Quitting Driving: It Was Easy but So Difficult

I have talked about driving here on MultipleSclerosis.net before, but today I want to approach this from a different angle. First, let me refresh your memory. In 2015, after a pretty bad relapse, my vision just went crazy! Nystagmus and Oscillopsia on top of the optic neuritis and reoccurring blind spot in my left peripheral vision (that would sometimes disappear for months and sometimes come back for just as long) made me decide to not get behind the wheel anymore.

I took myself off the road

That’s right, I didn’t lose my driver’s license, and no one was telling me that I couldn’t drive; I chose to stop driving on my own because I felt I couldn’t trust myself not to hurt someone else on the road. I knew I could (and I know I still can) pass any and all tests related to driving that the DMV could throw at me, but I also knew that they just don’t have the right tests to identify my visual problems as a danger or that those problems even existed. So it was up to me to take myself off the road.

MS has robbed me of enough already

But I wasn’t going to volunteer my license to the DMV; instead, I would keep it so that I could say that I am technically still allowed to drive but am merely choosing not to on my own because I believe it’s the right thing to do. I didn’t want to feel like that choice had been taken away from me because I am responsible enough to do what is safe without someone directing me. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has already robbed me of enough anyway.

Feeling better about myself

Plus, when I encounter someone who obviously should not be driving but still has somehow managed to hold on to their license, I can low-key rub the “got to be a responsible adult” card in their face because “How selfish does someone have to be to endanger the lives of others just because they still want to drive a car?” When this happens (and yes, I do know people who drive despite them clearly being a danger on the road due to medical issues), I have to admit, it does make me feel a little better about myself. It’s almost all worth it for that one moment where I get to say, “Legally, I can drive; here is my license, but I haven’t driven in 4 years because I know I’m not safe on the road. I am choosing to be responsible and not drive anymore”. I guess I see it like I have the willpower to do what’s right and they don’t. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I don’t really care because guess what? I’m not going to smash a 2-ton weapon into an innocent driver or a pedestrian especially when driving is not a complete necessity.

One of the most difficult decisions to make

Now, I have (for the most part) mentioned all of this before, but first, I would say this is all worth mentioning a thousand times if it’s even remotely possible that I might help someone change their mind about getting behind the wheel when they probably shouldn’t. Secondly, it’s all necessary to repeat so that this next bit makes sense; giving up driving was an easy decision both morally and logically, but personally? It’s been one of the most difficult choices I have had to make in my life because giving up driving meant giving up a lot of my freedom… I mean… a lot!

Giving up a lot of freedom

No longer can I wake up to realize that I am out of creamer for my coffee and just run to the store to pick some up really quick. Everything like shopping has to be so carefully planned because getting a last-minute ride usually turns into a huge endeavor. “Sure, give me like 20 minutes and we can go but while we’re out I want to stop by this other store, and then I also have to do this” and then even though I just needed coffee creamer I won’t end up getting back for an hour at which point I don’t even want coffee anymore. I hate that I can’t run quick errands on my own and when I want to!

Driving was a way to clear my head

I also hate that I can’t just “get away” to think for a minute like I used to. Before, when I was stressed out or just needed to clear my head, I would just hop in my car and drive. I wouldn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care, I just drove. Now, I feel so stuck in one place, and even after 4 years, I still haven’t found a new way of “just getting away” like I used to so I can clear my head. Maybe it sounds dumb, but it really helped me manage my stress. The open road, the hum of the engine, and the subtle vibration of my tires on the highway. Plus, I just hate not being able to drive. I loved the simple act of driving, and now all I can do is sit in the passenger seat and stare out the window at other people not knowing how to drive (because I live in California where people don’t seem to understand that cars come with a blinker feature), and it drives me nuts! I could drive so much better! Ugh, I just miss it! The freedom! The feeling of the steering wheel gripped in my hands and the feeling that I could go anywhere I wanted. The feeling of acceleration upon pushing down on the gas and the feeling of being in control; the feeling of power!

Giving up freedom to do what's right

From the moment I was 15, I was dying to start driving, and when I did I felt like my life had changed. I had so many options! But when MS took that away from me? Or rather, when MS made me have to choose to stop driving? Everything changed again, only this change sucked. Sometimes, I still hope and dream that one day my vision will magically return to normal so that I can buy a new car, get behind the wheel, and drive 100 miles through the desert to Barstow, not because I have to but because I can. But I am realistic, and I understand the course of this disease, so I have pretty much come to terms with the idea that I’ll never drive again, and as much as that sucks, it’s OK with me because it’s the right thing to do. Without hesitation, I’ll give up the freedoms that driving gave me to do what’s right.

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