Tag Archives: dui

Can I Go To Canada with a DUI?

In 2011 when I got a DUI, I was in one of my darkest depressions and made the absolute worst mistake of my life. As I look back on that time in my life, I realize that I was not in a good state, and I was making bad choices such as getting behind the wheel that night. As a self-proclaimed “good girl” through high school and even college, I was shocked to end up in the back of a cop car because I let myself make such a horrible choice.

Over the years, it’s been interesting to see that my posts on my DUI are still the #1 top traffic source for my blog. That’s not why I’m writing this, it’s just that before my DUI I admittedly looked down on people who drove over the limit and figured that “they” deserved whatever punishment “they” got. And then “they” was me. And I learned very quickly how harsh the laws are and how the punishment continues to pop up and haunt you no matter how much you want to get away from that one moment. Continue reading

Who Reads this Blog?

On May 29, 2007, I wrote my first entry on HerEveryCentCounts — I titled it “Diversification?” I had about $27k in networth (before the recession of 2008, when it went down significantly) and my income was $35,000 a year (which, incredibly, is less than I make in three months today.)

It was in 2007 when I opened my first retirement account – a Roth IRA and a mid-cap Vanguard fund. My job didn’t offer a 401k, so I was limited to $5000 a year in retirement investment. I knew nothing about investing and finance – I just read another 20-something women’s blog about her investing a small inheritance, and suddenly felt inspired to sort out my future. I was spending 50% of my income on a studio apartment that cost $905 a month (the same apartment now costs over $1600 – that’s how much rent has gone up here in the last 9 years.) I was 23 years old.

Admittedly, this blog has gone months without any content, followed by weeks where I’ll post three or more times a week. I never intended this to be a regular publication — I started writing because I wanted to hold myself accountable for my future. And, since I didn’t have a lot of money for financial advice, I figured some folks out there on the internet would tell me if I was completely messing it up.

Nearly nine years since starting this blog, it seems to get some fairly regular visitors. I don’t get a lot of comments — and I’m not sure if that’s because my comment system is broken or if what I write isn’t the ideal content to start a conversation. By far, my most popular posts are the ones I wrote about getting a DUI. That was the lowest point of my life, but financially probably the most interesting from a blogging perspective. I still get tons of traffic to my DUI posts, which rank very highly on random search terms like “dui depression” and “how to get your life back after a DUI.”

What’s been most rewarding, though, has been the number of people who have commented or emailed me about their DUI stories. There are lots of intelligent and otherwise law-abiding people who made a mistake and are struggling with deep depression after getting arrested for driving under the influence. Many tell me that my story has made them be able to get through the darkest time in their lives. Although I didn’t expect that to be the result of my blogging about my DUI (which was now four years ago), and I get my fair share of hate mail from people who were injured in drunk driving accidents or knew someone who was hurt in one, I do feel good when I receive comments from strangers letting me know how I’ve helped them. Helping people is the only thing in this world the makes me feel happy, so this has been a strange positive side effect of dealing with my own mistakes.

The rest of this blog is typically me just cycling through the same series of complaints, so I’m not sure how entertaining it is, or how many people out there are repeat readers. I’m sure there are plenty of anonymous readers who occasionally find their way back here. I’m curious, if you read this blog, how long have you been reading it? How did you find me? Do any posts from the past nine years stand out in your mind? Would you like me to write about anything else?

If you read this blog, please leave a comment here – and if you’re having trouble leaving a comment, email me at hereverycentcounts@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing from you and learning more about my readers!

 

 

Three Years Since My DUI – Life After a DUI

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In the summer of 2011, I made a terrible decision to get behind the wheel after attending a networking event and drinking away my anxiety with one too many glasses of wine. I could have killed someone or severely injured myself. I was fortunate to only end up in handcuffs and $10k poorer as a result of that horrible night.

As I learned at my required “first time offender” program, the events leading up to the DUI rarely describe a typical day. We had to do a writing exercise to detail out the events of the day, putting focus on any warning signs so we could recognize them in the future, in order to avoid a DUI habit. (Shockingly, despite the embarrassment and fees, there are still many repeat offenders.)

