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Diane Schuler and the Scientific Link Between Binge Eating and Binge Drinking

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This article explores the plausible connection between binge eating and binge drinking as a possible explanation for Diane Schuler’s mysterious drunk driving accident that killed herself and seven others.

On Sunday, July 26, 2009, 36-year-old Schuler drove a Ford WindStar Minivan for 1.7 miles the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway, a scenic highway in New York. Witnesses say she was driving in a perfectly straight line at about 70 mph. At exactly 1:35 pm, Schuler crashed head-on into an SUV, which then hit another car.

Schuler, her two-year old daughter, Erin, and her three young nieces, Emma, Kay, and Alyson Hanse, were instantly killed. So were Guy Bastardi, Michael Bastardi, and Daniel Longo, the passengers in the oncoming SUV. Schuler’s five-year old son, Bryan, survived the accident with serious injuries, but all he recollects is that mommy had a headache and she couldn’t see. There were two other survivors in the third vehicle, but they escaped with minor injuries.

This was the most deadly accident on a New York Westchester County highway since 1934. Of course, all the deaths were tragic, but public sympathy ignited around Schuler’s brother because all of his children died in the accident. Picture three smiling, long-haired girls all under the age of nine. However, the feeling of tragedy quickly morphed into rage when the toxicology report showed that at the time of her death, Schuler was high on marijuana and had the equivalent of 10 drinks in her blood (and even more undigested alcohol in her stomach). How could this happen to a woman responsible for transporting five children home from a happy weekend camping trip?

Schuler’s husband, Daniel, steadfastly proclaimed that Diane was no drunk. In an effort to clear Schuler’s name, Daniel immediately lawyered up with Dominic Barbara, a high-profile attorney, and he hired Thomas Ruskin, a public investigator, to help make the case for Diane’s innocence. Then, as now, Daniel paints a wholesome picture of Schuler as a perfect wife, an outstanding mother, and someone who didn’t have a drinking problem. It’s still unknown how and why a dearly beloved, reliable mom from West Babylon (Long Island) who held a six-figure management job at Cablevision ended up drunk, high, and dead and took seven others along with her.

Schuler’s haunting story is chronicled inSomething’s Wrong With Aunt Diane, an HBO documentary by Liz Garbus, which is now available on DVD. The documentary provides a timeline and some video capture of events on the day of the accident. Garbus tells the story from the controversial perspective of Daniel and his sister-in-law, Jay Schuler. Daniel and Jay elected to participate in the documentary to somehow prove that Schuler’s behavior was atypical. Both were passionately convinced the accident was caused by an undiagnosed medical problem of some kind or there was a mistake in the autopsy report. Many people, for example, reported seeing Schuler rubbing her jaw in the days before the accident, which led to the idea that she might have been sick. Daniel also claims Schuler was a diabetic and that she had a lump on her leg. By the end of the movie, however, it’s conclusively proven that the autopsy report matched Schuler’s DNA and it was interpreted correctly. Schuler didn’t have a stroke or a heart attack.

The biggest, most complicated mystery surrounding Schuler is whether she was an alcoholic. Ruskin claims he interviewed 50 people, and no one officially identified Schuler as an alcoholic or even having an occasional drinking problem. That said, there are a couple of unofficial statements floating around on the internet. Daniel’s sister, Joan, is attributed with saying Diane drank heavily on a regular basis. And an anonymous co-worker says something similar. Then there’s that’s jumbo 1.75 liter bottle of Absolut vodka found under the front seat of the crashed minivan. Daniel says he and Schuler drank infrequently, and the same bottle of vodka was transported from camp to home because Schuler was too frugal to buy a second one. It’s possible, though, that Schuler purchased replacement bottles of vodka without Daniel’s knowledge.

The most shocking revelation was that Schuler regularly smoked pot before she want to bed at night to relieve stress, deal with insomnia, and self-medicate. Schuler didn’t look like a pothead, and she didn’t present herself as one, either. It’s possible that the intuitive hiding skills she used to keep her pot habit private are the same intuitive hiding skills she used to keep a drinking habit private. In every observable way, Schuler had the lifestyle and the demeanor of a normal suburban mom. The question to be answered is whether she was a mom with an unwanted behavior secret.

A hidden alcoholic is someone who controls his or her drinking so well that it isn’t noticed. There are no obvious clues or red flags. One organization estimates that for every alcoholic who admits his or her drinking problem, there are nine more who remain hidden. Most are women, and vodka is their preferred hard liquor of choice. Vodka, after all, looks like water and is easily disguised or added to other drinks. It doesn’t leave your breath reeking, and it doesn’t have a strong or objectionable flavor. Because Daniel worked a late shift, from 4 p.m. to midnight, Schuler had the freedom and the privacy to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted to do it. Daniel would never know.

All we can do is theorize about what happened to trigger Schuler’s out-of-control drinking and driving episode. One angle that hasn’t been previously explored has to do with the scientific link between out-of-control binge eating and out-of-control binge drinking. Schuler was 5’3”, and at the time of her death she weighed 204 pounds. That is a mere 10 pounds shy of being in a severely obese weight category. Even though it’s much harder for short people to keep their weight proportional to their height, Schuler was more than a little overweight.

