Every holiday weekend they start. The television public service announcements alert us that the State Police and local municipalities will have officers on the roads to watch for people driving drunk. They know the hunting will be good, it always is. Governmental authorities show us the statistics, warn us of the potentially fatal consequences of our actions, but still we persist. Driving drunk is common and a dreadful social issue in the United States.
“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”
“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” You’ve heard that before, but depending on the part of the country you are from, it is either a silly, cliché statement or a serious cry for action. Maybe you don’t think it’s a matter worth discussion, but before you push it aside understand that nearly 50% of the auto fatalities in the United States have a drug or alcohol component. Another million and a half people are arrested and charged with being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How common is driving drunk?
Give or take depending on the state, about 15% of men will drive under the influence every year. Women are a little more cautious, as only 8% or so will do the same. Think about it—you’re driving home after work and you begin to count the cars. For every 100 cars on the road, there are 15 driving drunk offenders. Of the drunk driving offenders that are caught and cited, about one in three of them is a repeat offender.
Driving drunk is a problem because alcohol is so much a part of the American culture. There are many ethnic jokes about alcohol use, but put them together and you have a view of America. You cannot watch a sporting event on television without beer commercials, and it is almost as if drinking was mandatory if you want to be cool, enjoy your friends and have fun at the game. If you drink the right vodka or same the right wine, you’re cultured and sophisticated. We almost equate drinking alcohol with some kind of social prerequisite.
Young Adults Involved in Fatalities
Most of the driving drunk fatalities involve young adults. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers 21-24 made up the largest group of fatalities, 34%. Drivers 25-34 followed at 30% and drivers 35-44 recorded 25% of the deaths.
People get into trouble easily. The average person can metabolize an ounce of alcohol in about an hour. That’s one drink—one scotch and water, one beer. The standard for determining drunk driving is a blood alcohol level of .08, so if a person stops off at his/her favorite pub for a few drinks after work, for every drink they’ll have to wait at least an hour. To put this into perspective, if a person goes to the bar and stays three or four hours with friends, drinking steadily, not only will they be unfit to drive home, but they probably will still be legally drunk when they wake up the next morning. Black coffee isn’t going to sober up a drunk. Cold showers, a brisk winter wind are likewise useless. Only time helps.
Alcohol is alcohol
Another popular myth is that driving drunk is determined by what the person drinks. Not so. Alcohol is alcohol. Therefore, the amount of alcohol consumed over a given amount of time will determine the condition of the person. Men like to brag about not getting drunk on beer, or about how they can hold their liquor. The blood alcohol level, however, says otherwise.
The unintended consequences of drunk driving are the fatalities. Parents have a few drinks, then pick up their kids at school, or they have too many at a backyard cookout, or too many at the ball game. They think they can still drive safely. It’s a very foolish and deadly decision. Of the fatal crashes on a given weekend, a little more than 30% will involve a drunk driver. That’s a little less than twice the rate of a weekday.
There have been efforts to curb driving drunk. In addition to the ads on TV, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have done good work in getting the message across to millions of people. Of course the best way to prevent drunk driving is not to drink. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon have strived to help people overcome alcoholism and problem drinking.
People still do it!
However, despite the efforts of so many people to educate the public on the dangers and fatal consequences of driving drunk, the bottom line lies with the individual. People must take responsibility for their own actions and accept the accountability that comes with making bad decisions.
To anyone who is struggling.
(Grand Rapids, MI)
Alcohol and drugs talk to me. You may think that is crazy and it
may very well be. I am not concerned with that at this point. What
alcohol and drugs tell me is that I am just fine. My life is fine. My
behavior is fine. My thoughts are fine. I do not need any friends or
relationships because, well, to be frank, people just suck.
People have always disappointed me and let me down. People have broken my heart and it still remains broken to this day. In order to compensate for the absence of relationships, family, and friendships in my life, alcohol and drugs are the answer.
They are there for me and always will be. They make life tolerable. They comfort me when I am anxious, sad, or just in despair about anything and everything. They are always available; no need to worry about waiting.
