Fighting for My Life

Michael Blanchard - Lucy Vincent

Photographs and text excerpted from Fighting for My Life, by Michael Blanchard, published by Vineyard Stories.

Finding Hope and Serenity on Martha’s Vineyard

Jails, institutions, or death seemed to be the only available options. I chose the third. I was ready to check out. I was done.

~ The End ~

The beginning of my story of discovery and passion for photography begins at the bottom. Rock bottom.

It was 2 a.m. I awoke in a strange and cold place with bright overhead fluorescent lights, numbness and tingling in my wrists, and the gentle and yet stern look of a Massachusetts state trooper. I still remember his smile and how odd it seemed to receive empathy from a police officer who must have known this was my third DUI in three months.

I was unsure how I got here. I knew this was Massachusetts, but where? I realized this was a hospital emergency room, but the last thing I recalled was the awful fight with my wife on the phone and my determination to drive from Maine to Boston to see her and make it right. I remembered nothing else. Above all else, though, I knew one thing: this was the third time in three months I had been caught driving drunk. This would change everything.

Michael Blanchard Buzzards Bay Storm

Michael Blanchard Buzzards Bay Storm

I was the chief operating officer of a large company headquartered in Maine. I clearly had the ability to make good decisions and decisively lead people. I was much too smart to get arrested three times in three months. These events were the result of an unfair act of nature and the seemingly incalculable odds of having three police officers strategically placed in my path. The odds of getting three DUIs in rapid succession are mind-boggling. Incredibly bad luck. Not my fault.

I had already hired the best attorney money could buy to take care of my first two arrests. He was making significant progress to help mitigate those. The first had been in Maine where I vomited all over both front seats of my Jeep just prior to being run down for speeding. As I sat in this brownish vomitus of considerable stench, I actually argued with the police officer over his ridiculously strict interpretation of the speed limit in pulling me over for going 63 in a 55 mph  speed zone. The conversation was incredibly short, and the town was happy to exchange my soiled clothing for an orange jumpsuit. The second DUI was in Massachusetts for another marginal speeding violation of 74 in a 65 MPH speed zone.

Just bad luck, inconceivable to me.

I was rescued both times by my wife after a night in jail.

Michael Blanchard – South Beach

Michael Blanchard – South Beach

But this third arrest was different. I couldn’t remember anything, and I still can’t. I had purchased Xanax on the Internet to “wean” myself off vodka, my preferred drink. I never thought I would drink the vodka and take Xanax at the same time, leading me to black out on my way to make things right with my wife. The trooper in my hospital room described my attempt to drive away as he knocked on the window of my car while I was asleep by the side of the road with the car running. I was apparently startled and promptly accelerated, running over street signs and eventually coming to a stop, where I was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed.

This was the first time I experienced a complete and total blackout. As I lay on the hospital bed, shock slowly passed, depression set in, and the reality of my situation and likely consequences created a numbness and sickening anxiety. The life I previously knew was over. Choice had been eliminated. The option to continue my life in this self-chosen hell, the life I had been leading for thirty years now, had been deterred. Suddenly I felt a deep and consuming desire to end it all. I had reached that point alcoholics call “the bottom.” That cold and lonely realization that life itself is impossible to contemplate in the absence of alcohol but knowing the drug has destroyed the very essence of your soul.

Michael Blanchard – Lucy Vincent

Michael Blanchard – Lucy Vincent

Jails, institutions, or death seemed to be the only available options. I chose the third. I was ready to check out. I was done.

As I lay in the hospital bed, I began to see myself as those I loved did: I was a lying and deceitful drunk who threw everything away while devastating those close to me. I was consumed by alcohol. I was infected with an incurable disease that would eventually kill me and maybe kill others. The only answer seemed to be to take the remaining thirty Xanax pills with my quart of vodka and get it over with.

It would be a noble act, meant to redeem me and demonstrate I cared for others and stood for something.

It was twisted, cowardly, and selfish.

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