to for court, therapy, a carpool and a compliance report. Beyond that, it’s a horrible story to tell. I’m sure it would anger many people because it was drunk driving which does kill people. That anger is valid. It’s just hard for me to take from someone else because of how much I internally punish myself. I feel like other people being angry is kind of overstating the obvious. Trust me, I get that part and am equally upset with myself. It’s just I have to go beyond just that anger and consider a whole slew of other emotions and reactions no one else would consider. I was still me. I was still pretty broken. I was still depressed. I still had survivor’s guilt. I still had PTSD. I still had nightmares. Getting arrested and going through that process doesn’t cure those things. It illuminates their severity. It may even offer a few revelations but it doesn’t treat any of it. The drinking didn’t stop.