“I don’t have a drinking problem,” I told myself, over and over again. Sure, when I was partying with friends I would binge drink and slip into such a deep depression that I pushed my very patient and understanding boyfriend to the brink of breaking up with me — but I didn’t come home and drink every night. I drank socially, starting in college. I’d drink to the point where I could talk to people, and then to the point where I’d be crying in the corner and feeling absolutely miserable. I rarely drank to the point of puking, so I wasn’t that kind of drunk. That was normal, or so I thought.
Then it all came crashing down that summer night in 2011. In the middle of a deep depression — one where I was unable to get out of bed all day to go to work — I managed to force myself to go to a networking event at night thinking it would be a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and meet some new people. After I drove 30 minutes from my house to the event, I found myself a venue with very little food (I hadn’t eaten all day) and constantly-refilled pours of wine. I thought I drank three glasses, but looking back I really have no idea how much I had that night.
At 11 I was drunk enough to have made some acquaintances and followed them to a bar — to sober up. I thought after an hour of not drinking anything, and just three glasses of wine that I started drinking at eight, I’d be ok to drive. But I knew when I got behind the wheel that I wasn’t ready. Unfortunately a concerned citizen came over and asked me if I was ok, and in my not-there mental state, I was so embarrassed and drove off as soon as that citizen walked away. She had called the cops on me and I was pulled over pretty much right after I left the parking lot. I was .3% over the legal limit, spent the night in jail, completely changed my perception of myself (and the seriousness of my alcohol problems), and made a choice to never let that happen again. I was humiliated but so glad to be caught. To be forced to stop before anyone got hurt.
It was an expensive and painful lesson to learn. All in all, it cost me about $10,000.
Previous posts about my 2011 DUI:
- Life after a DUI: Why I’m the lucky one
- Tales of a DUI: The worst is yet to come
- The DUI & Ticket Saga Continues
- DUI Don’t, a tale of court and paying for my sins
- Lots of hate “mail” and comments re: my DUI Posts
- DUI sage continues: SWAP day one
- Life after DUI: attempting to start over without really starting over.
- The Cost of a DUI in California
- Three years since my DUI: Life after a DUI
- Can I go to Canada with a DUI?
I’m barred from visiting Canada for at least two more years, and even then I have to apply for a special visitors permit. When I applied to a job this year, I ended up caught up in a background check mess… while, fortunately, they didn’t end up caring about my DUI – it did cost me a week of salary and a bit of confusion amongst my coworkers. And, I have a misdemeanor on my record for life. I can get it expunged, but I choose not to because I am responsible for my actions and do not want to hide my past mistakes.
The whole experience also opened my eyes to how much the justice system screws over people in poverty. While I was so fortunate to have a boyfriend who would drive me to community service and work when I lost my license, many of the people I met who had similar DUIs were stuck taking buses hours to get to their jobs. The fine that I had to pay really sucked for me, but for others that was the money they need to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s heads. Not that anyone deserves to be let off scot free with a DUI, but there has to be something done about the penalties for low income people when they are so much more harsh for anyone who is living paycheck to paycheck.
My posts about my DUI have become some of the most popular and commented posts on HerEveryCentCounts through the years. It is, as expected, a mix of people who received DUIs looking for more information, and then others who want to troll or shame people who received a DUI, to make them feel like their life is meaningless and they can never be redeemed for their mistake.
What has felt good throughout the years is the emails I get from readers who happen on my blog after getting a DUI – who are depressed and don’t know where to turn. It feels good to know that my story, however unfortunate it is that I have a story to begin with, helps them get through this dark and difficult time. Few people get DUIs without other serious mental health issues going on. It’s a wake up call for a lot of us. It’s definitely that time in my life when I personally was forced to confront that I had a real problem, and I had to deal with it.
Six years later, I still drink occasionally, but I don’t drink to the point of intoxication — and, more importantly, I never drink if I have my car with me. If I know I’m going to be drinking (for instance, at a work event, or party) I always take public transportation or an uber/lyft. It’s a good rule to have when you know you can’t control your actions after a couple of drinks.