Nearly 20 years ago, Lynette Welch was into her second straight day of drinking when she climbed behind the wheel of her powder blue Chevy truck and drove from her brother’s house to make a run to the liquor store.
It was Aug. 10, 2000. Welch was 31 years old and married with two young children, living in her hometown of Williams Lake, B.C.
Welch turned her pickup down Horsefly Road, a long, winding backroad with worn centre lines and gravel shoulders leading into grassy ditches. Speeding, she lost control on a curve.
The Chevy lurched off the road and rolled four times, the cab crushed a little more with every rotation. No one else was involved or hurt in the single-vehicle crash, but Welch arrived at the hospital braindead and only survived after emergency surgery.
Welch hasn’t driven since that crash nearly 20 years ago. She lives alone on disability in an apartment in Williams Lake, unable to work because of her traumatic brain injury and a paralyzed arm. She has trouble with her memory and, in her words, she doesn’t walk correctly.
She’s 51 years old, divorced and has only seen her two grown children, on average, once a decade.
Welch posts old photos of the wreck and its backstory several times a year, especially around the holidays, warning others how much they can lose, or take away from someone else, if they choose to drive drunk like she did.
“I lost my life, in a sense,” said Welch, speaking by phone from her home. “That’s what people need to realize: It costs you so much and it could cost other people, too.”
Welch was an alcoholic at the time of the crash, drinking in secret in her laundry room as a way to cope with stress and a failing marriage. She worked as a licensed daycare provider.
She said the choice to drive the day of the crash wasn’t really a conscious decision at all. She just did it because she felt she could.
“I just drank because I got away with it … I never, ever was confronted about it,” Welch said.
Welch was in a coma for more than a month after the crash. She and her ex-husband separated soon after.
A judge granted him full custody of their children after they divorced, a ruling Welch attributes to her history of alcohol abuse. The children and their father soon moved out of province and have seldom returned to B.C.
“I have a bit of a relationship [with my kids], but nothing like I could have had, that’s for sure,” said Welch. “Now they call their step-mom ‘Mom.'”
Welch dumped her last drink down the kitchen sink on Sept. 22, 2003. She spent years speaking to teenagers in her community through the Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth program, known as the P.A.R.T.Y. program, which runs throughout B.C. to expose young people to the dangers of impaired driving by showing them the potential consequences.
Impaired driving is the third-leading cause of crashes in B.C., behind distracted driving and speeding. One-third of deadly crashes in the province between 2008 and 2016 involved drugs or alcohol, according to the BC Coroners Service.
Now, Welch posts her story on Facebook and encourages others to share it with their networks.
“It always brings back memories of my decision whenever I share on Facebook, but it’s more important that people see the message,” she said.
“I’m not just standing, shaking my finger, saying you really shouldn’t drink and drive … You can see, physically, with me, why not to drink and drive.”
“I lost one life when I crashed that truck and even if I reach one person … I think that’s why I was maybe allowed to live.”