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Survive A DUI

How to get through getting a DUI - both mentally, and legally.

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The DMV Alcohol Class Section 2: Group Meetings.

Group meetings.

It sounds like the worst.

Am I going to have to go in and talk about my feelings, and cry, and get a hug from everyone, and talk about our growth and our spiritual journey, and all that other bullshit?

Thankfully: no.

It just sounds like it from the title of it. You won’t have to bond, you won’t have to talk about the first time you tried a drink, you won’t have to talk about your childhood, or anything like that.

Remember: they cannot, legally, compel you to share.

However, truth be told, I liked this part of the class much more than the instruction period. The class gets a little bigger since there’s a nine week span it covers. Mostly it’s people in your same situation trying to get through it. It’s a lot like high school in that way. Just trying to get through it to freedom. Fortunately, like high school, there will be people trying to make jokes, trying to flirt, trying to get the teacher derailed, trying to find different ways to kill time until the final bell rings.

It’s a lot more fun than watching a grandpa in a leisure suit talk about how he didn’t know his weekly brandy could affect him that much in an ancient video.

There will be a topic at hand - there’s some loose guidelines, but nothing particularly required from the state - and your instructor will talk about it. Usually something about how to go our and be responsible, or how to say no to alcohol, or how it affects the body. They’re usually built around the concepts of abstinence and temperance. They like things to be a big open question, with no clear solution except to cut down on drinking. I talked about using my own breathalyzer to prevent getting another DUI, and how the system was rigged against people by using a metric that’s difficult to understand since metering devices aren’t widely available - and was confronted with ways that wasn’t a real solution because it’s possible that you can be impaired at lesser alcohol levels (something I’ve learned is not the case for the way my body handles alcohol).

They’ll ask you about what you would do if you went out some place and got too drunk, looking for the old timely solutions (always designate a driver who won’t drink! Limit yourself to two drinks a night! or… don’t ever drink!) when confronted with modern solutions that are reliable, but allow a person to keep drinking - Uber, in particular, they would respond with “But how long can that last? How long can you just uber to some place!”. This bizarre response came from every instructor I had in the program, almost verbatim. Maybe that’s a state sanctioned thing, but given that many people are ditching driving their own cars and just ubering everywhere, I think it can last quite some time. I think they’re threatened a little bit by uber as it’s cut down on DUIs and will continue to, which threatens their business to a large degree. They’d give us the old “How do you know Uber is safe? Why not get a taxi?” which is such a bizarre argument since there’s no record of when you take a taxi. The whole thing is weird.

When discussing these things you’ll be asked about how you got your DUI, and many factors. As someone who hasn’t told many people about my DUI, it was honestly really nice to be able to share my story and get some sympathy from my peers. It was nice to openly talk about it and not be judged. It was also nice to have the instructor say that the biggest factor in mine seemed to be bad luck. It was really great to hear other people’s stories - horrible ones - about hitting parked cars, getting caught in a sting operation, getting caught by a checkpoint, one getting a DUI for being asleep in his backseat and the car parked overnight, their experience in refusing the field sobriety test, etc. Despite the instructors’ anti-Uber sentiment, I found them fair regarding people’s experiences, and expressing whether they exhibited problematic behavior (vast majority didn’t).

They’ll ask you if you’re still drinking. It is ok to be honest and say that you are. The person who had quit drinking is going to be the outlier. They’ll share their experiences, you can judge if you want to join them, cut down, or keeping on. Your drinking is your decision. Granted, it has consequences as you well know at this point. But it’s still your decision. Nobody can make it for you.

The class runs for 9 weeks for an AB-541 3-month class, and 23 weeks for a 9-month AB-1353 class, so the topics get weak sometimes - it’ll get into “what does a person need for basic survival” some weeks, “how to handle stress” another - they’ll try to tangentially relate it to the big topic - drinking and driving - but the facts are that it doesn’t take 15 weeks to tell people to not drink and drive. However, 15 weeks of a 2 hour class, is enough to make them say “fuck that, I’m not ever going through that again”, so it works as a deterrent for a second offense.

Again, get there on time and sober, pay some attention, engage when you want. Depending on the group these discussions can actually be… well, not fun, but almost fun. There were some cool and funny people in my group, so it wasn’t that bad. Tell some jokes, make some friends (that you probably won’t keep once it ends), make the time go by easier for everyone.

Again, running out the clock is the name of the game. Get through it. Get to your final evaluation, and tell them how you drink less, and plan to be more responsible and don’t want to come back (which is certainly true). Get your paper for the court, then get out.

It’s tough at first, but once you see what it’s like, you’ll be fine. Even if you’re not that social of a person.