I wrote this a few weeks ago, but didn’t post it because it seemed out of date by the time I completed it. Then yesterday, I read this by DaMomma, and this by One Crafty Mother. Since they brought it up again, I thought I’d post my two cents.
First, I want to offer sincerest condolences to the Bastardi, the Hames, the Longo, and the Schuler families. I cannot begin to imagine the hell you are living through right now.
For those who may have missed it there was a fatal crash on the Taconic Parkway in New York on July 27, 2009. The fact that everyone agrees on are that Diane Schuler was driving home from a weekend camping trip in her minivan with her two-year-old daughter, five-year-old son and three nieces aged nine, seven and five. She was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of the Taconic Parkway when she crashed head on into a SUV carrying Michael Bastardi, his father Guy Bastardi, and long time family friend Daniel Longo. Both cars burst into flames killing everyone but Schuler’s five-year-old son.
Diane Schuler’s autopsy results would later show a blood alcohol level of .19, more than double the legal limit. Her husband, Daniel Schuler denies his wife was an alcoholic. The family’s attorney claims the crash was caused by an undiagnosed medical condition.
I believe that Daniel Schuler didn’t know his wife had a drinking problem, but that doesn’t mean Diane Schuyler was not an alcoholic. In fact, it lends more credibility to the idea that she did indeed have addiction issues.
The burning questions everyone has are how did this happen? And, why would a mother knowingly put children she loved at risk? The answers are neither explanatory nor comforting.
When an event occurs that is this catastrophic everyone wants someone to blame, blaming a disease does not provide the reward we seek. This must be someone’s fault. Still, alcoholism is a disease and alcoholics are slaves to their master. An active alcoholic can lie and rationalize away the problem in ways that the average person would find inconceivable and completely illogical.
An alcoholic does not have a problem everyone else does. An alcoholic can look you straight in the eye and tell you that white is black and to them this is not a lie because they actually believe white is black. And, for the life of them, they can’t understand why you can’t see the truth. An alcoholic can be so convincing and the signs of trouble so subtle, that those around them start to question their own sanity. You start to think ‘oh, it must be me, I’ll try harder’. You don’t realize you aren’t living “normal” until a) something catastrophic happens or b) someone not so close to the situation asks “What the hell is going on here?”
I speak from personal experience with an active alcoholic who lives in denial, but sadly I have found too many others with friends or family members with addiction issues share my experiences.
In a perfect world Daniel Schuler would have known his wife had a drinking problem. In a perfect world he would’ve gotten her help, or at the very least he wouldn’t have let her drive. But, in the real world, he had no clue. Diane Schuler is the only responsible party. She paid the ultimate price and yet it still isn’t enough.
If you even THINK someone close to you has an issue with addiction of any type, get help, help for you, help for them. No doubt if you broach the subject with the addicted individual, you will be rebuffed (sometimes harshly), but there are numerous free support groups (e.g. Al-anon and Alcoholics Anonymous), that provide information and support. You can also share your concerns with your loved one’s doctor. They can’t talk to you without permission, but you are free to share background and experiences. Ask your own doctor for a referral to a counselor experienced in dealing with families of addicts. Make no mistake addiction not only impacts the addict, those closest, be they friends or family are affected as well. You don’t have to live this way.