I saw Branden post his story on Reddit's DUI board (there's also a SAD Reddit) and encouraged him to share his story in the hopes that it can help others out there. If you'd like to share your story, please contact me. There's a lot of people who are going through what you have, and a lot of people who have already gone through it and come out the other side. Together we can make this better for all of us - Tom
I received DUIs in November of 2014, January of 2016, September of 2017, and March of 2020 and this is my experience.
For the first, I went out with friends from my job, Uber-ed to my truck which was left at work, napped for a while in the truck, ate some food from a drive though at taco bell, and rolled through a stop sign while proceeding home. An officer was there in the dark, lights off. I spent the night in jail and lost that job opening a craft burger restaurant in a high traffic area in Orange County, California. Anyone with a first DUI knows it can be just a slap on the wrist. By one estimate, 1 in 5 California residents have a DUI and me being a young twenty-something year old kid didn’t think too much about it.
For the second, I went on a snowboarding trip to Big Bear with some friends, drank heavily the last night, and in the morning, I drove a friend’s car home. I was caught speeding down the mountain and because I had a prior, was breathalyzed. I did 30 days of SCRAM/house arrest.
The third happened at a DUI checkpoint. I had been at a friend’s birthday party with my girlfriend at the time. She had too much to drink and I wanted to leave early to get some rest for the following workday. I had been doing investment allocations for an aerospace company and I worked another restaurant job on weekends. I had a drink at this party, but when I took the turn and discovered the checkpoint, I knew it was over. I spend 30 days in Orange County jail.
For the fourth, COVID had struck. At this point, I was on the verge of becoming a heavy drinker. I relied on alcohol in social settings, going out and partying with friends, but this started spilling over to drinking sometimes in isolation. I was studying while drinking some wine before I decided to grab something to eat. I was lucky enough to get away with only the night in jail before checking myself into a treatment facility for 60 days and pleading into DUI court.
Before the fourth, I never thought I had an issue with alcohol. I simply thought I made some very idiotic decisions. My drinking typically involved only social situations, but I would party hard and often, slowly losing any control. The fourth was a wakeup call. My weekends of partying have now come to an end, and I haven't had a drink in nearly 500 days since.
Overall, people tell me I'm lucky. I can continue on to finish my business degree at a local university, I have a lot of freedoms, I'm not locked up, and most importantly I never hurt myself or anyone else. People would be right by saying all of this; however, it's so difficult to be optimistic or confident about anything sometimes.
Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the label society has given me. I think about obtaining this degree and being un-hirable. I think about this rigorous DUI court program and formal probation and what all that entails: 10pm curfew, no traveling outside state lines, no traveling outside the county without the POs ok to do so, weekly therapy with a court appointed counselor, weekly group therapy, several 12-step meetings per week (I'm really not a fan of AA but that's what everyone pushes), bi-weekly 3-6 hour court appearances, several random urinalysis tests per week, random home searches, etc. and I don't know how I'll be able to begin a career with it all, have any meaningful relationships or have what I consider to be a normal life. It's depressing.
People have said I deserve it. People have said I deserve much worse. And sometimes I agree. I realize what I’ve done is absolute insanity, it’s unethical, it’s dangerous and careless, and I agree. And I’m learning… I’m changing, I’m growing, I’m remorseful not because I was caught, but because I understand that my actions could have killed someone. Someone who has a life just like mine.
Some days are easier than others, but more often than not, I struggle to find hope. I tend to get really down on myself and as a result, my confidence and self-worth are all but gone. I feel like a shell of the happy, energetic, fun-to-be-around person I once was.
I've lurked a lot of comments and posts on internet forums, and I've seen some similar sentiment. For those going through similar bouts of depression, maybe you'll find some comfort in knowing you're not alone. This is the most difficult and challenging thing I've ever experienced and it's so hard to carry on at times.
I think I felt the need to have my story heard as a therapeutic rant/journal to make that point known to others as well as myself: you are not alone. This is hard. I think it gets better, I hope it gets better, it has to.
I've been spending my days now studying mostly. I received a 4.0 at my university last semester, I try to hit the gym 5 days a week, I read, I surf, I have a separate therapist I confide more in (and man, after writing this I think I need a session), I'm started dating someone who's been a good friend the past couple years and is extremely supportive of my path of continued self-betterment. I'm trying and I'm trying really hard and sometimes it's still overwhelming. Sometimes I still break down. Sometimes I still feel completely hopeless. And sometimes it's not so bad, and it's those times that keep me going because if it's not so bad sometimes, then maybe there is a possibility life can get even better. I just have to hang on to some hope, live one day at a time, and note the good things I have in the present moment.