Denial on the street: “But officer, I slowed way down!”

There's an old cop joke about the guy who rolled through a stop sign, then complained to the officer who stopped him, “Hey, I slowed way down, what's the difference?” Supposedly the officer says to the guy, “OK, fine. I’m going to take this flashlight and hit you on the head. When you want me to slow down, say ‘Slow down!’, and when you want me to stop, say ‘Stop!’”

I answer a couple of dozen emails and blog comments a week, dealing with various aspects of addiction and recovery. Every now and then it becomes clear that someone wants me to cosign a desire to experiment with using again. Most often it’s folks who want to know if I think it would be OK for them to have a glass of wine at dinner occasionally, or folks who have stopped using some drugs but want to go on using another (usually marijuana). So I think it’s time to write a few words about this particular form of denial.

Of course it’s denial! Here’s someone who has had enough problems in their life from using alcohol or other drugs that they have quit, or are trying to. In most cases it is safe to assume it hasn't been the easiest thing that they’ve ever done. Presumably they went through that for a reason. Yet they come to a website that is obviously about encouraging recovery, and inquire if I think it’s OK for them to mess around with their recovery.

Sure, it’s OK, because there’s no recovery involved. If we aren't convinced that we need to remain clean and concentrate on learning to live in such a way that our desire to use is minimized and hopefully eliminated, then we aren't in recovery — whether or not we’re clean. It’s that simple. No such thing as partial pregnancy, and no such thing as being partially in recovery. It’s quite possible that we don’t need to be in recovery. But, if that’s the case, why did we come to the site?

If you think you have a problem, do whatever you can to solve it. Don’t mess around. If you don’t think you have a problem, then live it up. Eventually things will become clear, one way or another.

But don't tell this old cop that you want to slow down.


  1. I have been sober for about 5 months now. I understand that having no contact with alcohol is the best solution for my life. However, recently I have been pulled over and receiving breathalizers. I had an OWI over a year ago and am still resolving it. I found out, when I pick my son up from school, they report to police department that I am driving (yes, I have an occupational) and moments later I am pulled over. I receive various tickets, because I am clean, so now it feels like they are trying to get me anyway you can (light above the license plate, necklace hanging from review mirror-obstruction of view, and driving to slow (yes, too slow! 5 miles under the speed limit with the flow of traffic)). How do I make this stop? Officers have told me that it is the school that calls me into the police station. But why? There is no alcohol on breath, I am not acting goofy…WHY?

  2. I can’t speculate on why the department in your town would be doing that. I suggest you inquire at the police station, or have your attorney take up the matter. Apart from that, just do what you can to minimize coming to their attention. Sometimes life sucks, but life drunk sucks even more.

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