Obviously, she was challenged by food and by eating too much. Or said another way, Schuler may have used food for reasons other than physical nourishment. She may have been an out-of-control eater, engaging in a more or less socially acceptable behavior that doesn’t have the same stigma as being an out-of-control drinker. Then there’s the fact that the more you weigh, the more you can drink without feeling or appearing drunk.

Binge eating and binge drinking go hand in hand. A 2009 study conducted by the University of North Carolina examined 13,000 women, and found that 72% of the women addicted to alcohol also have an eating disorder. That’s almost three out of every four. There’s a national trend (or better reporting) that also shows eating disorder patients tend to have corresponding binge drinking disorder problems. More specifically, someone with an eating disorder is five times more likely to have alcohol problems than someone who doesn’t have an eating disorder.

Binge eating is defined as an excessive indulgence in food over a short period of time. Like alcohol, it enables the person using food (or any other substance) to numb out and experience emotional relief. In fact, binging “lights up” the same brain pathways as alcohol, and there’s a correlation between a high BMI (body mass index) like Schuler’s and a family link to alcoholism. Alcoholism and binge eating are both thought to be induced by the same underlying triggers: high levels of stress, unresolved psychological issues, and an unrealistic belief system. I didn’t mention earlier that Schuler’s mother ran off with another man when Schuler was nine, and Schuler never forgave her or spoke to her again.

When you put all this together, the probability that Schuler had a secret issue with binge drinking becomes higher. From a spiritual perspective there’s absolutely no difference between binge eating and binge drinking. They’re both expressions of the same impulse to self-destruct, and it’s an easy leap to substitute one for another. That said, typically, binge eaters destroy only themselves.

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About Karen Bentley

Author, Educator, Founder of The SugarFreeInstitute and SugarFree Nutrition and Weight Loss Expert. Over 15 published books. The Power to Stop: Stopping as a path to personal power, self-love and enlightenment is currently a bestseller on Amazon Kindle. For more info visit www.sugarfreeinstitute.com, www.powertostop.com or www.karenbentley.com.
  • Alicia

    The Hance daughters names are Emma, Kate, and Alyson not Kay. Other than that very interesting article and something I never would have thought of.

  • carolynn

    A tragedy of enormous proportions, and one that everyone can imagine themselves being swept into. Eager to read more about what the author, Karen Bentley, has to say…

  • Roseann

    Dear Karen, that was my brother and father that were killed by the so called “binge drinker,” who in my eyes was an alcoholic. Her family was aware of her pot smoking, and I am sure they knew she drank. The loss of my father and brother was just as much a tragedy for my entire family as any other loss that day. I disagree with your equation of loss. Seventeen grandchildren lost their Grandfather and Uncle that day, the grief continues.

  • http://www.sugarfreemiracle.com Karen Bentley

    Hello dear Roseann, thank you so much for taking the time to read my article and for sharing your experience and opinion. I can understand the heartbreak of losing a father and a brother. Deepest sympathies to you and your entire family. And love, love, love to you all.

  • Julie

    This is an interesting article, I watched the documentary this Sunday, and the story has affected me greatly. Unfortunately we will never really know the truth, the only person who knows is gone forever. I feel lots of pain for all 3 sides, one side lost a mother and wife, one side lost all 3 children, one side lost a father, brothers, grandfather, uncles etc. The one fact is one person actions caused a lifetime of pain for so many people. Everyone has issues, faults, and demons, we will never know why she chose to drink and do drugs that day, and we can come up with different reason but at the end of the day no one knows why, and that is the hardest thing about this case. I hope time can heal these families, the pain will never go away, but hopefully everyday gets a little brighter for them.

  • aya yassen

    i think that the mommy was drinking many so when the Alcohol is accumulate in her nervous system and it passes a sign to the blood to take the alcohol and pass it throw the arteries and veins and when the blood goes to all the cells of course it will go to eye system or eye cell and it will make her out of control and this the reason why she did this bad accident !

  • http://blogcritics.org/scitech/article/diane-schuler-and-the-scientific-link/page-4/ Marc Jenks

    While the drink and drugs in her system is clear, it is also clear that at some point during that car journey she made a conscious decision to end her life, the witness reports all state she had lots of opportunities to turn off the road or stop and was very deliberate and driving in a straight line at over 70mph, she knew shew was drunk and unfit to drive as she had stopped at the side of the road numerous times before in the previous hour, I think the shame of her brother’s family finding out what state she was in and her resentment for her mother made her decide to give up, a real tragedy that she took those kids with her, my heart goes out to all the victims.

  • Deanna

    I watched this documentary on Sunday too. The story has haunted me ever since. I can’t get it out of my head. This woman was a real life functioning alcoholic. If you’ve never observed one before – this is what they look like. Believe me, I speak from experience. I have been sober for 21 years. I have been in many an AA meeting and seen many, many people die of this disease. I suppose the story has caught my attention because I know all too well that “but for the grace of God go I”!! It breaks my heart to see so many innocent men and children loose their lives because one alcohlic was in a blackout. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families. No one ever heals from a tragedy like this one. There are no words of condolence, only the truth of the reality that alcohlism kills. I am so very grateful for my sobriety. May the grace of God be with you!

