I'm reckless, it's expensive. How do I change?
September 15, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm reckless, it's expensive. How do I change?

Yesterday, I totaled my parents' car on the freeway. My driving record is not good -- I've gotten a DUI turned wet reckless and been in and out of court, and overall have been an unreliable driver for the past year. I lose and break expensive things/wallets/phones regularly and always seem to get stiffed by some insurance policy or another for not reading the fine print, costing my family thousands in the past six years.

I'm 22, just out of college, and still very dependent on my parent's money while I live outside home and find jobs (found a part time job 10 days of moving out). In the past year I have stopped doing lots of drugs and smoking cigarettes, as well as have cut down on weed until the nighttime. I still drink a lot. I definitely have an addictive and risk-seeking personality, as well as have been diagnosed with depression and bipolar. I'm extremely spacey and will focus on some things intensely while not noticing other things at all (hence I am a terrible driver). I'm tired of being such a financial sinkhole now that I'm on the brim of independence. I kinda feel like a reckless shithead.

So my question is -- are there recognizable characteristics that are common to people who are reckless? Is there something I can do to change this? How can I change myself and what in my thinking do I have to do? Are there patterns to reckless behavior that I should be actively noting and trying to avoid? Anything to help me change, I can't afford to be this reckless anymore.
posted by lyinlion to Human Relations (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You are an alcoholic. Get into a program. I imagine your problems with recklessness will be much reduced after you are sober.
posted by empath at 8:03 AM on September 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

You probably should move to a place where you don't need to drive and can get by with walking, public transportation, and maybe a bike. At least with a bike you're likely to kill only yourself, not someone else.

You should be seeking professional help for the rest.
posted by kindall at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2012 [18 favorites]

I don't have much to add in the way of practical advice, but good on you for recognizing this in yourself. That's a great start!
posted by meindee at 8:07 AM on September 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

as well as have been diagnosed with depression and bipolar

Is this being treated? I also have bipolar and I was a reckless driver when it was untreated.

Also, although generally this phrase irritates me, I think part of the problem is that you need to take some responsibility. You say you "always seem to get stiffed by some insurance policy or another". This is not strictly accurate. The reason you need to pay to replace or fix items is not that the insurance is stiffing you, it's that you're breaking them. I'm sorry if this feels like kicking you when you're down but you need to recognize it.

Really really really, though, if you're not getting your mental health issues treated, that is ABSOLUTELY the first step towards being responsible. As someone who's been there, trust me on this. Find a good doctor who can help get your brain on the right track!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:07 AM on September 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

are there recognizable characteristics that are common to people who are reckless?

Well, a subset of reckless people is going to be bipolar, so I'm simply flagging that.

Is there something I can do to change this?

Stop drinking? Get treated for the bipolar? I can only assume you are not currently in treatment because I cannot name a bipolar drug on which drinking is a-okay.

In other words, you seem to be saying "I'm bipolar and have a drinking problem and ON TOP OF THAT I'm really reckless and irresponsible" like it's some 3rd disease and what I'm trying to tell you is that the diagnostic starting point would be that it is in fact a symptom of one or both of the first two issues.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:08 AM on September 15, 2012 [26 favorites]

Also, just read your previous question. I have a similar past with partying hard and especially using a lot of MDMA and other club drugs. I was an mess at the end of several years of that, financially and personally, and was in a similar situation where all of my friends were alcoholics and or drug users and I was a complete space cadet and unreliable. I partially solved a lot of my problems by moving to a new city, almost unintentionally. A couple of years with no MDMA, new friends, and minimal drinking clarified a lot of things for me.
posted by empath at 8:14 AM on September 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