The day I got my first (and last) DUI, I was trapped in a deep depression, unable to get out of bed to drag myself to work. This does not at all excuse my actions, but looking back three years later I realize just how lucky I am to have escaped that evening with “only” a DUI. I pried myself out of bed to attend a networking event I was looking forward to having not eaten so much as a cracker during the day. My anxiety quickly kicked in and I downed a few glasses of wine (I think it was three oversized glasses, but the servers were refilling so I could have lost count.)

To my own credit, I knew I was not ready to drive immediately after the event. I went around the corner to a bar with a group of event attendees and stayed there for an hour or so until everyone went home. At that point, I walked back to my car, and the rest is a lesson in terrible decision history. A woman called 9-11 on me as I walked to my car and five cops were waiting to arrest me around the corner. I wasn’t ready to drive. Another hour and I would have barely made the cut off for the legal limit. I shouldn’t have even been thinking about driving. I blew a .10%.

It was the roughest night of my life. A night handcuffed to a chair in a freezing waiting area of the jail in nothing but a small, thin, summer dress because I was under psychiatric watch due to informing the cops about my very real intention to kill myself the second I had a chance. Thank god for my boyfriend at the time who, while being sad at the situation I had gotten myself into, picked me up at the jail the next morning and helped me through the very trying next year of my life. Thanks to him, I got through it.

Three Years Later

In hindsight, while being bipolar and massively depressed is not an excuse for driving drunk (ever / at all), I definitely now can recognize the signs when I’m emotionally not in a good place to think about drinking. And since when you have a DUI on your record you cannot have a drop of alcohol in your system when you are driving, I’ve learned how to handle the best practice of never driving if I plan to have anything to drink.

In my professional culture, this is not always the easiest, but people tend to understand. I typically take public transportation to work, which helps, because a work happy hour can still occur without a challenge in getting home. Even when I do drive in to work, if I go out with my colleagues after work for “drinks” I make sure to have just one and then spend a good three hours or so wandering around the mall to make sure any trace of alcohol is out of my system.

The hardest part of my DUI was the first few months when my license was taken away and when I had to participate in “volunteer work” and first offender classes, not to mention hire a lawyer (useless) and go to court to find out what my fine and punishment would be. I really don’t know what I would have done without my boyfriend helping me through the very dark time in my life. I feel bad for people who get DUIs and don’t have a support system in place, especially those who have others relying on them — like single parents or adult children responsible for taking care of their elderly parents. It’s amazing how many things you take for granted about your freedom and ability to transport yourself from one place to another until you’ve been arrested.

Fast forward three years and it seems everyone has a story about a DUI – whether they received one or knew a close friend that did. What drives me absolutely batty is how many people I know go out and drink a couple than get behind the wheel. For instance, I had a colleague who would drive extremely drunk and there was no stopping him (though my coworkers and I tried taking his keys away on numerous occasions.)

The reality is, there is this massive group of people in this country who drive drunk repeatedly and just never get caught. Or at least they haven’t been yet – one day they won’t be so lucky. Some people boast about their driving skills while others are more silent about their repeated choice to get behind the wheel after a few drinks. Last year my boyfriend and I were driving on the freeway behind a blue car that was clearly swerving over the lane back and forth and while we didn’t call 9-11 on the driver, we did follow them off the freeway and saw a police car finally spot their poor driving and pull them over. I was relieved the police got the driver off the street and no one got hurt.

Lessons Learned

Today I’m actually grateful for the woman who called 9-11 on me walking to my car that day. While I might have gotten home safe that night without hurting another person, that could have been a much uglier night. But what’s more – I clearly had a big problem, one that extended much broader than just my occasional alcohol binge to fight my anxiety and depression — and I needed help. I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t caring about my own well being and wasn’t thinking about how this may effect anyone else. I was selfish and a danger to myself and society. I needed a wake up call.

That wake up call set me back over $10,000, cut my pride in two, made it impossible to get into Canada, and shot me straight from the last flickering embers of my dumb youth into adulthood. I still wish that day never happened, and I still feel sick to my stomach thinking about that evening as I sobered up at the local police station and was driven in the back of a police car down to the county jail for the night.

I think about how humbling the experience was – going from being the girl who didn’t have so much as a sip of alcohol until college – the prude, abstinent one, the one who literally won a poster contest for M.A.D.D. (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) and was honored at one of their events, to the girl behind bars that they warned you about. The whole experience taught me a lot about judging people so harshly for their mistakes. I think, in a strange way, my progress after the DUI made me a better person – or at least a wiser one, now that I’ve lived through it to tell the tale. There are certainly much safer, more sane places to gain wisdom than one that could result in you spending the rest of your life in jail or worse.