  • Cathy

    Very well done documentary – I recently watched it. Very strange story, although I came away convinced that Diane was drunk and high, and that at some point during the drive, she may have purposely chosen to end her life. It’s too bad she couldn’t see straight enough to drop off the kids by the side of the road before she did so. My prayers go out to the victims and their families. Also, I pray that Danny Schuler will stop causing more pain (to himself, his son, and countless others) by denying the truth. He (Danny) needs counseling.

  • Corie Johnson

    This story is just so sad, the grief that all involved are feeling is unimaginable. i can say as a recovering alcoholic that you are not in your right state of mind when you drink, and sometimes you don’t even know what you are doing. i also know many people who drink and drive and think they are invincible and their families know they do this and just let it slide, until one day something horrible like this happens and they are forced to look at the bad choices a loved one made and the grief and guilt causes denial.

  • Will

    Articles like this make me realize that I too could write 17 books.

  • Zuzzy Wuzzy

    I don’t get it. Is this providing some sort of rationale for the behavior she exhibited that day? She was not higely obese, and photos show she was always built on the heavy side. If she had a problem with pot, alchol and food, it seems it was a deeper mental issue and all these things are symptoms of her personality disorder. She was also reported to be an overly controlling person, in her marraige, with her friends and in all parts of her life. Her problems were deep and innocent people paid the price. I don’t see how binge eating has any relevance, she had many other more serious problems that resulted in her murder-suicide that day. She was on a mission to end it all and punish the people who she percieved wronged her (her cheating lying husband and her brother who tried to exert his power over her).

  • Zuzzy Wuzzy

    Also, I see no scientific link mentioned or justified in this article. The husbands denial is deep and is a codependent aspect of this story. He looks like he has a problem with food too based on his size. It was probably her that overfed him in part of her illness. If she was a functional pot head/alcholoic then something else triggered that days events. Research it, her husband lied about where he was the day before the camping trip, he said he never wanted kids, she felt wronged and punished him, taking the kids and herself away from him. She punished her brother whose kids she killed after the phone calls where he told her to stay put. Instead, she drove in the opposite direction so he couldn’t find her and then purposefully drove the wrong way. She knew what she was doing and was not incapacitated, rather she used vodka and pot to give her the courage she needed to end it all.

  • virginia

    As a recovering alcoholic and a woman, I understand the secrecy involved in maintaining a habit, and the shame involved. The tragedy Schuler inflicted on so many people is unimaginable…but the denial of her husband is also a tragedy…..he needs a LOT of counselling, and so does that poor little boy. Unless he is somehow rescued, I fear for his future.

  • Gracie

    As a career woman, mother and alcoholic. I was this woman at one time in my life. Alcoholics (especially women)are very good at deception. For one, I drank all the time and no one knew. I worked, cooked, cleaned, went to ball games and not one person suspected a thing. I hid bottles where I knew no one would look. The only person that questioned me was my mother, on a visit she payed to my home. I was drinking vodka, in a coffee cup, yes coffee and vodka. If you are a alcoholic you will go to any length to get your drug. My opinion on that day, she got up hung over and was stressed out and thought just one drink in my soda and kept on going. One thought when she went in the gas station, I bet you she was looking for booze. I have done this on several occasions. I’m clean now and by the grace of god didn’t hurt anyone or myself. To the husband you are in major denial, mine was too. Not your fault, she was just really good at hiding her addiction from all that knew her.

    • Forbidden Fruit

      Amen. I can’t help but think that people would’ve just assumed she was an alcoholic if she were a Black or Latino male rather than a middle-aged white woman.

      Such is the STIGMA attached to addiction.

      Most addicts don’t look like homeless bums in the gutter. That is government-created propaganda. “Functional addicts” are just that–normal people who work, raise families and attend PTA meetings. They are your sisters, fathers, uncles, mothers and friends. Their own denial can be so strong it rubs off on loved ones who don’t want to see the problem for what it is. Alcohol withdrawal in particular can cause dangerous symptoms such as convulsions, delirium and seizures.

      Congrats on your sobriety. Drunk driving is an unforgivable act, yet so many people do it every day.

  • Jim Shier

    Did anyone consider that this was maybe a diabetic attack? She was overweight! I watched the doc yesterday and at one point the husband asked if it could have been a stroke, caused by a tooth problem, leading her to derink vodka, thinking it was water. SOunds nuts and so does the way she was driving. When one has a diabetic attack, they can really go nuts. She could have easily drank the vodka, nopt knowing what she was doing, if she was having a diabetic attack or stroke.

  • Suzanne G

    After watching this documentary the thing I found most frustrating was that Daniel (Diane’s husband) was unable to secure the necessary permits to have her exhumed and a second autopsy performed. Does anyone know why the state did not allow this? Eight people died that terrible day and there is alot that still makes no sense. I have seen this case argued over and over but at the end of the day no-one really knows why she did this. There’s the theory that she was a functional alcoholic and hid her problem well but if that’s the case why would she drink heavily and smoke pot knowing that she had to see her brother and sister in-law in a short while when she dropped off their children? If she was so careful about hiding her addiction it does not make sense that she would show up drunk. I also struggle with the theory that she was trying to kill herself…there is no basis for anyone especially those that never met this women to assume that. It also came across to me in the documentary that the private investigator would not hand over the physical evidence (blood samples)…again WHY? He stated to the producer that it was not worth his time or money….didn’t the family pay him $20000 to get that evidence? Why could Daniel not have Diane exhumed…perhaps a second autopsy might have revealed that she had something medically wrong with her…or sadly it may have just confirmed again that she was drunk/high that day and nothing more. For me the challenges the family had getting the results and obtaining a second autopsy seem a little to political.

