When a Drunk Driver Hits With Carey Portell


On December 29, 2010, what started as a typical evening commute quickly ended with Carey Portell's life being turned upside down. “I always tell everybody, you always think about being hit by a drunk driver like on a weekend, but ours happened on a Wednesday around 6:20, so it was completely out of the ordinary time when you think something like that should happen and we were just driving to town,” says Carey Portell.

Carey, along with her two middle daughters, was headed to town to teach an exercise class when a drunk driver suddenly slammed into their vehicle. Carey explains, “I was eight minutes from home. I saw this truck coming at us, and it was out of control, and I thought this is going to happen. This is going to happen right now and I can not believe this is going to happen.”


Carey's courageous story is near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. Being a therapist in the prison system, it's not uncommon for me to work with individuals who are incarcerated for an alcohol-related crime – everyday men who now identify by a number due to having committed a crime while under the influence.

Working with these fellas has opened my eyes to the realities of drinking and driving and the massive impact it can have on someone's life. As a girl who has drunk and drove herself, it's stories like Carey's that helped wake me up to my own poor choices and behaviors. Not only am I in the trenches daily with people who have drunk and drove, but my life has also been rattled with fear due to drinking and driving.


In 2019, my youngest brother drove while intoxicated and was involved in a solo crash. Receiving the phone call from my mom was an instant heart sinker. The fear and unknown, paralyzing. As the tears rolled down my face, I was thankful he was alive but more terrified of how closely he came to being my client. It's because of my fear, and desire to ensure no one gets behind the wheel while intoxicated, that I wanted to share Carey's story with you today.


In today's episode, Carey shares her pain and also her triumph from the lens of what it looks like when you are the victim of drinking and driving, but most importantly, she explains how she refused to play the victim in her circumstances. “I would say quotes out loud to myself because I had to be my own best motivator. I had to be my own coach. My husband has been an awesome coach, but when he's not there and not available, I had to count on myself, and I would literally say, Carey, you can do this. You know you can. It's really hard right now, but you know you've got to do this” explains Carey.

Thirteen surgeries later, Carey Portell is here today to discuss how she went from being the person who took care of victims of drunk driving to being the victim in an accident she never saw herself being involved in.

If you're ready to hear Carey's courageous story, join us inside Episode 5 When a Drunk Driver Hits: A Courageous Conversation With Carey Portell.

  • Did the drunk driver survive the accident? (5:19)
  • What did life look like after the car accident? (7:23)
  • How did you stay optimistic and what did that journey look like for you? (10:46)
  • What were your injuries from the accident? (16:45)
  • Were you able to find forgiveness in your heart for the drunk driver? (23:02)
  • How have you turned your pain and emotion into purpose? (28:02)
  • Did you struggle with addiction to pain medication? (36:34)
  • What does the future look like for you in regards to physical healing? (45:40)
  • Did your daughters have any residual trauma from the accident? (48:32)
  • If you could give one piece of advice what would you say? (52:43)
  • What happens when life throws you a curve ball you never saw coming (2:30)
  • How Carey's survival led her to connect on a spiritual level on the question of why she survived and what her purpose was going forward (5:55)
  • How Carey navigated survivors guilt (6:19)
  • How Carey went from 90 mph in life to nothing (8:14)
  • How optimism is a daily struggle and what keeps her going (11:07)
  • The injuries that caused Carey's partial disability (16:45)
  • How your body keeps the score after a traumatic experience (21:05)
  • How Carey healed the turmoil in her heart (23:06)
  • How recovery led Carey to become a public speaker (28:12)
  • Why Carey doesn't think prison is always the right answer for drunk drivers (32:20)
  • How Carey knew she was having withdrawals from her pain medication (38:50)
  • The moment Carey thought, “I might die” (49:53)
  • What courage looks like to Carey (53:46)
  • Plus much more…




The Body Keeps the Score

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