Learning to Drive – The Road to Recovery

Someone recently asked me, ‘Tracey, what have been the main lessons you have learned in your recovery?’ It was a tricky question because there has been so much more to my journey than just putting down the drugs. So I came up with this learning-to-drive metaphor to explain in the hope you can relate.

Like learning to drive, life is challenging; there is much to consider. In addition to looking after your car, there are other issues to consider, such as abiding by specific traffic laws and respecting other drivers on the road. As in driving, life can be unpredictable and dangerous, so you must be prepared for any challenges or emergencies, including dealing with inconsiderate drivers on the roads who have no regard for other road users.

Life before learning to drive.

For most of my young adult life, I’d always been the back seat passenger; I usually placed my trust in the person who was driving, assuming they had my best interest at heart; that was until the car that someone was driving crashed (drug-induced psychosis).

After the crash, I bravely took some driving (life) lessons to be the primary designated driver in the future. Also, I reasoned that if I got lost or crashed again, I would only have myself to blame.

I embarked on my (recovery) lessons in my early twenties; since then, I have had various driving instructors, the first being my CPN nurse. In the early days, some of the instructions (advice) she offered me didn’t come naturally. Still, I soon picked up on the basic skills (coping strategies) that would eventually enable me to drive and navigate life independently.

One of the first lessons I was taught before I could even move the car was a sequence of actions called Mirror, Signal and Manoeuvre.

Mirror: Represents the importance of self-awareness, learning to check my own thoughts, feelings, and actions regularly and see how they might be affecting myself and others. This is also about learning from my past experiences and adjusting any future plans accordingly.

Signal: Represents the importance of communication and cooperation in life. I must express my ideas, opinions, and emotions clearly and respectfully to others. It also required that I needed to listen to and understand other people’s perspectives and needs and how to work with others to achieve common goals and resolve conflicts peacefully.

Manoeuvre: Represents the importance of action and adaptation in life. Figuring out what steps I need to take to pursue my dreams and overcome challenges. It’s also about learning to be flexible and resilient when facing changes and uncertainties and coping with stress and setbacks.

Then, there were some other technical skills that I needed to figure out, such as

The steering wheel (My heart) often dictates my direction.

Acceleratorlearning to slow down and pace myself.

Brakewas about learning when to slow down and using the emergency stop!

Indicators were there to let others know which direction I am taking.

Hazard lightslet people know I’m not okay or to approach with caution.

Hand breakknowing when to stop.

Clutch (thinking) decision-making, before changing gears,

Gears – understanding that as well as changing the speed and power of the car, they were vital for saving on fuel and reducing engine wear.

Then, I had to learn how to look after the car and deal with everyday problems, such as regularly checking tyre pressure oil levels, changing a flat tyre, or avoiding overheating, which might cause a breakdown. Or, in my case, abstaining from drugs and learning to prioritise my own mental health needs.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, there were the observational skills to learn and consider.

Windscreenrepresents the present and the future.

Wing and Rear-view mirrorsremind me to check if I still need to check before making a turn, or that I cut someone up by mistake, or run someone over because I wasn’t paying enough attention

Taking a look under the Bonnet.

Also, I wasn’t content with wanting to learn how to drive the car; I wanted to learn how to be my own mechanic just in case I ever broke down again. That way, I’d know how to fix myself instead of relying on someone else to fix me.

This meant lifting the bonnet of my car and delving into the engine to figure out the mechanics of my mind, which was more complicated than I had anticipated. I learned about CTB, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, via a counselling course. I learned about NPL, also known as neurolinguistic programming, which helped me determine the links between my thinking, feeling, and behaviours. I also identified and changed some limiting beliefs and habits hindering my personal growth. I learned about emotional intelligence and self-awareness, which helped me to recognise and manage my emotions and, more importantly, understand the emotions of others.

This learning also helped me understand that while most cars are built similarly, everyone’s engines are different.

Ditching the L plates

After years and a lot of practice, which also included many mistakes, I finally could ditch the L plates and was free to drive wherever I wanted. The only problem was that after learning all that, I still needed to figure out which direction or destination I wanted to travel to.

In the early days, I would only drive around familiar areas, mainly because I was frightened that if I ventured too far, I might get lost. That’s when the A to Z (college/learning) came in handy. Nowadays, I’m less afraid to venture into the unknown.

Navigating rules  

I quickly learned the road’s rules and regulations, such as speed limits, right of way, traffic signs and signals, lane markings, and parking restrictions. Now I realise that they aren’t just there for me. They are there to make way for others. For example, speed limits are there to protect you and others on the road, which is another reminder that life doesn’t revolve around me.

Dealing with road rage

It was and still is more challenging than when it came to figuring out how to drive my own car. Learning to share the roads with other drivers, especially incompetent or inconsiderate road users, was and still can be challenging. I would often suffer from bouts of road rage, which wasn’t healthy, so I had to learn how to

  • Control my impulses and calm myself down when I felt angry or stressed.
  • I needed to become aware of my triggers and patterns and understand why I behaved the way I did.
  • I needed to improve my coping skills and strategies and learn from my own mistakes.

So, what have I learned from my lessons to date?

Learning how to drive can be hard or easy depending on various factors, such as your age, personality, past lived experience, learning style, instructor, and practice. Some people find it difficult initially, but it gets easier with time and experience.

Learning to drive can evoke all sorts of negative emotions, but through it all, it teaches us to remain patient and not be overpowered by our emotions. But one of its beauties is that it can give you more freedom, convenience, and independence, as you can travel to different places without relying on others.

Over the years, I have travelled a thousand miles, gotten lost, and found myself in many a dead end. I’ve visited some unique places but also some dark ones. However, I have learned how to use my headlights to help me navigate through the darker places.

I have realised that the same journey can be unpredictable on different days; traffic lights used to be annoying. Some days, I’d get lucky with green lights and zoom through quickly; others, it felt like I had to stop at every red light. Which highlights the role of luck and timing.

There have been times when I thought I had reached my destination, only to find I had much further to go. I’ve also mistakenly driven down the wrong streets only to be diverted towards avenues of personal growth.

I stopped allowing others to sit in my driving seat; I’ve figured out that I don’t mind offering people lifts to their own destinations, but not at the expense of reaching my end destination. I also learned that just because you have passed your test doesn’t make you a good driver.

Nowadays, I don’t just focus more on the destination but try to enjoy the journey and take in the scenes along the way.

And just like life, you can’t expect to master driving or life in a day. You must be willing to learn from your mistakes and improve your personal development skills, after all I dont want to lose my license.

Finally, after years of envy of people who drove shiny new BMWs or Mercedes Benzes,  I’m more content with being a good old reliable Ford.

Feel Free to share yours in the comments below

Love Fordy x



I don’t write for financial reward or gain. I just want to help share my lived experience with others hoping that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email (NO SPAM) with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.


6 thoughts on “Learning to Drive – The Road to Recovery

  1. God, this blog post hit home. Never thought of the driving theme before. Thanks for another brilliant post. I do look forward to seeing them.

  2. Tracey I just love this, and so spooky that I used the same analogy…synchronicity or what? Your mirror signal manoeuvre analogy is just perfect when thinking about how we manage ourselves in sobriety. Amazing. xxx

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