  • Al Porter

    The most likely reason why this story is so vexing to most is the utter lack of understanding of BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder. People with BPD can lead normal lives on the outside but be chaotic and troubled privately. The filmmakers stressed Diane’s mother leaving at 9 for a very good reason – severe childhood abandonment trauma is the most significant cause of BPD. Some theorize that she was faced with a event that triggered a massive abandonment fear- perhaps Danny asked for a divorce and custody of the kids. The dredged up massive fears and she probably felt she not live with the outcome, and felt her children would go through the same trauma she did. So she ended her life and theirs. And this also fulfilled another twisted desire – to avenge her mother’s abandonment of her by taking away her mother;s most cherished things – her grandchildren. Do a web search on BPD and it will all make sense. No matter how you look at it, the booze or drugs angles don’t add up.

  • THE_MAD_BOMBER

    WHY IS THIS OLD SEWAGE STILL BEING PARADED IN PUBLIC???!!! THE WHOLE THING HAPPENED A LONG TIME AGO!!!! WHO TODAY CARES ABOUT OR REMEMBERS ANYTHING ABOUT IT???!!! IT’S TIME TO STOP LIVING IN THE PAST & MOVE ON!!!!
    NOW SHAAADDDUUUPPP ALREADY!!!!!!

  • Shaun T

    “A hidden alcoholic is someone who controls his or her drinking so well that it isn’t noticed. There are no obvious clues or red flags. One organization estimates that for every alcoholic who admits his or her drinking problem, there are nine more who remain hidden. Most are women, and vodka is their preferred hard liquor of choice. Vodka, after all, looks like water and is easily disguised or added to other drinks. It doesn’t leave your breath reeking, and it doesn’t have a strong or objectionable flavor.” I disagree and agree with this statement. I lived with a woman who was an alcholic and vodka was her drink of choice and I could instantly tell when she drank, you can always tell by their eyes.

  • FIZZY WIZZY

    TO THE_MAD_BOMBER…………..

    I AGREE WITH YOU 100%!!!!!

  • Sandy

    This is so tragic, To the Basteri and Hance families, my deepest condolences for your loss. Nobody will every know the reason for Diane Schuler’s actions that day, we can speculate all we want but her secrets died with her. To all the innocent lives lost that day, rest in peace and may God be with you

  • Bruce Hochman

    The bottom line. Diane was drunk and high and was directly responsible for ending 7 innocent peoples lives. What her motive was has no bearing on this case. Her husband is in the big state of denial.

  • TayTay4230

    I love how people automatically go to “Diane was an alcoholic”. Think about this from an investigative standpoint–Diane was seen an hour before the tragic crash in a gas station and was COMPLETELY normal. No stumbling, no incoherence, nothing. Then all of a sudden an hour later the drink/drugs are affecting her that way? There is more to this story than meets the eye. I have always leaned toward some neurological sort of problem–thats the only way to explain this. Even the claims from the son that “mommy can’t see and her head hurts” lends itself to this theory. Not only that, do you know an alcoholic who would load up a van full of kids including their own and then put them in danger like that purposefully? When every one else that knew her and saw her on a daily basis could vouch for her devotedness as a mother? There are too many things in this case that don’t add up–thats why you shouldn’t be so quick to blame her and call her an alcoholic and a drug addict. I’m not saying she didn’t drink or smoke pot–but I don’t think that’s all that caused this tragedy. You don’t have that much in your system and seem normal an hour before you die. That doesn’t happen. And she obviously wasn’t that way when she left the camp site, because her husband would not have let her drive his own kid or nephews/nieces were she that intoxicated. Im just saying…

  • MLL

    This story will remain a mystery as far as the reason why it happened. As far as something medical happening to her like a stroke caused by a toothache – the autopsy report was looked over twice by top experts that said nothing medical happened to her. The brain looked normal and no sign of a stroke. The blood was tested twice and her DNA was tested as well. I do agree there’s more to this story. I think her husband knew of her problems, but didn’t know how to handle it. By the way he acted on the documentary I could see where he may have tried to cover up what he knew. One thing that struck me was how his sister-in-law was so attentive to him. In fact, I thought a little too attentive. Maybe she knew something as well. We may never know. I feel sorry for the surviving son because he’s going to have alot to deal with. Hopefully they’ll all get counseling. It’s up to the surviving family to make sure he gets the help he needs to insure that he has a normal life as possible. My heart goes out to everybody involved in this tragedy.

  • Delf

    I agree with TayTay. I feel the time frame doesn’t make sense. What bothers me is the amount of alcohol in her system. If she started drinking from the moment she got up, she would of had to slam over ten ounces of vodka in four hours and not show obvious effects. It doesn’t work that way.