Mental Health System Failures

What I didn’t expect was the amount of people who would find my blog (apparently it shows up in a lot of different searches for DUIs) and, barring the few trolls telling me how terrible of a person I am, how it would help many people who had, like myself, made a very bad decision, and were in a world of hell trying to recover from their mistake. I would get emails, sometimes very long emails, detailing out how much people could relate to my situation and how reading my blog posts about my DUI process made them feel a bit better and more able to handle the brunt of the storm to come.

I continue to be willing to offer my time and support to “DUI victims,” which includes the people who have untreated mental health issues which lead to their DUI arrest. I won’t respond to letters of people who are angry about getting arrested and feel they didn’t deserve it, but I’m happy to support those who know they made a terrible mistake, and who need help. If my blog can help someone bring some reality to their situation – see the light at the end of the tunnel, then writing about all this has served some good.

Alcohol, Career Growth, and Getting Home

In 2011, when I was arrested for my first and only-ever DUI, I was driving home from a professional networking event. That’s not an excuse, it’s just that most people assume people arrested for DUIs are out partying it up club hopping or taking shots, which isn’t the case. I had one too many glasses of wine, waited probably about a half hour too short of getting in my car to drive, and clocked over the legal limit. Luckily, I didn’t hurt anyone but my ego and bank account. I learned my lesson.

That’s why at 8:08pm I’m sitting in the food court of a deserted mall listening to “Love Potion Number 9” play over the loud speaker when I really should be at home doing a thousand other things I have to do. My company had a team gathering tonight and part of that gathering involved drinking. I didn’t go overboard — I had one glass of wine early in the night and cut myself off. But at the end of the evening my new boss, a fine wine connoisseur, pulled out a bottle of vintage bubbly, and it of the few members remaining at the table it was clearly rude to resist. And, I’ll admit, I wanted to try a sip or two — who am I to refuse the few tastes of luxury that are poured my way? Continue reading

The Cost of a DUI in California

In November, I pulled the trigger and wrote my final $800 check to cover the fine for my DUI. The last year, especially the first half of it, has been a struggle for me, going from a person who was the type to judge inebriated drivers, to someone who was handcuffed in a police car after failing to leave myself enough time after drinking at a networking event before getting behind the wheel.

If you’re the type of person who goes out and parties all the time and laughs that you’ve driven drunk more times than you can count, getting a DUI would still be frustrating, but it probably wouldn’t cause you to question your entire identity. Over the course of participating in the various programs for first-time offenses, I met a variety of people spanning the gamut from those who were partying hard and woke up in the hospital after getting behind the wheel to others who were older parents coming home from an evening out at a nice restaurant, who were arrested after their tire blew out, unrelated to their drinking. In the eyes of the law, rightly so, these people are not judged differently. (In fact, I was stunned that often the person who had a much higher BAC and flipped their car managed to get off a lot easier due to a good lawyer or luck with their prosecutor!)

For me, I was always frustrated with “how” I got caught (a citizen called 911 on me as I walked to my car) but deep down knowing that I needed the wake up call. It was a wake up call not just to this particular poor choice, but a downward spiral I had let myself get on in my life. The more stressed and depressed I got, the worse choices I made. I’m glad that I didn’t end up on a hospital bed or worse. But I did end up with one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life, going from goody two shoes to defendant.

Now that I’ve finally paid off the last bit of my DUI fine, I’ve tabulated the costs this stupid mistake have cost my networth. This isn’t over yet, however, as I still have nearly 3 more years of increased insurance, which has kept me from purchasing a newer car. In fact, I’m driving around in an embarrassing beater  to remind myself of the money I lost to this, and balance some of it out, at least the insurance fees.

Total Spent on DUI (First Offense)

$1806 DUI Fine
$3000 Lawyer
$732 First Offender Class
$25 Duplicate License
$3168 ($88 x 3 x 12) on insurance fees
———————————————–
~$8731 

There is likely other costs that I haven’t included here, so I estimate the DUI will cost $10k by the time I’m done with it. For instance, if I want to go to Canada within the next 13 years I’ll have to pay a few hundred dollar entry fee to apply since in Canada they consider a DUI a felony. So I’m probably not going to Canada for a while, but these are costs that will add to the total that I haven’t considered yet.