As someone who hasn't had this problem very badly but has seen a lot (and helped a few) friends recognize the problem, you need to get sober-as in no mind altering drugs at all. This is going to be hard both physically and mentally. My experience with people who make unwise decisions and use lots of drugs (and alcohol and Tobacco is just as much a drug as weed) is it is usually the drugs. With new friends/environment (or maybe just change who you spend most of your time with) the need to use the drugs will likely lessen and you can also work at finding new coping mechanisms or recreational activities. Also take up a time consuming hobby that requires a lot of concentration and when done you end up with something cool that gives you a sense of accomplishment-woodworking, making chainmail, pottery, restoring houses, whatever. The key (in my experience) is a valuable practical skill that requires dedication and concentration to master. When I started noticing some similar trends in myself at about 16 this is pretty much what i did-my hobby at the time was getting better grades in school (which eventually led to a fairly lucrative engineering career) and working on restoring old cars(and being able to fix my own cars has been a huge financial asset), with some forays into other hobbies. Mostly it seems what saves most people is becoming a useful person and learning practical skills that help give you a purpose in life so you don't want to waste it (life) on reckless, dangerous pursuits with little payoff.
posted by bartonlong at 8:57 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You need to quit drinking and go into treatment for bipolar, but you also REALLY need to quit driving. I'm very concerned that you are upset about the cost, but don't mention the very real threat to your life and the lives of other people on the road.

I do not understand with your driving record why your family would even consider letting your behind the wheel. Why haven't they put their foot down? Do they know about the DUI and court cases?
posted by Dynex at 9:42 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dual Diagnosis.
posted by mlis at 9:45 AM on September 15, 2012

Seconding empath. A few years off drugs will help your mental state enormously. For me, it took about 4 years clean to really start to feel normal. I promise, that 4 years will go by faster than you think. See about quitting the weed and booze for now; they're affecting you more than you think. Get medicated if you're not already. Stop driving for now. Buy cheap phones.

Don't push yourself too hard to "be responsible" right now; don't set yourself up to fail. And don't let other peoples' expectations or judgements about where you "should" be push you down. If you can only handle temp jobs right now, that's fine. Right now, focus on limiting danger, minimizing risk, and fixing/managing damage. Set yourself up to win. You can do it.
posted by windykites at 10:17 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Living somewhere where you can do everything on a bike would be a good step, on top of no longer needing to worry about driving, regular excersise can help in combination with other strategies to address both alcoholism and bipolar
posted by Blasdelb at 10:19 AM on September 15, 2012

Oh, I also just noticed the spaciness thing... have you been checked for ADD?
posted by windykites at 10:21 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

How would you feel being cut off from the parents funds? Have you ever been independent in that regard? I come from the school that believes once responsibility is bestowed upon one, the maturity catches up quicker that you could imagine. Of course, you seem to have some issues to deal with (the bipolar namely), but if you feel confidant, maybe it may be a gradual step for your parents to ween you off support?
posted by Hurst at 10:22 AM on September 15, 2012

I am not a mental health professional, just an interested amateur who has dealt with a lot of similar problems.

--Are there patterns to reckless behavior that I should be actively noting and trying to avoid? Anything to help me change, I can't afford to be this reckless anymore.

Asking for help is a good step, and reducing your drug use was also a good step. You sound really upset with yourself and very desperate to have a stable, secure, and predictable life where you can really build instead of always dealing with crises. You also sound like you're getting a little bit hopeless. I think that at this point, seeking out a mental health professional for help would be very positive for you. I suggest searching for someone who has experience with adolescents and young adults, and someone who has experience with adolescent and young adults with ADHD. I'm not saying that's your problem, but if it is your problem, you need to see someone who can recognize it and treat it.

--So my question is -- are there recognizable characteristics that are common to people who are reckless?

I'm going to put my nerd hat on here, to try to show you why this is not something amateurs (or even you by yourself!) can really figure out or handle.

Behaviors that could be called "recklessness" or "forgetfulness" or "spaciness" can be caused by any number of things, including one or more of these:
injury or disease of the brain (concussion, lesion, stroke, etc.)
injury or illness of the body that affects the mental state (hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, etc.)
mood disorders (depression, bipolar, variants of those)
personality disorders (notably borderline personality disorder, which is treatable)
learning disabilities and developmental disorders (ADHD and others)
developmental or intellectual disabilities
substance abuse
sleep deprivation
trauma, abuse, and/or neglect
That's just off the top of my head and I'm sure I'm missing some. As you can see, there are a lot of things that could be going on when you say someone is "reckless"! To make it even more complicated, none of these conditions happen in a vacuum, they often go together. For example, someone could have ADHD that made them vulnerable to social exclusion and bullying, which contributed to social anxiety and poor social skills. They self-medicate their ADHD and social anxiety with daily weed which makes their attention issues worse. They get fired from one job after another and become depressed. So some problems contribute to other problems, or make other problems worse. If you don't treat the underlying cause(s), the problem can't be completely solved, no matter how hard you work at it. That's where professionals come in.

