From Alcoholic to Murderer
by Ned Wicker
One of the unseen effects of alcoholism is how the disease turns an otherwise law-abiding teen into a murderer. When a nineteen year old drunk driver left the scene of an accident, he had no intention of getting into another accident a few minutes later.
But after fleeing the scene, he killed a six year-old boy. The drunk driver ran a stop sign in the town of Troy, WI and hit the vehicle driven by the child’s father, who sustain a broken bone in his neck and a broken sternum. His two older sisters were not hurt.
For so many years we have seen all of the public service announcements about drinking and driving. We see endless news stories on local television about added police officers and sheriffs deputies patrolling the highways, such as Highway 20, the road the family travelling that day. No person with any slight modicum of intelligence can claim that they do not know that drinking and driving to not mix.
Drinking and driving is indefensible. Yet, it happens repeatedly, every day, and for every six year old boy that is killed because a drunk ran a stop sign, there are countless thousands of near accidents that do not happen. We only hear the very worst news.
The potential for a person to get transformed from average citizen to killer should be enough to keep any reasonable person from driving after a few drinks. But it doesn’t. Had the drunk driver not gotten into two accidents and killed a child, he would have told you he was perfectly capable of driving, regardless of his blood alcohol level.
Once the first drink has been downed, the alcoholic does not know he is impaired. No amount of reason is going to change his mind. Sometimes, he may surrender his keys, but that’s the exception, not the rule. The potential for tragedy isn’t considered. They drink. They drive anyway. I have driven the stretch of road where the accident took place. It’s dangerous. It’s dark and any accident is going to be at high speed.
The little boy’s death was very personal for me. He died at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, where I serve as a chaplain. I wasn't called to the Emergency Department that night, but I know the one who was and I know the people in the trauma center who tried so hard to help.
Nothing can change it.
The killing of a child, who loved baseball and Prince Fielder, who liked to plant vegetables in the garden, who had his whole life in front of him, breaks my heart. The drunk driver will have to live with this and no amends can be made. Nothing can change this. It is the real face of alcoholism. The sad reality of the disease is that left unchecked, somebody is going to die. Eventually the disease will kill the alcoholic, but all too often the alcoholic kills somebody else. The reality is harsh.
People will go to any length to justify their actions, or deny that they are struggling with addiction. But why does it have to come to this? The disease takes over, reason is tossed like yesterday’s bread, and average people become killers.
I really do feel for the drunk driver, because I am sure he didn’t want to kill anybody and cause unspeakable pain and suffering. But at the same time, as someone who has driven while seriously intoxicated, I offer no defense. I never got caught during my drinking days and it is only by the grace of God that something horrible didn’t happen. I could have been the one who killed that little boy. I am guilty just like the guy who ran the stop sign.
Personal responsibility is the bottom line. Before that first drink, if there is any amount of common sense and reason in a person, don’t drive. Get a ride home. Just admit when you have a problem. If you admit the problem, you can get help. The life of a six year-old child is not a price anyone wants to pay for a drink. It can happen to anyone and it does. You and I are not exempt.