It really is crazy how one really stupid mistake and bad choice can cost you nearly $10,000. When they say “it’s cheaper to call a cab or EVEN A LIMO to take you home when you are drinking,” they’re right. I should have called for a limo both home and back to my car for every night I went out drinking and I’d still end up ahead. Or, more reasonably, a taxi. $10k / $100 goes a long way.

Lesson learned the hard way.

Finding my Willpower

The other day, I wrote a post discussing my thoughts on my DUI and how it has affected my life. It definitely caused me to pause and reflect on how out of control my life has become. Not as an alcoholic, but in my lack of control of myself, my emotions and my actions.

Today, for the first time in 5 months, I drove to work. I could have gotten a restricted license 4 months ago, but I was afraid of driving again and waited until I felt I was ready. It also happened that today my company sponsored a drinking event after work. While I am not an alcoholic (according to my DUI class last night), I do find it difficult to refuse a drink when I am at a bar and the rest of my team is sharing a seemingly unlimited supply of wine.

I knew I had two options — either not drink, or have a drink and find another way home. Given I have not driven in 5 months, and how much I enjoy the freedom of driving, I found willpower to not drink. Yes, it was hard for me not to have any wine, when all of my co-workers (many of whom were going to drive home) were drinking multiple glasses, but I knew I had no other choice if I was going to drive. In addition to never wanting to drink anything and drive again, I have a 3 year probation with 0 tolerance, so I can’t even have a glass of wine and get behind the wheel. That’s for the better — it helps me focus on putting myself in social situations with lots of alcohol around and not drink, in case I ever need to drive home in the future after such a social event.

It is difficult — and frustrating — to be in a culture where it’s almost considered acceptable to drink and drive. Of course, no one thinks it’s acceptable to get shit-faced drunk and get behind the wheel, but I’m confident that many people have a couple of beers and think they’re “just tipsy” and fine to drive home, and they do. It’s frustrating because most of these people never get caught, not that I’d want them to suffer, but it’s also crazy how in my DUI class there are people who had .14% – .25% BACs and they are still upset they were in trouble.

The DUI class itself is fascinating. Yesterday was the last of my 10 “education” classes, which are now followed with 5 “process” classes. I have to pay about $650 for these classes. I’ve never spent a lot of time with people who drink a lot or party, but the class makeup is extremely mixed. You do have the people who clearly like to party and went out drinking the night away and woke up a hospital bed. But you have others who had a few drinks at the bar, thought they were ok to drive (or at least more ok than their friend who they went out with) and ended up being busted just over the legal limit because their light was out or for some other reason, unrelated to their driving.

Yesterday’s education class was a good one to end on, for this section of the program. The topic of the day was “addiction.” It was extremely sad to hear the stories of my fellow classmates, many of who had alcoholics for parents. One woman had a realization in the class that her husband was an alcoholic and she was gravely concerned that he was giving booze to her teenage kids who were drinking and driving, as she had given up drinking entirely since her arrest. Others are just angry they were caught and claim they felt fine while driving, even at .16% BAC and higher. It’s funny that I get angry at them, such as a guy who had a .23% and was driving with kids in his car at the time, and I want to shout “dude, you had three kids in your car and a .23% BAC, you have no right to be angry at the police.” I think we all judge each other, but in the end our punishments are the same, no matter if we were just over the legal limit or well over it, with or without kids in the car (well this guy’s lawyer was apparently really good.)

While I didn’t relate to being addicted to alcohol, persay, the topic of addiction really hit home for me because of my food addiction. Sometimes that does seep over to alcohol but for the most part I drink when I’m with people, and don’t hide my drinking. I do often hide my binge eating. And the addiction topic made me reflect on just how important it is to have willpower. So today, when I was at the bar, I forced myself not to have a drink. I knew I wouldn’t drive home if I had even a sip, but it wasn’t worth it. Just like junk food is evil and uncessary, so is alcohol. It’s a shame it’s so accepted as part of our social culture. I’d rather avoid it entirely. They don’t preach total abstience in class, but ultimately I don’t understand the point of drinking if it’s not to escape and have a good time, which often amounts to doing something embaressing or having a lapse of judgement. It’s very hard not drinking around other people who are drinking, and I hate seeming so stiff, but ultimately I think I need to quit drinking for good — along with junk food — and any other form of binging that I seem to have such a talent for. Only when I can learn how to avoid binging on anything bad for me will I be able to be a healthy person.

life after DUI: attempting to start over without really starting over.

