It was a milestone birthday, but not the time to celebrate: A 50th birthday, marked in state prison, as Cathy served time after her conviction on a sixth OWI.
“Life was getting away from me,” said Cathy, who asked only to be identified by her first name.
“Time was going quickly, and I wasted so much time being wasted… embarrassment, shame, and alone.”
Cathy has stopped drinking and driving, she said, but still drinks. Her last OWI conviction was in 2010. She asked that where she lives in northeast Wisconsin not be published. In connection with her OWI convictions, Cathy was never charged with injuring anyone or causing a crash.
NBC 26 talked with Cathy as part of Project: Drive Sober, the series that works to reduce drunk driving in Wisconsin. In taking a wide look at the issue of drunk driving, two central questions for Cathy were, “Why did she continue to drink and drive after multiple OWI convictions?” and “Why did she eventually stop drinking and driving?”
"You know they call it [a] habitual offense… for a reason, it was a habit,” Cathy said.
She said she had “distortions” that led her to believe that because she had the right to drink and paid taxes, she had the “right” to drink and drive.
“I can’t differentiate between the two for some reason, some cognitive distortion or impaired thinking,” Cathy said of drinking and driving.
"I got caught a number of times, but there were a number of times that I didn't."
As for why she stopped, she said she decided that driving was more important to her than drinking.
The personal toll of her life’s story has been steep, Cathy said.
“I gambled everything, home, relationships, money, jobs, I sacrificed everything for that gamble, that risk."
Wisconsin Department of Transportation numbers show more than 4,000 drivers in Wisconsin have six OWI convictions.
Cathy encouraged that anyone who struggles with drinking and driving find a separate passion or hobby.
“Start researching other things to do,” she said.