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Dating in LA is genuinely terrible, but, if you can find someone you want to go out with, there are endless options for cool dates.
You can go to the beach, you can go downtown, or you can get a DUI, anything you want to do. I was on a date with a guy when he did that last thing.
I dated a super-hot guy who also happened to be super-depressed and have a super-drinking problem. When we met, I was hosting a comedy open mic at a hotel bar. He was a young writer and reality-show producer and I was attracted instantly. He was just my type with sad-looking eyes, a scruffy beard and Bukowski tattoos.
When I brought him onstage and he told the audience “There goes my East Coast girlfriend,” I thought he was kidding. He was too handsome to be so interested in me. I was just the girl in glasses and a T-shirt trying to corral comedy weirdos. When I got home, I looked him up on Facebook and saw he had a girlfriend.
We rarely saw each other at the mic, but after a few months, he broke up with his girlfriend and was crashing with a friend. We fast forwarded through flirty texts to making out in bars. I felt like a teen who finally got asked out by the dreamy guy in the band. But I can barely remember an interaction we had when he wasn't drinking.
I’d gone to shows and parties with him where he knocked back beers and sipped on whiskey, but he hardly looked a mess. That was part of his whole appeal I guess; he was the hot, sad guy with a drink in his hand. But, I also knew his car was his whole life. He had a long commute every day and had to drive to remote locations. I didn’t think he would seriously do anything to jeopardize his career, or our blossoming co-dependent relationship. I was really dumb.
He stayed depressed over his breakup and move, the loss of his couples friends. I was genuinely surprised when he wanted to go to a 90s party my friend John was hosting in the Valley. Especially when the alternative was staying in and having sex with me all night.
The party was a big, backyard meet-and-drink with Nickelodeon cartoons projected onto screens. I nursed a cocktail for most of the night while he pounded back beers and chatted with some former child stars.
By the time karaoke started, I was actually having fun. It was great watching him argue with chicks in Powerpuff Girls costumes about doing a second encore of “Born to Run.”
By 1 am, I was ready to call it quits, but he insisted we stay for more songs. By 2 am, nearly everyone had left or was passed out in the living room. He had cut himself off a little while ago and finally agreed to head out.
I offered to get a Lyft, he said he didn’t want to leave his car all the way out in the Valley. I tentatively offered to drive. I hadn’t owned a car since high school and aside from a few rental experiences, was not a steady hand behind the wheel. The thought of driving that night scared the hell out of me, so when he shot me down I didn’t press the issue.
I should have stood my ground and trusted my gut. I should have blown him off and crashed at the party. I should have thought of all the lives he might have been putting at risk, but I trusted him and I got in the SUV.
He cautiously drove out of the neighborhood. Once we hit the main streets, he asked me to find some good driving music on his iPod. I scrawled through, not sure what he wanted. The playlists were full of unfamiliar pop-punk bands from the 2000s.
He whipped the car into a gas station. I sat in the passenger seat while he pumped gas. I could feel this tightness in my chest, just dread and sadness when I looked at him. He should have been as tired and nervous to be on the road as I was. Instead, he was cocky and talking in circles.
I knew then that he still had too much alcohol in his system. We were screwed -- even if we got home OK, this was bad. He got back in and pulled out way too fast and took off on Cahuenga. It’s a busy street on the weekends, with people going back and forth from Hollywood clubs and Valley parties. The cops were out in big numbers looking for drunks.
He drove steadily while rattling on about the songs I was picking. After a mile, he merged into the next lane. Within 30 seconds, I could see the swirling red lights behind us and the blip of the siren. At first, I was convinced it wasn’t for us. He panicked-
He took a breath, and pulled over. I froze in my seat. I didn’t know what to say. I thought he could somehow avoid the question of drinking, but then I looked at him red faced and sweating out at 2 am. He grabbed for his insurance and registration in the glovebox and sat with his license in hand dutifully.
The officer was a middle-aged guy with the friendly look of a suburban Dad.
“License and registration please.”
He handed over his documents, I focused my attention straight ahead.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
I hoped his cigarettes covered the smell of booze.
“I noticed you didn’t signal when you changed lanes back there near the station.”
“I’m sorry officer, I thought I had signaled.”
“Where are you driving from?”
“A friend’s home in the valley.”