  • Barb

    The bottom line is that Diane had the equivalent of 10 drinks in her blood and additional undigested alcohol in her stomach. Perhaps there was a painful medical problem that caused her to drink but it seems clear to me that this was a woman who was drinking heavily at night alone. Her husband is in complete denial about her alcohol issues.There had to be signs. However for him to admit that he saw signs and that the autopsy is correct is also an admittance that she indeed caused the death of seven innocent lives. It’s easier to deny the truth of such a horror.

  • Lace

    Watching the documentary now. I only have a few sentences to write. I saw the part where the sister in law was going over the records and I saw that Diane was taking Ambien. I use to take Ambien and that drug is worst than LSD. I’m not saying she didn’t drink or whatever else, but I’ll tell you one thing. Ambien is dangerous. I did so many things while I was on Ambien and didn’t know about them to months later. One time, I found out, that i had driven to the store which is 5 miles away and back and have no recollection of it whatsoever. Completely blacked out but still functioning. It’s like a ghost is running your body. DON’T EVER TAKE AMBEIN !

  • Betty Bradley

    This is truly a tragic accident, I watched the documentary tonight and it broke my heart. First I want to say I can not drink Vodka, it gives me a severe headache, a blinding headache. Smoking pot did not cause this accident, what I’ve seen of pot, it mellows you out and eases pain. I think more tests should be done, if Diane was a diabetic a sign of heart problems is an aching jaw, I know, I had open heart surgery in 09 and I had a lot of jaw pain. I am praying for all involved in this situation and may God bless them all.

  • ELI

    I just watched this story on CNN. I feel Diane Schuler had taken something for her absessed tooth (perhaps something over the counter); and then drank. I do not know if she thought that the marijuana would help alieve the pain, but I feel she thought the three pain relievers would help her tooth from hurting, but this combination was deadly in her system causing her to crash.

  • ELI

    HAVE YOU EVER HAD A SORE TOOTH?

    YOU CANNOT EVEN SLEEP, IT HURTS SO BAD, YOU WOULD DO ANYTHING TO GET RID OF THE PAIN!

  • markyrgh1

    I just wanted to say as a recovering addict and alcoholic that mixing vodka and smoking marijuana especially the weed in 2009 is not the weed from 1970 and it is much stronger could easily render her unable to drive or even see properly and could easily have crashed this way but I think there is more to this story. I have read several accounts of the story, I think the family knows much more than they are telling about the phone calls and her mood as well as impairment that day. I honestly think this woman had a fight with her husband and decided it was all too much and decided to kill herself and unfortunately take everyone else with her. I never thought this myself to I read what someone who had studied the story said and his opinion was it was a suicide I wish I still had the link he makes a very convincing argument

  • Asl

    Just watched documentary. None of symptoms and behavior point to alcohol and pot. Especially when she was driving straight at 70mph. All point to migraines. Pain, nausea, vision issues, disorientation.

    • MsGravyNotSauce

      But the BAC twice the legal limit and the undigested alcohol in her stomach DO prove the alcohol. I suffer from severe migraines, have for 30 years, and in the throes of my worst would still not be so disoriented that I drove at a high speed in the wrong direction on a highway, let alone with children in the car.

  • Deb

    There is something about this story that doesn’t make sense to me. For one, every funcioning alcoholic shows signs, we may not always say anthing. So when did she smoke this marijuana, in the car? I doubt it. Maybe some smartass McDonalds employee put something in her drink? Just doesn’t add up.

  • Patti

    I think she may have had autonomic neuropathy. I am diabetic a type two diabetic and have been for thirty years. I was in perfect shape when diagnosed, less than ten percent body fat. I do not nor have I ever suffered from binge eating or binge drinking. I am highly offended when I read or hear that people gain weight and develop type two diabetes. My diabetes has caused me to gain weight. It got worse with pregnancy, and with age. For over twenty years I have struggled, going to one doctor for eight years who blew off my complaints of fatigue, inability to lose weight, prone to infection, yeast infections, bladder infections, abscess teeth, gum infections etc. I was always told lose some weight and come back in three months. Her symptoms ring true to me. I have had a severe down swing health wise since 2008. I have maintained a strick diet, exercise regime and very rarely drink. Constant constipation, vomiting, infections, shingles, gum infections, which all shot my blood sugar sky high. Finally in 2012 I was diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy. It’s quite possible she had drinks the night before, her digestive system was shut down and therefore the alcohol stayed in her stomach. Know one knows what really happened but there is one possible explanation! She seemed to have all the same symptoms that I had. I find your theory and blog very offensive

    • MsGravyNotSauce

      She was not diabetic. She had gestational diabetes while pregnant, which is a temporary condition. Autopsy report said she did not have diabetes.

  • Enough!

    Such a high concentration of alcohol and THC does not appear by some “magical” means.

    Look, she was drunk and stoned, lost control of her faculties and is responsible for the deaths of 7 people.

    I doubt she had intent to do so. But, she did make the choice to bombard herself with intoxicants.

    And furthermore, her husband, sister-in-law and legal team need to grow up and accept the fact that their “perfect little angel” caused this tragedy.

