Reflections of drinking and driving

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Thweatt
  • 319th Communications Squadron
Imagine you are out with friends. You are just talking, playing games, and having a good time after a long week of work. While you are out, everyone has some drinks. You are there for several hours and before you know it, it is very late. It is time to call it a night. You realize you have been there for awhile, but none of your friends or you are showing any signs of being intoxicated. You have a choice to make. Do you call a taxi or do you drive?
I was recently faced with a similar choice. I made the wrong one. I decided that even though I had been drinking, I could still drive home. On the way home, I was pulled over by the highway patrol for speeding. During the stop, the patrolman decided to perform field sobriety tests. Needless to say - I failed and was arrested for DUI. 

I am going to tell you a little about it so that maybe if you find yourselves in a similar situation, you can make a better decision than I did that night. I won't spout out a lot of statistics or even the company line. I will point out the way one bad decision affected me on a more personal level. 

First, there was the embarrassment which to me came in two phases. The initial phase was being arrested and processed. I was handcuffed, fingerprinted, my personal belongings were confiscated and I was locked in a cell. To top it off, it is local policy to notify Security Forces anytime a military member is arrested. So even before I was released from jail, my First Sergeant and my commander were aware of the situation. The release process was equally uncomfortable. It was almost like being a beggar standing there asking for my own belongings back. The next phase of embarrassment was the most humbling. I had to explain my actions to my supervisor, then again to my First Sergeant, and yet again to my commander. Plus, I had to look friends, family, peers, and subordinates in the eye and explain why I made a terrible decision. Then turn around in the same breath and ask for their help, either getting rides or covering for me while I took care of all the new appointments I had. 

Second, there were all kinds of new demands on my time. There were appointments with my First Sergeant, my commander, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment and the Airmen Defense Council. Most significantly, I was preparing to be court-martialed for my actions. Since I had lost my driving privileges both on and off base, I no longer had an easy way to get to all of these places. So I spent a lot more time walking or asking family and friends to take me to everything from work to simply buying groceries. 

Third, I faced a slew of new financial issues. There was bond, fines, and a significant increase in insurance premiums. To compound my financial woes, I will have to try to come up with the money for these new expenses after losing a stripe. Just to put that in perspective, a loss of one stripe for me is a loss of $625.50 per month for at least 2 years and two stripes for me is a loss of $1212.60 per month for at least 4 years.
Lastly, I had to come to terms with the stress that this one bad decision has added to my life. The stress added from dealing with the embarrassment, the new demands on my time, coping with the realization that my decision affected many people (but thankfully no one was injured), trying to prove to myself and others that this decision does not define who I am or what I have accomplished, and finally the financial stress created by this decision. 

So the next time you are out with friends having some fun make sure you have a plan for how you are going to get home before the night begins. If you get to the point where you are making the choice to drive or not to drive, consider carefully. Can you handle possibly hurting or killing someone else? Can you handle being arrested? Can you handle the embarrassment? Can you handle the extra demands associated with your actions? Can you handle the financial cost while earning less money? Can you handle possibly losing your career? Can you handle the stress that comes with just one bad decision? In the end, I promise, it is not worth it.