Life happens. Mistakes are made. How the rest of your life turns out depends on how quickly you’re able to bounce back, as well as how you’re able to turn things around and not make the same mistakes again.

It’s been six months since pleading “no contest” to my DUI arrest at .08% BAC, and 10 months since the actual evening of the arrest. I’ve gone through many phases after the arrest, including depression, shame, guilt, anger, and now, coping and trying to move on.

I’ve been without a car for months now — thought I’m eligible to register for a restricted license to get to work, I’ve been avoiding that and driving because I’m scared to let myself get near a car. On Monday, I’ve finally made myself a DMV appointment to purchase a restricted license. This summer, once my classes are over, I should be able to get a full license and attempt to bring my life back to normal, or better yet, move forward to a place I’ve never been — in control, and in charge of my own happiness.

In my DUI class the other day, we had to do an exercise called “the 12 hours before your DUI.” It had a series of multiple choice questions, that because with — “was it on a usual or unusual day?” For me, it was an unusual day. I was having a huge bought of anxiety and hadn’t moved from my bed for the entire day, not even to eat. I don’t even remember why I was so stressed, but I was having a bad enough panic attack that I requested to work from home that day. Then, around 5pm I decided it would be best to force myself to get out of the house and go to a meetup event, where I could try to be social and get myself some food. Unfortunately, instead of food, there was only wine and a lot more anxiety. So I had four or so glasses to drink on a very empty stomach.

The questionnaire went on to ask what time you started drinking, where you were, and what time you were arrested. I started at 7pm, finished at 9:30pm, and was arrested around 12:30pm. Why were you arrested? My option was “other.” Most people in the class had been pulled over for driving poorly. I have the lowest BAC in the class at .08%. Most people had .14% or higher, with a few .20% and higher. Some stories are so crazy (like the guy who got arrested with three kids in the back seat and a .24% and, because he had a good lawyer, got less of a punishment than I did with my .08% and no traffic violation) or the woman who was drinking all day and ended up driving with a .22% to help her friend out who forgot her seizure medication at a party. Most people were celebrating, a few had been drinking all night, went to sleep and woke up the next morning to drive, only to get a DUI because the alcohol hadn’t left their system.

At the end, the questionnaire asked four final questions:

1. Do you feel responsible for the events leading up to your DUI?
2. Do you think it was fair that you were arrested?
3. How likely are you to get a DUI again?
4. How hard will it be for you to get a second DUI?

We’re told that 40% of first DUI offenders will get a second DUI. That seems ridiculously high, but in forcing myself to answer these questions honestly, I understood why.

1. Do you feel responsible for the events leading up to your DUI? Yes, entirely.

2. Do you think it was fair that you were arrested? Somewhat. I think it was unfair I was arrested that night because someone called 911 on me walking to my car — not even because I was driving poorly — and all of the videos they force us to watch show accidents with people who had .15% or higher — but I also am glad they did because it was much better to learn this lesson on a night I was just barely over the legal limit, then another night when I might have been more depressed, more intoxicated, and hurt someone. I still think it is unfair how people who have clearly had a lot more to drink end up with the same punishment or even lesser punishment if they have good lawyers.

3. How likely are you to get a DUI again? Very unlikely. I wanted, so desperately, to put that it definitely wouldn’t happen, but then I wanted to be honest.

4. How hard will it be for you not to get a second DUI?  The only real way for me to guarantee that I will never get a DUI again is to stop drinking. Of course when I’m sober I can say I wouldn’t drive after I drink, but the problem is that when you drink you think irrationally. I’m a lightweight, and after even one drink my logic goes to shit. I am glad that this experience after the DUI is so frustrating — because it’s easier to “forget” paying $10k over the years, but it’s not easy to forget the night in jail, the five days of SWAP program where I was a part time convict and freedoms were taken away from me, and now, this year of my life which has been really difficult due to not having a car, putting a great deal of stress on not only my life, but also my boyfriend’s life, as he has so kindly helped drive me over the year. Somehow I’m managed to maintain my job this last year, but I’ve been severely depressed, and have gained more than 20 pounds, now at my largest weight ever. I feel so out of control, and so I just eat and eat. This is another reason I must get my life back in order.