    • veronica verkely

      Ambien! it can cause you to sleepwalk, binge eat, binge drink, drive etc. It happened to me. Luckily my husband saved us by wrestling the wheel from me. I have zero memory of the incident. That same night we woke up to find, I had eaten bowls of coffee grounds. It was hardly a conscious choice.

      • Katie Chaos

        I just looked at the toxicology report & ambien is not listed in her system. just alcohol & thc. where is the information that mentions ambien? you are not the only comment that mentions this.

        • Terri Terri

          The documentary showed ambien among the list of prescribed drugs. When the sister in law was looking at the medical records. But there was nothing said about her actually taking an ambien in the time leading up to the crash.

          • MsGravyNotSauce

            And the Ambien was prescribed a couple of years before the accident. Those who are clinging to the Ambien defense are grasping at straws.

      • the truth

        She had a old ambien script…none showed in toxicology results…thc lingers in body stored in fat cell and shuler was a fat cow…so ok she didn’t get stoned in van that day, but .19 alcohol in blood…she was loaded. He was fully aware of what she was doing and got drunk to build up the courage to kill herself and kids because she found out the weekend of the 26th that husband was going to divorce her. Thats what selfish people do end there life and make other people suffer. This was a murder suicide.

  • Gal

    Enough! You are so right! There is no disputing the fact she was full of alcohol and pot. An addict can hold a job and act “normal” til it all comes crashing down.

  • Extenuating Circumstances

    Today the NY Post reports that the sister-in-law & her husband are launching a new book, “I’ll See You Again,” giving the tragedy legs again. I am 62, not in the USA, & surprisingly prescient about the truths of various crime scenes. I always knew, by my 6th sense, that Diane Schuler was victimized by shoddy autopsy work, jealous relatives, & lynch-mob public opinion. But she was blessed with a loyal, courageous husband. Diabetes? Ambien? Autonomic neuropathy? Diane’s tragedy, & the death of those beautiful kids, was not her fault. She was not a drunk, nor a pothead. I hope this new book attracts some knowledgeable medical experts to clear her reputation, even though it is hardly being written with that end in view.

    • MsGravyNotSauce

      Loyal and courageous husband? Are you serious? The same one who said he never wanted kids and was angry he had to take care of Bryan now that Diane was dead? And who leaves all the work of raising this poor child to his sister in law? He is a lazy, selfish man-child who seems to only care that now he has to be responsible for income and child care. If you smoke pot daily as her family admits she did, you ARE a pothead. And nobody drinks 10 drinks by accident. So much for your 6th sense.

      • debrajones9

        Well said!!

  • Dee

    This story has haunted me over the years as well. I saw the documentary and all of the possible explanations for Diane’s behavior that day. This woman was an alcoholic pure and simple… and all of the theories as to why do not matter in the least. She took one chance too many…became disoriented and out of control. Just because she’s an executive and has a reputation for being decisive and in control does not open the door for any other possible explanation. She was an alcoholic and an addict and nothing her husband can come up with by way of an explanation is going to change that. Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

  • Dee

    Also, if my children called and told me what was told here before the van crashed, I would have called the police immediately and not took it upon myself to find the van before something awful happened. The family knows more that they’re telling

  • barb

    Diane probably had a migraine and her blinding headache was intensified by her desire to get home and get the girls to the party. She tried to self medicate with vodka, which only made it worse.She probably lost vision in one or both eyes, common with migraine. She wasn’t a drunk. She vomited, also a migraine symptom. The light of the day made it worse. She could not see where she was going, but did not want to call for help or maybe she did, but was unable to complete the call. A tightly- wound woman with intense emotional problems, including severe migraine.

    • Linda

      There is no evidence that she had a migraine. One witness on the highway said she appeared to lean over to vomit but that may have been because she was drunk.

    • the truth

      F¥Ck off barb…. this woman was a soulless drunk who’s husband was leaving her….so she took her own life and that of her kids…(son lived) so he would suffer. The whole family is in denial about it. They all new what she was. Can’t believe her brother and sister in law would have allowed thier kids to be put in that siruation. Only ones i feel sorry for are the tragic victims… the kids and men in other suv….hope all the rest rot in hell.

  • Melanie

    The results don’t lie….She was drunk and high, and nobody will ever know what she did or why and it’s too bad, but that’s just the way it is. It’s over. Time to let it go.

  • Jet

    If anyone from the Shuler family sees this, I believe I can help in their journey for the truth, starting with latex food syndrome, brain allergy and fruit heated with ethanol alcohol to heat.

