DUI Life: A Year Ago

Ran into somebody the other day. Recognized him immediately, but wasn’t sure from where. Started talking, trying to figure it out. Then it came…

“Fuck that DUI class, man. That was some bullshit”.

Ah yes. That’s where he’s from.

We caught up. He was one of the people I liked hearing from in the group session of class. Funny guy, honest. Hadn’t seen him in quite some time.

Made me think back.

A year ago, I was going every Wednesday to a three hour class, learning, and re-learning that what I had done was wrong. Learning that what others had done were wrong. Being lead in discussions around inane topics like “Why do you think people drink?”

A year ago I was going to an AA meeting every week, hearing people tell horrific stories of hitting the absolute rock bottom, then having to share “I had like three beers too many one night” and getting looks from everyone else.

A year ago, I would get into my car, turn the ignition and
wait 45 seconds for my interlock to turn on, and blow into it, and blow every 15 minutes to make sure that I hadn’t had any alcohol.

A year ago, I would have never had another person in my car.

A year ago, I would have to argue with a seedy car accessories owner to get two months on my interlock instead of one.

A year ago, I was getting constant reminders - from class, from my car, from the DMV, from my insurance, from tv commercials, that I had done something wrong.

A year ago I had to go into another separate class to tell me that yes, I had done something wrong.

While it wasn’t the most pleasant flashback, it made me realize how much this whole experience has changed me. More importantly, it’s nice how much I don’t have to think about my DUI every day, every car ride, every long meeting.

Today I drive my car freely, and easily.

Today I have passengers.

Today I am not required to be anywhere, at any time for the state.

Today I am half done with my probation.

Today I still feel bad about what I have done.

Today I realize that it doesn’t define me as a person.

Today I still drink, but when I do,
I take an uber.

Today if I end up drinking while out,
I use my breathalyzer to make sure I’m good to drive before I do.

Today I don’t drink as much as I once did.

Today I’m paying crazy high insurance.

Today I’m closer to having this behind me.

The process of satisfying the court seemed like it would never end. That every time I would have to calibrate my interlock another month seemed like it would be forever. Every class made it seem like time was standing still. It felt like I would be punished forever.

I’m glad that I can be here to say that you won’t be. You’re punished, and you do what you need to, and little-by-little, you get to think about it less. You feel the pain less and less every day.

You move on, and eventually life returns to normal.

When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to imagine. The further you go along, the quicker it seems to go.

I know I started this blog with advice a lawyer told me, “
It all goes away”. It’s hard to believe in the moment, but I can tell you:

It all goes away.

Honestly.

Seriously.

It all goes away.

The Next Few Days

The first few days after a DUI arrest are the worst part of the whole experience.

No, I’m not exaggerating.

If you’re like me, if you’re like most people, you’re going to absolutely beat yourself up. You’ll feel the pain of knowing what you did, the fear of all the possible things that could happen to you. You’ll feel anxiety, nervousness, guilt, self-hatred and loathing. It’s an incredible mix of conflicting yet all-negative emotions swirling around in the pit of your stomach, your heart, and your head all at once.

It’s an incredibly difficult, depressing time.

Your conscience is going to tell you the 50 ways you made mistakes that night, tell you about all the other times you did and got away with it, tell you how you could’ve killed yourself or, even worse, somebody else, maybe even a kid, or a family.

What are your friends going to think? Will they ever talk to you again? Are you going to walk into a place and watch as everybody becomes quiet and starts pointing fingers, “Look, there’s the guy who drove drunk!”.

In my experience, you will beat yourself up worse than anybody else. You expect other people to yell at you, and revile you, and say awful things… truth be told… it doesn’t really happen. You’ll be told that you should have known better and that you fucked up, but, everyone knows that it’s wrong to do, and they most likely have done it themselves. So they’re not that hard on you. Not as hard as you would expect. The other DUI offenders I’ve spoken to have generally reflected this sentiment as well. Driving drunk is something that everybody knows is wrong and nearly everybody does. It’s bad, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, but it’s just how it is.

The churning stomach doesn’t start. I don’t think I ate the day afterwards until late and I really had to. You wake up and it’s the first thing you think about, at night it’s the last thing you think about - usually making you stay awake for an hour, maybe two, maybe more, in bed turning worst case scenarios over and over again in your head. At work it’s always in the back of your head, biting at you, making you wonder if everybody knows somehow.

Again, I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I felt completely worthless as a human being, and it took some time to get over these feelings. The remorse I felt was more than I could ever express in any way, and I’m sure yours is too. The thought of feeing those feelings again is more of a deterrent for me than anything else.

I cried, I prayed for forgiveness, I was depressed, I felt completely horrible.

Ironically, the pain of my DUI lead me to drink more than ever. At home, of course. Hair of the dog? Maybe. I was certainly bitten. Sign of a reliance on alcohol? Perhaps. It only now really hits me how funny it is that we celebrate both the successes and victories in life by drinking, and use it to morn our losses and express our condolences.

I drank, and I drank a lot. Beer, vodka, whatever. I drank in a dark room feeling sorry for myself. I hated myself for what had happened. Was it the best way to get the feelings out? Maybe, probably not.

But it worked.

After two or three days of wallowing in self-pity, I came out of my complete depression, and put it together - alright, we messed up, let’s do what we can to make things the best they can be, fix the things we can, make amends, and get it to where we can move on.

Do I recommend heavy drinking afterwards? No, of course not. But I recommend getting your grief out, in whatever manner is appropriate for you.

Be sad, get the emotions out, then prepare to move on.

This is a temporary thing, it won’t change too much of your life.

You can get through this and on with your life.

I promise.

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