Who’s to Blame for the Fact that an MTV Star Drove While Intoxicated?

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Last week, Ryan Edwards of the long-running MTV hit show Teen Mom OG set the Internet on fire by driving under the influence on camera. After the initial shock of seeing somebody so messed up driving, I’m just not as horrified as my fellow #TMOG fans. Here’s why: addicts do stupid stuff. They just do. And I should know, since I did drugs pretty much every day from the time I was 15 until the age of 25.

While I don’t condone illicit drug use or driving while intoxicated, I’m not surprised that Ryan drove high. Honestly, I doubt this was the first time. People who are mentally and physically dependent on substances drive under the influence every day. How else would they get anywhere? I’m joking (only kind of). But seriously, is it realistic to think that every person with a crippling addiction problem is riding the bus, taking an Uber or sitting at home on their couch? Not likely. According to SAMHSA’s most recent survey, 23.5 million people in the US needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem and only about 11% percent actually went to rehab. That’s a lot of untreated addicts sharing the road with us.

Yes, it’ scary. I recently reported on Ryan’s substance abuse problems, but I had no idea it had gotten this bad during filming. The scene on Monday’s episode of TMOG featured a warning that some viewers may find the content disturbing. Of course, that only made people curious (or was that just me?) The footage actually made me a little sick to my stomach. Ryan Edwards drove his fiancée, Mackenzie Standifer, to their impromptu Riverside wedding ceremony totally high. And not just two beers slightly buzzed—no, he was high on some sort of opiate or benzo. In short, he was the kind of wasted that had him struggling to focus, nodding out behind the wheel and babbling incoherently.

Footage from the MTV dashboard cameras installed in Ryan’s car showed him swerving and complaining that he couldn’t see straight. He feebly blamed the fact that the sun was in his eyes, inexplicably removing his sunglasses. This didn’t help. Mackenzie, wearing her wedding dress in the passenger seat, actually poked him several times in an effort to keep him alert. At one point she even reached over and took the steering wheel to keep the car in its lane.

Watching the way Mackenzie reacted to Ryan’s obvious intoxication was the most telling part of the whole scene. She had clearly seen him in this state before. The cameras captured her face as it slowly dawned on her that her life was at risk. She went from looking pissed off that Ryan was high again, on the way to their wedding no less, to appearing desperate to sober him up and keep the car on the road. But never once did she tell him to pull over. In fact, she covered for him by reaching over to turn off the dashboard cameras.

The type of classic enabling behavior Mackenzie exhibited isn’t a one-time thing. This is the reaction of a person who is so used to walking on eggshells around an addict that she won’t even stand up for herself even when her life is in danger. Then, after the harrowing ride, she went ahead with the wedding! I guess it’s worth noting that he seemed to have gotten it together a bit by the time the ceremony was underway; seeing his mom sobbing because she couldn’t believe he was getting married without his son must have had a sobering effect.

Mackenzie isn’t the only enabler in Ryan’s life. MTV probably deserves some of the blame in this situation. However, I don’t agree with the bandwagon of viewers who are outraged that MTV allowed this to happen. Remember, he’s an addict. I hate the disease of addiction. Addicts will get high and do stupid stuff regardless of the consequences. The cameras were rolling unmanned while Ryan was driving under the influence. There’s no way the MTV producers could have known exactly how impaired Ryan was until they watched the footage back later. By then, it was too late. They captured the most dramatic scene in the history of the show and nobody died.

In fact, if Ryan’s wasn’t such good TV, he would be forced to get a life instead of being paid to be a teen dad. He is one of the few cast members who has never gone to college, started a career or expressed interest in a passion project beyond racing dirt bikes and remote control cars in his parents’ yard. Lucky for him, Ryan’s teen dad status has made it possible for him to be part of the 11% of Americans who have the opportunity to get treatment. Let’s hope his recent stint in rehab has helped him get sober and find some direction in life. After this very public display of reckless behavior, it’s clear that Ryan needs all the help he can get.

Photos courtesy of MTV

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Becky Sasso is a writer and editor who worked at the world headquarters of an international 12-step organization and has a master's in communication from Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

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