Last night HBO debuted the titled eponymous documentary about Diane Schuler, the wife and mother who killed 8 people in a head-on crash while going the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway in 2009. The autopsy of Mrs. Schuler showed that she was seriously impaired by alcohol and marijuana at the time of the crash and witnesses said that her driving looked so purposeful that it seemed like she wanted to kill herself.
Her husband emphatically disagreed, placing blame for the autopsy results on bad medical work. He engaged a separate reading of the toxicology reports and then refused to believe they were accurate.
Her family believes that the drinking was situational at best, and she indeed had no history of missing work, was a high producer and an overscheduled mom.
There was no evidence that she regularly drank, and the kids in the car thought her behavior (the title of the film comes from the words of the call made from her niece to her brother-in-law during the trip) was “strange.” In fact it was so strange and out of character for her that her husband and police went looking for her.
The forensic psychiatrist who reviewed her files and spoke to the family says that Mrs. Schuler was in physical (she had a severely abcessed tooth) and emotional (her father left her at nine) and that she took a drink to stop the pain. The drink didn’t stop the pain, and she took another and another and another. The marijuana, which she used “to help her sleep,” impaired her judgment and the results were tragic.
I watched it last night and would agree, from a cinematic standpoint, with the author of this review http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/07/25/arts/television/theres-something-wrong-with-aunt-diane-on-hbo-review.html?ref=dianeschuler#
Naturally, the story itself has spouted a fountain of opinion from the 12 step community, using the death as an object lesson for the need to understand the “codependence” of Mr. Schuler and how alcoholic Mrs. Schuler was.
Since the surviving members of the families killed in the crash are suing Mr. Schuler, I would expect this sad story to be in the papers for a long time. I would also expect the thumping of more drums from the 12 step communities, making the crash about them and adapting the circumstances as an object lesson to teach us all that AA solves everything.