Life after a DUI

A little over seven months ago (214 days ago, to be exact), my life changed. Not forever, but for the immediate future. My drinking habits reached a breaking point and I was finally arrested, and convicted, of a DUI. As my closest friends know, I was slated to leave for Air Force Basic Training on November 01, 2015. The DUI squashed those aspirations, and forced me to reevaluate my life. For the better.

Many people will read this and assume being convicted of a DUI speaks volumes about my character. In many ways, it certainly does. I behaved recklessly, drove drunk more than I did sober, and knowingly placed my future in jeopardy. However, after months of regret and introspection, I came to the conclusion that the DUI was not a knock on my character, but rather defined me as a person. I turned my weaknessed into strengths, and strengths into a driving force creating the person I always knew I was.

From the moment I was pulled over, I knew my drinking and driving days had come to an end, and from that point forward, serious changes were in order. I had two options: continue down the path of destruction; aka drinking and destroying not only myself, but relationships with my friends and loved ones, or recognizing the problem at hand. I chose the latter. If I had chose the former, chances are I’d be out on the streets, in jail or dead right now. Luckily, none of those situations apply to me.

I didn’t realize I had a drinking problem until my DUI. For months I made excuses, lied about my drinking and convinced myself I could stop at any time. Yet, day in and day out I found myself in the same situation: drunk, depressed and constantly asking myself “why?” Deep down I recognized that my drinking had become more than just a social thing, but guilt weighs heavy and the easiest route to avoiding the truth is convincing yourself that poor habits, and negative actions, are excusable.

The terms of my DUI included a hefty fine ($3,000+), a mandatory three month alcohol program, community service, and, as mentioned above, forfeiting my enlistment in the Air Force. I will be honest here, the Air Force discharge stung the most. Enlistment was my ticket to financial and personal freedom. Not to mention my family and friends were proud of my commitment to serve, and my decision directly effected the people I care about most. However, I persevered and discovered the silver lining.

Of the 214 days since my DUI, I have remained sober for 210. In fact, I remained completely sober for 125 days before having my first drink since the incident. To be clear, I have drank a total of four times since being arrested. A vast improvement from drinking 5-6x a week. Of those four instances, I have been drunk twice. The other two times I had a beer (yes, just one) with friends, and maintained control of my drinking habit.

The first time I drank after the DUI, I was greatly concerned I would be unable to control myself. That I would fall back into the trap I worked so hard to relieve myself from. But, you know what, I maintained discipline. I was safe, cautious and smart about my drinking. Since that first time, I have been able to control myself better than I ever thought possible. I rarely go out with friends anymore, but the few times I have, I am able to go out to bars, social drinking environments and remain sober. In fact, I have come to discover I have no urge to drink. Whatever appeal alcohol had to me prior to the DUI, has ceased to exist. My life is infinitely better without alcohol. Now, don’t get me wrong, I will go out and have a good time occasionally from this point forward, but drinking is no longer my entire world, it is just on the periphery, and an act I can sincerely say I enjoy not indulging in.

People often say “things happen for a reason.” What people do not like admitting is that those things happen for reasons we willingly commit to. Like my drinking, for instance. I chose to drink and drive, and the result was my discharge from the Air Force, and a radical life changing moment of realization. I directly contributed to what transpired after getting my DUI. So in a sense, it did happen for a reason, but for reasons I made happen. Make sense? I hope so.

A great deal of good has resulted from my DUI. If I hadn’t gotten it, I’d still be an alcoholic finding methods to excuse my behavior. The DUI provided me with the wake up call needed to make positive, lifelong changes in my life. Sobriety, and smart decisions are among those positive changes. Not to mention a stronger relationship with my friends and family built on honesty and trust, not simply false hope that I would learn from my mistakes willingly. Ultimately it took a severe

In addition to a sound mindset, I also landed my first “real” job that applies aspects of what I studied in college. As mentioned in my previous post, I work for the Dunnion Law Firm as a quasi-paralegal. That in itself is a huge stepping stone to future successes in my life. I am surrounded by driven people, engage in [mostly] interesting work and my time is well-spent. A stark contrast to my darker drinking days. I would not have gotten this job had it not been for my DUI.

There are also the numerous emotional benefits stemming from my DUI. I strengthened my relationship with my parents, siblings, friends and family members. I proved to them I was strong enough to make the necessary changes to better myself as a man, son, brother, grandson, companion, etc. I have persevered, and in turn, my family no longer fears for my well-being as they did when I was drinking.

Finally, I met an amazing young woman whom, I never would have been fortunate enough to meet had I not gotten my DUI. By some strange coincidence, we were brought together under similar circumstances. She, too, struggles with alcoholism and together, we have held each other accountable, and are building an amazing relationship. One thing that stands out above all the rest in my sobriety is that I figured out what held me back in my previous relationships: alcohol. My anger, poor decisions, lack of emotional availability (with partners, friends and family alike), directly resulted from my struggles with alcohol. Now that alcohol is no longer a pomiment factor in my life, I have been able to provide for Tierna (doll face, my lovely girlfriend), what I had never accomplished in the past: emotional support free from the constraints of substance abuse. That in itself has been a true blessing. I regained my ability to feel raw emotion, rationalize my behaviors and stopped using the alcohol as an excuse for the person I am when I drink.

It is truly amazing how four months with Tierna sober, compares to four years with my first serious girlfriend influenced by drugs and alcohol. What I lacked in emotion during the four years I spent with Sara, I have gained 100 fold in four months with Tierna. I am open with Tierna, honest, share my feelings, do not hide behind a veil disguised by substance abuse and for the first time ever, I am truly scared of losing her. That is a huge driving force behind my sobriety. I never want to become the person I was when I drank because it may cost me an amazing woman in the process. Not to mention my sanity. However, this post is not intended to focus on the wonderful person Tierna is, or is shaping me to be. I will save that for another post.

Moral of the story is, getting a DUI drastically changed my life. Indefinitely. For the better. I spent too many years of my young life clinging to regret and guilt stemming from substance abuse. Sobriety has provided me with the means to build my future, strive for my goals, and accomplish more in seven months that I did in the four years I spent intoxicated. Things do happen for a reason, and I am happy to say that I caused them to happen the way they have. I do not regret my decision to drink and drive, nor do I harbor any lingering guilt. In the end, my DUI is, was, and always will be, the best worst decision of my life. And for that, I am thankful.