--Is there something I can do to change this? How can I change myself and what in my thinking do I have to do?

It depends what "this" is, which is a complicated question! Asking for help is a great first step! Most of the issues I listed above can be successfully treated with medication, therapy, or both. Depending on the cause, there might be behaviors or limitations that are beyond the reach of treatment. However, even these behaviors or limitations can have their negative effects mitigated by disability accommodations, professional assistance with certain tasks, and realistic choices about occupational and recreational activities. There is help. It might take a while to get it, but there is help.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:46 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Reckless people tend to use substances that affect their judgement and their moods, and they also often have mental conditions that affect their impulse control and their moods. At least, that's what I know, but I'm not a health professional; on the other hand, you pretty much name the sources of your problems upfront. You know yourself what's behind all this, I think.

I think you need to stop driving, because it seems like for all intents and purposes you can't drive. I'm deadly serious when I say this. Just because your licence hasn't been taken away yet doesn't mean you're fit to drive, and I think you are pretty well aware that that's the case for the time being, so, no more driving.

Since you also say you have a drinking problem I think the next thing you need to do is figure out how to get to an AA meeting on foot or by public transportation, probably not a bicycle for you right now. It doesn't matter if AA isn't a perfect solution, it is a possible way of addressing your drinking problem right this minute, so you should do it.

Next, as in, ideally today but you could do this tomorrow, approach your mental health professional, describe your problem, and ask them to point you towards resources for therapy and also to support groups for others with the same diagnosis. You could show them this thread, perhaps.

Good luck, and hopefully you'll be able to get yourself sorted out by addressing the root causes of your problems.
posted by tel3path at 2:46 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Um, and also what the young rope-rider said. It might take time to get you really functioning at your best, but there are always ways to figure these things out.
posted by tel3path at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2012

as well as have cut down on weed until the nighttime.

Dude, if you're toking everyday - and drinking a lot - I mean, that is a lot of drugs. Cutting down on weed during the daytime, unless you have cancer or something, that actually should be a given for the vast majority of adults living an adult life. Smoking a few bowls every night or whatever is still a shitload of pot.

Reduce your intoxicant consumption, dramatically. If nothing else I feel confident it will help a lot. Do it before you kill yourself or someone else on the highway or something.
posted by smoke at 4:13 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Expensive" is not the problem. "Likely to kill someone else as well as yourself" is the problem.

A lot of people self-medicate for bipolar disorder with alcohol and/or weed. This is not a good combination with driving, ever.

My guess is that your psychiatrist is going to insist on your getting sober. Please listen to them. It will help your recovery and also, you know, not running into a bus of preschoolers.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:29 PM on September 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

My brother was kind of like you in his early twenties. When the financial consequences of his recklessness started biting him instead of our parents, he magically became a lot more cautious.

But in order to not end up dead or in jail before time has that calming effect, you really, really, need to stop driving.
posted by lollusc at 8:29 PM on September 15, 2012

Yesterday, I totaled my parents' car on the freeway.

Often it takes a dramatic event to shake people into clarity. You're still looking at this through the lens of money and your personal / family dynamics. Let the event shake you just a little harder, because it's bigger than that:

You are very lucky that nobody died yesterday by your hand.

Step two, seek treatment. Step one, relinquish your use of cars. They are force-multipliers for poor control, and it's a whole-society issue when you put yourself in the position where your poor control will kill strangers. You can fix or replace a cell phone you break; you will not be able to bring a person back to life after you crash a car into them.
posted by ead at 3:08 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Weed is not your mate if you have a mental illness. I totally understand the need to get out of yourself - I have a hardline about drinking when I'm down, but I have known people who gamble, and I used to spend a lot of money when depressed - but it does make one paranoid and it won't help your judgement.

Some people are great with drugs and can enjoy them like some enjoy a cigar or a pint of beer. I've always been of the opinion that those with serious mental health conditions are not. It would be wise to speak to a medical professional about how to deal with cutting down or giving up./
posted by mippy at 5:03 AM on September 17, 2012

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