I won’t get a second DUI, I promise myself, and I promise the world, but I also said I wouldn’t get a first. I think that sort of messes with your mind also… which might lead to the likelihood of people getting a second or third, even. But I refuse to be a statistic.
Beyond the DUI, though, there is a question of whether I should drink in the first place. It’s challenging not to, with my work culture tied to our weekly happy hour. I like drinking too, because I’m so shy and awkward, at the time, it helps me be social, and feel like I belong. It isn’t like I’m going out to get shit faced, but even one drink of red wine makes me more comfortable with others. I wish I could figure out a way to feel like that without the alcohol. It also turns out that since the DUI, I’ve started drinking more than I used to, because of this depression and hatred over losing the last bit of control I felt like I had with life.
In any case, I’m really focused on moving on with my life. There’s a lot going on right now causing me to be depressed beyond this issue, things that the rational, not depressed person would be able to deal with, things that are really making getting through each day difficult. Luckily there is a lot of positive things in my life right now too, so it all balances out. There are days when I feel like giving up. I’ll write more about that in my next post.
I just want all of the DUI penalties to be done with, so I can really move on. I’ve finished seven of my 17 classes (which are taking a long time because they are weekly and I frequently travel for work), and I’ll be paying the fines and increase in insurance for years to come. I finally filled my SR-22 with my insurance, so I can get the restricted license, and will be getting that on Monday. My car apparently isn’t turning on because it hasn’t been driven in months, so I need to see if it can be fixed or if I need a new car. Soon this will be over. And I really, desperately, need to change my life so this — and other things like this — do not happen again. My next post will be on self sabotage and how this effects life and my financial stability.

 

 

Weekends in an Orange Vest

While the fines suck, the 3-month DUI class is a pain, and inability to travel to Canada for 10 years is a bummer, the worst part about getting a DUI is the Weekend Work Program. As part of my punishment, I have do 5 days of weekend “work” or go to jail for the same amount of time without getting to go home at night. Of course, I, and everyone else arrested for a DUI, chose weekend work.

So far…

Day 1 — sat in a cold garage all day.
Day 2 — went to a field of rocks and “picked up rocks” all day.
Day 3 — went to a park and raked leaves into piles and then raked the same leaves out of piles.
Day 4 — washed windows that weren’t dirty all day.
Day 5 — ? next Saturday is my last day, finally.

It’s fascinating hearing the stories of people who were arrested for a DUI. There are hundreds of people who gather in a prison parking garage every Saturday and Sunday to serve out their time. Some blew a .08% after driving home from a wedding and not stopping fully at a stop sign, while others blew a .26% and woke up in handcuffs after a bad accident. I’ve met people who pled guilty with a .1 BAC and got a harsher sentence than those who fought it and got a plea bargin with a .15. I’ve met people who led police on a chase driving through a few red lights before passing out and getting caught. Many are in for their first DUIs, others for their second, who tell scary stories of spending time in jail. The main topic of conversation that gets us through the day is alcohol and drugs — most people go home after they get out at 4pm and drink. On Sunday, many talk about how hungover they are. A few brag about their drug use that morning. And, to my surprise, many on the program even sneak in joints and smoke when the supervisors aren’t looking.

They say once you have  your first DUI, you’re likely to get a second. That’s only true is that once you get a DUI you are on court probation for 3 years and if you have ANY alcohol in your system when you are driving and get caught (even .01%) you will get a second DUI. Meanwhile, a lot of the people who receive second DUIs just like to party and don’t seem to care, or they think they are invincible. I’ve heard many stories now of how the first DUI and second DUIs happen, and while I don’t judge, some of the people there make me sad because I know they are probably going to get another. They aren’t bad people (well, most aren’t) but their lives just revolve around partying, drinking and drugs. I’m still the only person that I met in there who got arrested because someone called 911 on my walking to my car; but that’s what I get for thinking I was ok to drive. I’ve learned my lesson, and I’ll never go near a car after drinking.