My addictive nature wants to be holed up in my apartment as often as possible, getting high and drunk. It doesn't care how often I drive drunk or high. That is all that I need and it is all that matters in life. If I must be out in the world, whether at school, work, or the grocery store, I retreat to restrooms to be alone so I can snort a line or drink some beer. As long as I have my substances, life isn't so bad.
On the other hand, the part of me that is still alive knows that this is all a big delusion. I am delusional because my disease has taken over my mind and I do not possess the strength or vitality to disagree with anything it tells me. So I believe everything. I believe that people in AA are full of shxx and do not care about me. I believe that in order to be comfortable in my own skin, I require doses of alcohol or drugs. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
That is just the way my brain is wired. So I am in a constant battle. Part of me says no and the other part says yes. Part of me says stop and the other part says go. Lately, I seem to go along with whatever the addictive part of me says, regardless of how crazy, senseless, or self-destructive it may be.
I am a master at justifying and rationalizing my behavior. Whether it's against the law or not. Whether or not it hurts people. Whether or not it harms me in the end. My disease always seems to have the last say. The last word.
<b>The language of my disease!</b>
No matter how much AA and recovery is in my head. None of that can overcome the language in which my disease speaks. It's as though it's my first language and nothing else makes any sense.
The only thing that makes sense and the only thing I can comprehend is to keep drinking. To keep using. No matter what the consequences are. No matter who dies. No matter how much destruction is made. Keep at it. Keep getting drunk. Keep getting high. Keep breaking the law. Keep lying. Keep cheating. Keep stealing. Keep working hard to make everything seem like it's fine.
Even if you're sick; keep drinking. Even if you have no money; sell your body. Because if you don't get that next hit or drink, you won't survive. You won't be able to handle life. You won't be able to handle that mind of yours that keeps racing with thoughts.
I have been sick from drinking too much alcohol. I have thrown up. I kept drinking, despite the fact that my body said no. No more poison. I continued to pour the booze down my throat because that was what my mind told me to do.
To anyone who is struggling
I thank you for sharing your story. I am very familiar with it because I am an alcoholic but I had a drink for 25 years. But, you never forget the cravings, wanting to stop and thinking that you can't, throwing out the alcohol and then buying more the next day, etc.
I had good incentive to stop-my son was born and I knew I couldn't be a good mother if I kept drinking. I had been drinking for 12 years and it had progressed to every day. I did not drink when I was pregnant.
The first thing that I did to get help was to go to my regular medical doctor. He was a God send. He told me of other help I could get and was a kind listener. I started going to AA meetings and got a drug and alcohol counselor.
After several tries, I finally got clean. The temptations never go away completely but most days I am fine. If I am in a situation where there is alcohol present (such as at a wedding, etc.) I always make sure that I have my own car so that I can leave if things get crazy.
I hope and pray that you can get some help. My son is a drug addict and he is in jail now. He was clean for 7 months but relapsed. He's saying he's going to get help. I go to Al-anon meetings, see my counselor, talk to my minister and see my physician's assistant.
I hope you can get some support, too. I know, first hand, how hard it is to reach out-I've been in the same place-wanting to isolate, thinking all I needed was to be able to drink. But, I assure you that the clean life is much, much better.
Good luck and I'll pray for you,
The Part That Hurts
by: Ned Wicker
To those who do not suffer from the disease of addiction, who have never been stepped on, disappointed or alienated from the world, Kathleen's story seems for distant and unbelievable.
Yet, her story is repeated millions of times.
The question I ask is "What hurts?"
What drives a person to commit suicide by the installment plan and throw their life away as if it had no meaning or purpose?
Obviously the physical toll drugs and alcohol take are dreadful, and the emotional pain that she talks about is difficult to comprehend, but addiction is a disease of the spirit and requires a spiritual solution.
The spiritual pain in her story touches my heart, as the decline of the spirit precedes the death of the body.
I understand that many disregard AA and refuse to accept the wisdom of the addicts who wrote the Big Book, but when they wrote that the disease is spiritual, they hit on something that is the key to unlocking the mystery behind all of the bad decision making, the broken relationships and the disappointments of life.
God bless you, Kathleen. Thank you for your honesty, your openness and your willingness to share.