“Have you been drinking tonight?”
“Just two beers a few hours ago.”
I was sure this cop was familiar with receiving the “just two beers” answer. The officer asked him to get out of the car, his partner got out of the cruiser. I thought I could be invisible to the cops if I just sat there. I was just a prop being ferried from point A to point B by who I assumed was a safe and responsible driver.
I cringed, wondering if he had any drugs on him. I tried not to watch as he did the field sobriety test. I didn’t want him to feel self-conscious. He seemed to follow the instructions, but as is the case in about 90% of DUI cases, he failed.
Officer Dad stayed and explained to him what would happen next, but it was all out of earshot.
The second officer came over to speak to me. He asked me for my name and ID, where we had been, and the officer asked if he had been drinking. After a pause, I flatly said that he had been drinking earlier in the night, but that he had seemed fine. The officer looked at me with some pity and thanked me for my statement. I was ashamed to be there. I could feel my neck getting hot and my stomach churning.
I could see the officers speaking in the rear view mirror. Officer Dad came back to the vehicle and told me he was under arrest for driving while intoxicated.
“We’re going to have to breathalyze you to see if you can take the car.”
I didn’t feel drunk, but I had no experience with what my limits were to drive. I thought the breathalyzer could show anything. I leaned my head out of the window and blew into a white plastic tube. The officer read my results-
“.05. OK, we’re going to have him give you the keys, you can call this number in the morning, see about getting him picked up.”
Officer Dad scrawled an office name and a phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. A .05, so safely below the limit it just makes me look like the bigger idiot for not having been the one driving.
He walked back to me, gave me his lighter, cigarettes and money, asked me to hold onto it for him. He apologized and told me he loved me. He turned back and was placed in handcuffs. Just then I realized he was going to jail wearing a Smiths T-shirt. He was going to LA county lockup with Morrissey crying on his chest.
I wasn’t mad at him then, I felt bad for him. I knew it was the start of months if not years of more problems. They drove off and I put directions into my phone. I forced my body to just take over and go through the motions, get home, park his vehicle and go to sleep.
The next day, I was too nervous to go far in case I would need to spring him from jail. I called offices, I got put on hold, transferred, disconnected, told I had called the wrong office, everything I usually expect with LA city government. I started to wonder, Will I need to pay his bail? Can I pay his bail? Do I need to take out a bail bond? What is a bail bond? These are all Google searches I did not think I would ever have to make.
I was actually able to speak to an officer at some point. When I explained who I was and who I was calling in regards to, he said, “Oh so you took the car? So you’re his girlfriend?”
Yeah I took the car, I guess I was his girlfriend. We weren’t heavy on labels, but I was defending him, trying to get him out of the claws of the justice system, I had his Honda Element, damn right I was his girlfriend. Bad as the situation might seem, at least according to the LAPD, I was in a relationship.
Around 3 in the afternoon, I get a call from him. He has been released and had gotten a Lyft back home. He told me he had blown a .16, twice the legal limit and confirmed my suspicion that every time he had been out of my sight he was guzzling whiskey.
He apologized and I comforted him, and then he dumped me. Yes, he dumped me. I somehow had so little worth that I couldn’t even bring myself to dump a guy who put my life on the line.
I had an Ah-Shit! (trademarked) moment. Ah-shit, I need some self-esteem. Ah shit, there is no face, or lips or voice worthy of feeling this low. Ah shit, I could have seen this coming a mile away. Ah-shit I’m really lucky he didn’t kill me or anyone else. Ah-shit, when it comes to dating you really shouldn’t have to say-”I’m really lucky he didn’t kill me or anyone else.”
I could have seen this coming a mile away. I was raised by a mom in Al-Anon but here I was, addicted to the emotional rollercoaster of loving an alcoholic.
I took a step back and stopped getting into relationships. I enjoyed flirting, and crushes and dating and not being so consumed by one person and their problems.
I know getting in the car was wrong and if someone had been killed or hurt that night, the guilt would have destroyed me. I have had people close to me killed by drunk drivers and I know the grief that comes with it. I’m not proud of any of this.
I write it in the hopes that anyone who finds themselves attracted to alcoholics will get into Al-Anon or co-dependency treatment. If you continuously attract charismatic addicts, you need some professional help ... and to get your own car.