So, it looks like there are some possibilities on the Canadian-entry front. I spoke to an attorney, who has told me to get background checks done of myself in Illinois, Missouri, and using the FBI system. If my DUI appears, then there are ways to move forward. But none of them seem to work for me. The waiver process, which would likely allow me to enter Canada, will require several months to complete. That’s not likely to work for me, considering the amount of time between being offered an interview and actually having the interview is likelier to be closer to four days than four months.
A good friend did some amazing googling and discovered that there are other options, including one which is apparently just showing up at the border. According to Canadian law (I am not an expert!), the final decision on who gets in in marginal cases apparently rests with the border guards themselves. They can decide to allow me provisional entry if I fall into a category that allows for a temporary visitor pass of some kind, that also involves a $200 fee (Canadian dollars, of course). And, of course, there’s the most likely option, which is that my background check will not be run at all, and no one will even blink an eye when I enter Canada.
So I’m in the process of sorting things out. I’m going to go get my fingerprints done here soon, that’ll cover Missouri. Then I’ll need to handle it for the FBI and Illinois. I requested the forms for the fingerprint based background check from Illinois. I need to have two copies and send them with money orders to sundry places. It’ll take several days to get them back. Then I’ll have an idea how to proceed. As I said, the offense was supposed to have been expunged, or so I was told when it happened, and I hope that it has been. But I don’t know. I’ll probably talk to a US attorney to find out.
But this whole process it daunting and frustrating. I am not good at bureaucracy. Some people seem to inherently understand it. I don’t. Each “Form 345-1 JL” submitted to the “Office of Leftover Irrelevancy” to process the “Allocution to Eternal Shame” feels like slashing my eyeball with a razor and dunking my head in salted lime juice. This is why I have an accountant. And a grants manager. I don’t know how to handle these things. The instructions aren’t clear to me. No matter how clear the instructions seem to other people, I can always seem to find some nebulous wiggle-room in them that obfuscates my path.
I always have to settle back, calm down, and realize that it’s not personal. It’s just the system doing its job. It may not be good at it. It may not be fast. But it does what it was tasked to do. And I need to remember to: this is my fault. This is not the Big Bad Canadian Bureaucracy landing on me. This is: a reasonable country has a reasonable restriction against potentially dangerous visitors. There is no particular reason, a priori, for them to know that I am no longer a risk for additional drunk driving. I drove drunk hundreds of times before my arrest, and dozens of times after (It would be nearly two years until I got sober; I was a bit more careful after I received my DUI, but like the alcoholic I am, when I drank, I continued to make bad decisions.).
Every alcoholic I know who also drives has driven drunk. Generally hundreds of times. The rate of getting caught driving drunk is incredibly small. So, for all Canada knows, I’m still driving drunk daily and just haven’t been caught again. I guarantee you there are plenty of people in that category. This is my fault. I brought this on myself, and I have no one but myself to blame. And it may well result in me not being able to interview for a job that seems very well suited to me at a truly fine university. And that’s the deal. My actions have consequences.
But here’s the part that perhaps some of my non-recovering readers might not get: there’s no point in blaming myself either. I do. In fact, I had myself a little tantrum this weekend where I fantasized about not eating and sitting alone in the bathtub and cutting myself. I can get overwhelmed with frustration and despair and that seems to block out the rest of life. But that’s all very juvenile. The truth is simply that I behaved badly as an alcoholic, it has consequences. And I can’t expect the rest of the world to just get on board and forgive and forget just because I have a four-year coin in my pocket. It doesn’t work that way.
But blaming myself is just another way of remaining rooted to a past where I was a malfeasant. I don’t know what it is that compels me to linger there. But I do have a desire to wallow in my degrading past, to look at my accomplishments and label them not-good-enough. There is a part of me that perversely enjoys feeling awful. This is the part that drives my alcoholism. The part that so many of us anthropomorphize as “my disease”. This is the core part of me which will kill me if I let it. Because this part of me doesn’t love life. Doesn’t care for pleasure. This part of me wants despair and shame and alcohol.
I am reprieved from that. Even in the very dark moments, and Saturday was as dark as it’s been in a very long time for me, alcohol is not a solution to my problems. Alcohol is how I can let my problems ruin me. And that part of me that wants to burn down the world recognizes its liberation in the liquor aisle. But I don’t battle that side of me. I see it. I know it. I respect its power and I fear its nihilism. But I am not struggling with it. It simply is. Were I to fight it, I would lose. Instead I have detached from it. I know I can never leave it truly behind. But it is the dinghy trailing the frigate now. It cannot guide me.