  • DiDi12

    IF she had been mentally altered (e.g., as a result of Ambien), she very well could have engaged in the other behaviors (e.g, driving, drinking tons, toking, etc.) without even being *aware* of it. Do some research on Ambien. Another side effect of Ambien is headache.
    IF, on the other hand, she had swigged too much vodka in a short period of time, she could have gone into blackout (and she did not have to be a drunk to do so) and continued to drink, drive, etc. My one & only blackout as a social drinker years ago (I don’t drink now at all) came after only 3 White Russian drinks that I downed too fast (I am female) and it came on rapidly during the 3rd drink. For hours, I was running around, talking, playing darts (which I didn’t even know how to do as I never played darts), etc., and I have very little memory of any of it. I could have easily tried to drive b/c I was not in my right mind — much like an amnesiac sleepwalker. I never touched vodka again after that.
    I don’t think simply a migraine would explain all her behaviors that day. However, there very well could have been a combo of events (Ambien, alcohol-induced blackout, medical issues) that converged on her that day and that resulted in the tragic events. The fact that she didn’t pull over, call for someone like her husband to come get her, and just stay put, in my mind looks more like altered judgment.
    And, even drunk, some folks in a car with good front end alignment and with the pedal down on a good stretch of road could go straight as an arrow for quite a distance — I’ve seen people do it — not all folks who drink and drive swerve all over the place. I don’t think she was suicidal or homicidal. I think that if she had gotten home safely and had gone in and slept it off, she would have no recollection of what she had done.
    Has there ever been screens done for Ambien? More intensive autopsying for underlying, not easily found, medical issues? Just because alcohol and pot are found in her system doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it.
    Also regarding people ‘hiding’ their behaviors: maybe if there weren’t such quick-to-judge chicken-bloodspot pecking by others, people wouldn’t feel the need to ‘hide’ so much and other tragedies could be avoided. Shaming someone doesn’t always result in a person stopping a behavior — esp an addiction — and often drives a person into more deceit and hiding, which may then backfire in horrible, horrific ways. People need to be able to feel they can safely seek help and treatment without shame/blame — I think there is enough time to work all that out after the person has gone through some recovery and is stronger — than when the person may be in the grips of an addiction.

    • Linda

      There is no evidence that Diane was currently taking Ambien. She did take it in the past. It was on those medical records they showed in the documentary. But that was a couple of years previously. There is also no evidence that she had a dental abcess. That would have been mentioned in the autopsy report and it wasn’t.

  • Forbidden Fruit

    There is no question she was intoxicated on alcohol and marijuana at the time of the wreck. It was confirmed by two (at least) autopsies/tests. No unsolved mystery here.

    Why is it so hard to believe that a middle-aged woman/aunt/wife could have a substance abuse disorder? This is the stigma that keeps addiction shrouded in such bullshit and prevents people from getting help. If she had been a young black male or other minority, would the denial be so strong?

    Even if she was self-medicating to treat a toothache or other problem, it’s illegal and immoral to do so while driving…especially with kids in the car. She had family who loved her and would’ve come to help in a heartbeat. All she had to do was CALL. Instead, she chose to drive drunk and high.

    What an insult to the other families affected by this tragedy.

    • Katie Chaos

      It’s because her family is in such denial about it. its tragic. and when she was told to sit tight, help was on the way.. she tossed her phone and took off.she made a terrible decision and selfishly cost 7 other people’s their lives.

      • Beth Nolan

        I have been obsessed with this case since I watched the documentary for the first time a few months ago. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact the Diane deliberately ingested all that alcohol and smoked a bunch of pot with 5 kids in the car. I can’t think of time or situation that would drive me to do what she did. I can’t help think that she was impaired by her prescription of Ambien. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/business/15drug.ready.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
        Could that be what happened? I guess we may never know. I can’t imagine if I am this tortured over this story, how her brother and sister in law feel about her and how tortured they are over what exactly happened that day to drive a loving, caring women to do such crazy, out of character, irrepressible thing!

      • debrajones9

        I just watched the HBO documentary on this story and it sickens me how much the Shuler family is in denial. Diane made a HORRIBLE mistake by driving drunk and cost innocent people their lives. Daniel Shuler is an immoral person going after his brother in law saying the van was broken AND he is suing the state for the roads not having enough signage. REALLY! YOU MAKE ME SICK, man up! Your wife chose to drive drunk and killed 7 innocent people. My heart goes out to all the family’s involved in this tragic event.

    • Rayca

      It’s also illegal to drive with an open bottle of booze, which the husband says they did everytime they made that trip. However, I don’t think people find it hard to believe she could have been a drinker. It’s the fact that everyone interviewed, the husband, friends, neighbors, even friends from high school have all stated they never once saw her drunk or drink excessively. There have been no leads into her even liking the stuff. That’s what has folks scratching their heads.

  • Katie

    Since Diane was on a vacation surrounded by family the weekend before the crash, perhaps she dealt with a lack of privacy while on the trip. When she got the chance to be alone with the kids, to a binge drinker or pot smoker, it is the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately it was when she was driving a car. And after a long weekend of abstinence or near abstinence, the binge reward pathway effect is probably intensified.

  • http://batman-news.com Beth N

    I have been obsessed with this case since I watched the documentary for the first time a few months ago. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact the Diane deliberately ingested all that alcohol and smoked a bunch of pot with 5 kids in the car. I can’t think of time or situation that would drive me to do what she did. I can’t help think that she was impaired by her prescription of Ambien. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03
    Could that be what happened? I guess we may never know. I can’t imagine if I am this tortured over this story, how her brother and sister in law feel about her and how tortured they are over what exactly happened that day to drive a loving, caring women to do such crazy, out of character, awful act!