I wish the program was actually designed to help people. The DUI class is a joke. I’ve been to one so far (I have a 3 month program.) The class was 2 hours, with the first hour spent with the instructor talking about how to get help if you’re an addict, and then we watched an hour of a video from the early 2000s (though it seemed like it was from the 80s) about a father who was addicted to ecstasy. Apparently one week of the program the cops come in and show you mangled bodies that were in DUI-related accidents to scare you straight. I’m sure there is a better way to help people learn how to be healthy and safe with their drinking habits. It’s just a waste of time. Regardless, that waste of time, and money, has taught me a lesson that I wish I never had to be taught. Too many others are going to get another DUI, and the programs in place aren’t at all effective in stopping them.

 

DUI Saga Continues: SWAP Day One

I’m not sure how common this is in other states, but in California they push DUI offenders (as well as other petty criminals) to trade in a more threatening and time-consuming jail sentence for day-time “SWAP” / volunteer work.

Although I received my DUI in August and quasi-plea bargain in November, today was my first of 5 days to do this “volunteer work.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I arrived this morning at 8am and saw hundreds of men gathered at the location I was headed, I thought I was going to be the only female in a crowd of mostly gangbanger men. The area is ripe with gang violence, and plenty of the men had tattoos that looked like they might be gang-related. Ok, so I was a little nervous about spending a few days with these men, even if it was under police supervision cleaning up the side of the road.

Today, I can’t even describe what normal SWAP duty is like. They were overwhelmed by the number of people that showed up for SWAP duty that they ran out of projects to have people work on. A good 50-100 of us were left behind in the jail parking garage, where we were not allowed out, but also had nothing to do. And having nothing to do (we weren’t allowed to bring anything with us besides lunch, a watter bottle, and ID) was a good bit of kind torture to the criminals. The worst of it was how cold it got in the garage, even as it warmed up outside with the sun, only small rays broke through the barred windows. At one point my hands started to turn blue.

We had to stay there from 8am to 4pm. At 8am, everyone lined up and it took a good hour-and-a-half for them to process the masses of about 400-500 people. It wasn’t very clear what was going on until they finally brought out chairs for the remainder of us and all the buses had left. So we wouldn’t be picking up garbage on the side of the road, we’d be in jail, albeit an extra-cold jail with nothing to do. I think jail at least lets you have books and writing equipment. It was an extremely long, cold, boring day, and I get to get up to do it all again tomorrow, not to mention next Saturday and Sunday, and the Saturday after that.

I had more of a post written here but WordPress ate it, so I’ll have to write part 2 tomorrow after I get back from day 2. Maybe I’ll actually get to go out to the field to pick up trash and “work” — the fresh air would be much better than being trapped in a frigid parking garage with nothing to do all day long.

 

 

 

Lot of Hate “Mail” / Comments re: My DUI Posts

Wow, I’ve received a lot of hate mail (comments) regarding the blog posts on the consequences of getting a DUI. It seems my post got picked up by The Consumerist, which sent a slew of angry people over to my blog to yell at me. Welcome new readers. 🙂

I wanted to respond, even though it’s clear that people who are angry about anything will never budge in their opinion of you. First things first, I will never, ever have a drink and think about getting near a car again. There was a comment about how I sound like I’m not sorry I drove drunk, I’m sorry I got caught. Here’s the truth — I’m glad I got caught. I’m not glad that I have to deal with everything that goes along with this experience, but clearly what I did was wrong — whether I was caught or not — driving with a .12% BAC. I am embarrassed by this. I did not eat all day, the bartender kept refilling my glass, and the situation somehow got out of control. This doesn’t excuse what happened, I’m just framing the situation — I drink once or twice a year. I am the same person who often grabs keys from friends when they get in cars to drive anywhere after having a few drinks at the bar. I’m the one who is constantly judging coworkers for getting behind the wheel after having a few beers at happy hour, when I just drink water.

This doesn’t excuse that I was stupid, and that I got into a car when I was intoxicated. The real point of the story I want to make is that you stay “drunk” for a long long time after you’ve stopped drinking. I waited three hours after my last beverage, and I wasn’t taking shots either. I had three glasses of wine over the course of the evening, and then I waited three hours. And I thought I was ok to drive. The truth is I did not get pulled over for driving poorly. I pulled over by choice, after I drove a half block, because I realized the three hours wasn’t enough, and a cop walked up to my car because I was seen by another citizen walking to my car and wobbling in my heels. This is not an excuse. This is just what happened. I shouldn’t have even gotten in the car. But, reality is, when you’re more intoxicated than you think you are, your judgement isn’t rational. Continue reading