Breaking the Law in Sobriety
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Breaking the Law in Sobriety


Breaking the Law in SobrietyAt the height of my drinking and drugging career, I was not a good student so I certainly was not a man that knew the law. Though I’m still not a lawyer, I know more now.

Back then, not abiding by the Texas state laws enforced by the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s office would not keep me up at night. No, that was the cocaine circling through my blood system like a Maserati in fifth gear in a bumpy alley. While using, I never really thought about driving through carpool lanes alone, let alone buying illicit drugs and alcohol (I was under 21 during my drinking prime). Littering McDonald’s cups full of tobacco spit and “losing” parking tickets was for somebody else to deal with.

Then I stopped drinking. My mega-freeway-wide morals closed into a one-way old European road that could only fit a Fiat. All of a sudden, I was a little calmer and would let cars in front of me on the road.

Still, I was far from perfect.

My new group of sober friends frowned upon my littering. They all had more time than me and suggested that I not toss 30 empty packs of cigarettes outside the car. I obliged, embarrassed about my juvenile behavior in front of these grown ups who had passports and car lease agreements. And this was a big deal because my self-entitlement really knows no bounds: I don’t just speed or run red lights like a mom in a bad mood picking up her kids from school; I speed like I’m wearing anvils for shoes and like F-16s are trailing me. I don’t really know why. All I know is that I like it and continue to get away with it.

Like anything good (or bad), I got used to my new life as a sober man. It became a part of my identity to drink water “on the rocks” at bars and have not only self-awareness but also social skills that involved having a polite attitude and listening skills like a therapist.

Still, kid’s-pool-deep into sobriety, I started to break the law again, my respect for anything holy in society fading like the third act of a movie into the end credits. My sponsor told me that I thought that the rules applied to everyone but me.

I’m not talking about running red lights more than half a second after the yellow disappeared or flicking cigarettes out onto dry canyon fire hazard roads. I’m more talking about running from the police. I did it when I was 18 and it ended with me receiving a nice and crisp DUI. When I did this in sobriety, I was turning left onto the street off of Sunset after running a red light. A police cruiser sped over to me and I made the decision to gun it in my V8 as I took a sharp right into my building’s garage, holding down the gate button to open it, speeding in and holding it back down to close it. I learned that day that I didn’t need to get caught and pay a hefty fine if the timing was right.

The second time this happened, I was clearing 100 miles an hour on a salvage title motorcycle around 3 am. The sirens blared as they often do and the red and blue lights patriotically shone in what was left of my side view mirror. I turned off my lights on the bike, going invisible for 30 seconds to disappear (I learned this trick from the movie Tron and was quite proud of my reenactment).

This transgression seemed so minor that I didn’t even bother to mention it to anyone in AA. How could it be a confession of not acting like a sober man if what I did wasn’t considered wrong in my new loose moral code? At the time, sobriety meant that if I just didn’t pour alcohol down my throat and coke up my nose, then I was fine and I’d live forever a free man.

In early sobriety I was arrested for grand theft of a luxury couch on Beverly Blvd. and taken to the LAPD’s Wilshire station where I was later released and picked up by a waitress from Swingers diner. Take that last sentence in and breathe. It’s okay if it has to be read again. This is what happened: my friend Patrick was playing this basketball video game with me all the time and I had no couch for him to sit on so he’d have to take the floor. One day I noticed a couch on display outside an upscale furniture boutique and without thinking, popped the trunk and tried to put it in. Fast forward to my sunglasses being crushed in a Ziploc bag by cops while I waited in a holding cell off Venice sitting next a guy who sold a machine gun to an undercover cop.

I still struggle with breaking the law, not in the felony capacity but in speeding and a new one—graffiti. See, one day I saw this graffiti on Beverly Boulevard that read “Read Kerouac.” Even though I’d never spray painted anything before, I was so annoyed by it that that I went and brought black and red cans of spray paint from a hardware store. Around 1 am that night, I spray painted over it “Re-watch The Sopranos” in an attempt to make fun of the pretentious Kerouac reference with a suggestion to instead do some gluttonous binge watching of a violent one-hour drama on HBO. Two officers saw me take a picture of it and asked who did it. I said, “Some famous guy from the Internet.” I got away that night and another time graffiti-d “Kale Urself” and “I Miss Mad Men.” I even put up a laminated giant sign that read “Coming Soon. Chick-fil-A” in a hip neighborhood. The police and locals keep painting over my boredom and amateur hour Fight Club goofiness but I keep doing it anyway and sleeping fine at night.

I recently hit a bottom with my car stuff, though, when I almost came to blows with a guy in broad daylight, upsetting the people eating at the wine and cheese place who heard it all—not to mention my fiancé, who was in the car. It flashed me back to the time I enraged a taxi driver so much that he tried to pull me out of my own car. Also the time I tried to run a 90s Jeep Cherokee off the road for flashing their brights at me while I was texting and driving. Also when I threw a cup of smokeless tobacco spit into a car at a red light for drifting into my lane. The list goes on.

I’ve been working on my road rage for about six months now. There are times when it all collapses but it never gets as bad as it was before. Sobriety humanized me more than anything. For a long time, I was ashamed of the person I was underneath the alcohol and drug identity I hid under like a rock. But now I’m attacking my worst self head-on. Road rage, cigarette littering and graffiti tagging are on my to-do list but I’m still a work in progress.

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About Author

Carlos Herrera is a comedian, photographer and writer whose work can also be found on The Fix . He has been featured in LA Weekly and has performed at The Hollywood Improv among other places.