    • Rayca

      Why do people keep bringing up Ambien? I read it a lot. There was none in her system. None in the toxicology report. Drugs like that tend to stay in the system for a while so for there not to be anything on that report would likely mean she hadn’t taken any for awhile. Now having said that, I do think that drugs can mess with your mind. When I took anti-depressants, I had a “happy”, euphoric feeling that was totally fake. I could always tell it wasn’t me in there (my head). They made me “un”feeling. No feeling at all. Well guess what. 35 years later, no anti-depressants in all those years and I still have an “un”feeling about me. I am not as compassionate or empathetic as I once was. I blame anti-depressants directly for this. I think they are the scourge of our culture and everyone takes them. So maybe Diane could have had sleepwalking issues or was more prone to blackouts because of the effect of Ambien on her brain. It could have actually changed her brain’s chemistry. But I think this was a classic case of alcohol-induced blackout. You can have one whether you are full-blown alcoholic, functioning alcoholic or have never touched alcohol before. I come back to 2 phrases that have been around for centuries to describe alcohol: “Devil’s Brew” and “Evil Spirits.”

  • Rayca

    That’s what I used to do. I would binge eat about every two weeks. I would trade that off with booze. So one episode would be binge eating food and the next episode would be binge drinking booze. My mom had the binge eating syndrome. My dad had the binge drinking syndrome. But most of the time, we’d be fine, without overdoing anything. I dropped the booze and I don’t binge eat anymore but I still have issues with food and still overeat.

  • Rayca

    She was in a blackout folks. She didn’t deliberately leave behind her phone. She didn’t mean to call her brother. She kept referring to her brother by her husband’s name. She probably pressed redial on the phone, which would have brought up the brother because the daughter had already called him. Blackouts are insidious. You can do very normal, functioning tasks and then do wacked out things at the same time. The brain is in survival mode, so there is a basic autopilot the brain switches to so normal functions can be accomplished. I don’t see why this is so hard to figure out. The brain being on autopilot is even more explained because she was acting like a zombie on that highway. Stonefaced, tunnel vision –all typical of a blackout, which by the way, can last for many hours.

  • Ceemee

    I just saw this documentsry on hbo for the first time… I never even knew of this !! I believe the toxicology report.. Actually BOTH of them that were done got same exact results. She had alcohol and pot in her system. In fact, the amt of pot prooved she had smoked it between 15 min to an hour before accident. Look, ive been around friends who have smoked pot and it stinks. Like burnt rope. I cant imagine her sparking up in the van with the kids. So when did she smoke it?? Also, did they test the children to see if they had pot in their system? Bc if she smoked it in van with them, theyd have the secondhand smoke. Their clothes wld prob reek of it as well. But then again they said what should have been a 45 min drive took more than 4 hours. Therin lies the true mystery to me. What the hell was she doing for 4 hours?? She did not look intoxicated one bit on security footsge tapes. (Gas station/McDonalds) I have a few questions for her husband… How late did she stay up the night before? I can picture them sitting around campfire after kids are asleep having a few drinks. Done it myself a time or two!! But did she stsy up super late drinking? Maybe she didnt go to sleep at all or very little if any. Which could explain so much alcohol in her system?!? Also, it was mentioned husband came straight home and was taking nap when ph rang. Which eludes to not getting enough sleep the night before . Another question I have is did anyone ever go to local abc store near her home and ask if she ever came in there on reg basis to buy vodka? Husband worked nights…?? She could have been having drinks every night and he not realize how much she really drank. But local stores would know if she bought alcohol regularly. Wish someone wld ck that out. Another thing I wonder is what kind of pot did she smoke? I mean these days that shit can be laced with all kinds of other things?!? I guess tox report wld have showed if that were the case. I just cannot imagine husband letting her drive kids if he had an inkling that she was under the influence. . They easily couldve left his truck at campground and he drive the van.
    So my summary:
    Late night at campfire drinking
    Little to no sleep
    Woke up (if slept at all) with massive hangover/still inebriated
    Stopped at gas station for pain pills (had none)
    Stopped at McDonalds to feed kids and…
    Next best thing…hair of the dog. Had vodka packed up and mixed a drink or took shots to “feel better”
    Head still pounding feeling nauseous
    Lack of sleep, mixed with intoxication and pot, she became disoriented, delusional. Pulled over several times almost throwing up. Head spinning…
    Then disaster strikes. She entered highway the wrong way blinded by her inebriated state and pounding head. All shes thinking is get me home…

    I do NOT think this was some sort of suicide mission, nor do I think Diane EVER meant for this to happen. She was clearly responsible, though, and I pray her sister in law Jay Schuler comes to peace with this.
    Her husband seems numb to all this and came off as in huge denial. And him saying he ” never wanted kids, Diane did, and now look how things turned out…” All I can say to that is you dont DESERVE the blessing of having that precious child. Please let Jay raise him!!! You can tell shes the one who really cares and loves him. God bless her!!!

  • Tara

    If she was hungover and drinking to get normal feeling again..I doubt
    she would seriously drink that much with all those children in the
    car…it was a short drive home..she could have finished her drinking
    there. How did she lose complete common sense and compassion.
    After reading all the comments and seeing the vid..my account is that she drank all the vodka on purpose for a suicide mission..she seemed fine in the gas station..how could she have consumed that much in such a short period of time, its like she sucked down the bottle.