A woman losing her balance trying to walk on a road twisted in a knot.

Field Sobriety

I go to my MS specialist every six months. At each appointment, we go through the same routine: check my strength, test my reflexes, finger to nose, have my eyes follow the doctor’s finger, walk heel to toe, etc. I do pretty well on most of these tests, but walking heel to toe gets me every time. No matter how hard I try, I can never quite do it successfully. And by the end of each neurological test, I can’t help but think that if I’m ever pulled over and given a standard sobriety test, that I will probably fail. It won’t matter that I haven’t had any alcohol, but MS can make us all have symptoms of drinking. Not to mention, when I get pulled over I get incredibly nervous, so I’ll probably already look suspicious! Has anyone else ever realized the similarities of our neurological testing with field sobriety tests?

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

The standardized field sobriety test is three tests that they perform during a traffic stop. The first test they administer is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Primarily, they look to see if you can follow an object with your eye smoothly and without jerking. It is much like the eye test we do when we go to our MS appointments, where we follow the physician’s finger with our eyes, keeping our head still.

Walk and turn test

The second test is the walk and turn test. Again, something we do at our MS visits. This is the one I know I would inevitably fail. In this test they look to see if you can keep your balance while taking nine steps, touching heel to toe, in a straight line. Just call me drunk already, officer, I can’t do this one. Heel to toe gets me every time. The third and final test is the one leg stand test. In this test, you are to stand with one foot in the air as you count aloud until you’re instructed to put your foot down. Again, I probably wouldn’t be successful. All of these are identical or very similar to things we do at our MS appointments. All of these things are done to see if we physically pass the test so they can assess if things are progressing or not.

Moments that mimic being drunk

I’m not a huge fan of the saying, “I’m not drunk, I have MS.” I don’t feel like we all look like a bunch of drunks. However, I do think that we have moments that mimic when we are drunk. Like for me, sometimes I stumble for no reason because I get off-balance. Or I stutter, and I’m unable to get my words out right. That’s ok though, now that I’m “out” with my MS, I don’t mind telling people, “Sorry, I’m having a rough MS day today” if necessary.

I know the truth

They can judge me all they want, and they can think I’m drunk, but I know the truth. We may stumble around and slur our words, and we may fail every test necessary to pass a field sobriety test, but we aren’t at fault – MS is. Honestly, I would take being blackout drunk and risk the worst hangover of my life just to get rid of MS. At least being drunk can be fun! Unfortunately, that’s not the case though, so I’ll just keep trying, and if for some reason I fail a field sobriety test due to MS, I’ll just hope and pray they don’t take me to jail! Ha!! What do you think, would you pass one?



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View Comments (9)
  • Janus
    1 hour ago

    Not if my life depended on it! My husband is always telling me, “you’d better hope you’re never pulled over!”
    I’m another one that doesn’t drink and I don’t drive that much, but reading this reminded me to maybe look into getting a med alert bracelet. I had considered it before, but then always forgotten about it. Thanks Calie!

  • Mare
    4 hours ago

    Even though I don’t drink, I have always worried about the field sobriety test. With my balance/walking, I know I would fail 100%. I plan on forgetting going through all the explanations up front and tell them to give me the breath-alyzer test and then explain after I pass that one that I have MS and here is my doctor’s information.

    I worry MORE about walking clients down the hallway behind me at work and having them thinking that I am drunk!

  • BuckeyeCurt
    2 days ago

    A friend and I call the pre-appointment stunts they make us do the MS Olympics. On a side note, I have a shirt that says, “I’m not DRUNK, I have MS…OK so maybe I am a ‘lil drunk.”

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    1 day ago

    @buckeyecurt love that you call them the MS Olympics!! That’s amazing! Also really like that shirt, that’s the kind of “I’m not drunk, I have MS” thing I can get behind-haha! Thank you for your comment!

    Wishing you the best, Calie

  • chong61
    3 days ago

    No way, not ever could I pass any of stages. I wobble sitting in my chair.

    What I hate is when I venture out to the grocery store and I see people looking at me and whispering to each other. I know what they are thinking. I do stager a bit as I have a death hold on the cart. Some times I feel like I should have a giant MS tattooed on my forehead.

    I really hope they never get this disease and have to endure what we do. Maybe this old, gray haired woman gave them some much needed topic to talk about.

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    1 day ago

    @chong61 people can be so rude and insensitive! I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with people like that. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • chong61
    1 day ago

    It really does not bother me, I just feel sorry for their ignorance.

    As to being pulled over a suggestion would be to cut the Rx label showing a medication you take and carry that and one of the pills or capsules in a small container. That satisfies all officers or hospital that you take those medications. Mine is just a small round plastic container. I mentioned doing that and my MS doc said it was a good idea and she was going to share with other patients. Of course, you could not do that with medications requiring infusion or injection such as Copaxone.

    We buried my nephew this past week, he had brain cancer and suffered unbelievable for 3 years, but he smiled as long as he could. He was 56 years old. Makes me give thanks I can still live alone at 77 and still have my mind except for short term memory. I am happy to have MS instead of a brain cancer. How blessed we are on a more positive side of MS.

  • Jughead
    4 days ago

    I too have always been afraid of being pulled over and being mistaken for being drunk. I recently told a retired cop about my fears. He told me the officer should ask if you have any medical conditions. I can never do the finger to my nose, and my balance if iffy. I don’t drink so he shouldn’t smell alcohol on my breath, I’m glad I’m not the only one who has worried about this.

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    1 day ago

    @jughead you are definitely not alone! I just have to hope that if I do that the police officer will be understanding! Thank you for reading!!

    Best wishes, Calie

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