(One in a series of stories about prohibited driving.)
No one would ever know.
Richard Wagamese could climb into his truck, bump along a quiet logging road, pick up a load of firewood and get back to his Paul Lake home with no one passing him, no one seeing him, no one knowing.
But he would know, which is why he won't do it.
Acclaimed author Wagamese is banned from driving for 10 years after being caught three times in a two-week period, drunk behind the wheel in March 2010. He was also given six months house arrest, ordered to stay away from alcohol and has to perform 50 hours of community service work.
It could have been worse and Wagamese, who pleaded guilty to the charges, knows it. The Crown was asking for jail time.
"Even though I was fortunate enough not to have hurt someone or crashed with other vehicles, the danger was great," he said.
While he has accepted responsibility for his actions, he doesn't remember what happened.
"I didn't know about the drinking and driving episodes until I was clear and sober. I was in a dissociative state," he said.
He was sober 18 months before he was sentenced for his drunk-driving violations.
"I don't remember anything. Listening to the evidence being read in court was like something completely foreign to me."
Wagamese has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has undergone treatment. He calls himself a second-generation residential school survivor; while he didn't attend any of the notorious schools himself, his parents and the adults around him when he was a child did. They coped by turning to alcohol, which switched off their ability to parent and switched on violence and neglect.
He grew up in two foster homes before being adopted into an abusive and staunchly Presbyterian household. When he was 16, he ran to the streets where drugs and alcohol could numb his feelings. But those feelings — anger, displacement, cultural lostness — didn't die.
"What it did was reinforce the realization I needed to always be managing my disorder and my grip on reality," said Wagamese, who was born to Ojibway parents in northwestern Ontario.
"That, to me, is a great motivator for continued sobriety. I'm coming up on three years."
That's three years without alcohol or a traumatic episode, due to therapy and learning how to deal with triggers that bring on PTSD episodes.
He has learned first-hand if trauma isn't revisited and dealt with, it can overwhelm.
In his disassociated state, Wagamese crashed his truck on the frontage road in Valleyview with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit. Five days later, his truck was found in a ditch off Paul Lake Road. Inside, Wagamese was sitting incoherently with open liquor bottles around him and a blood-alcohol level of 0.30.
Nine days after that, he was found drunk in his truck in Calgary, with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.315.
Wagamese takes those events seriously, although it's as if they happened to someone else.
"In my normal life again, I realized more than anything that I have an obligation to the community to not endanger it again with my presence behind the wheel," he said.
While his driving ban makes life inconvenient sometimes for himself and his wife Debra Powell, he won't take chances. He is respecting the court's decision that he shouldn't drive.
"I know absolutely this is a sentence and the upshot of the whole deal if I was ever to make that choice (to drive) would be to be recharged again. I just don't need that reality, nor do I ever want it," he said.
"It's good because it reinforces my grasp of reality. I can't allow myself to slip into even a semblance of never never land."
He described the PTSD as going down the rabbit hole — something that would happen when his childhood beatings and abuse were triggered.
"It's frightening. Not being able to make a rational choice about the things that I'm doing is scary. It's scary to such a degree that I marshal my days and my energies very carefully. I want to be 100 per cent cognizant of my emotional stage at all times in case something from my past comes up and goes bang."
As for his wood pile, Wagamese called friends to drive him into the back country 150 metres from his driveway to stock up for winter.
"I phoned my friends and they're aware of my situation and sentence and I said, I need someone to drive the truck so I can get wood," he said.
"I would have had to deal with guilt and shame. Not that I didn't in this situation, but it would have been greater and sharper. Just to reinforce the notion that when you assume responsibility for your action, you automatically resume responsibility for your actions going forward," he said.
"If you can get to that, the likelihood of letting your ego and your pride getting you to do something that the court said you shouldn't is less likely."