How I Juggled Probation and Active Addiction

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In 2010, I was arrested for a “DUI with Enhancements” and reckless driving. I was barely twenty-one and hadn’t faced any real consequences of my substance abuse.

I didn’t put up a fight. After the police finally got me to pull over, I practically fell out of my car crying and exclaiming that I was drunk. In fact, I blew a .32 and was under the influence of a sizable amount of anxiety meds.

That night, I sat in jail on suicide watch for reasons I still can’t remember. I wore a super couture jail-issued potato bag with complimentary toilet-paper socks I made to combat the arctic conditions. Hours felt like days. In my sick head, I assumed they were locking the door and throwing away the key.

Gambling with My Freedom

I hired the cheapest non-public-defender I could find. After he forced me to watch the unbearable dash-cam footage, he negotiated a plea deal. The reckless driving charge was dropped, and the enhancements were removed.

I was offered two weeks in jail or one year on probation with nearly twenty conditions attached. Since I was already in my own personal jail called “active addiction,” I took the probation option without reading the not-so-fine print.

The first “condition” of my probation was to not drink or use drugs. The second was to not drive a car. I broke both of these, at the same time, on the first day.

I wasn’t caught, but my anxiety forced me to stop acting so arrogant and immature. I only drove to-and-from work and, during the day, I only drank enough to avoid withdrawal. I was “responsible.”

I managed to keep this routine going for months. My probation officer seemed to always have court, so I met with someone different each time. None of them bothered to open my file, and I was too self-absorbed to care.

The time came to complete probation, but I forgot about that not-so-fine print — the conditions I had yet to even begin.

Time for a Do-Over

I went back to court to request to stay on probation longer, or else I faced ten violations. The judge agreed, not realizing the severity of my substance abuse.

One violation turned into eight, and one year turned into three. I lost count of how many court dates I missed, or how many times I ran back to rehab to escape arrest. Fortunately, the judge saw this as me trying hard to get my life together. After going through the motions time after time, I had a moment of clarity. I was tired of these games.

In June of 2014, four years after my arrest, I was back before the judge. I had nine months clean when I finally heard the words, “Aimee Runyon, your probation is officially terminated.” That memory is one that I will never forget.

Do you or a loved one have experience with active addiction and the legal system? Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments section below.

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