A Personal Interview With a “Repeat Offender”

31 Mar

I decided to interview a friend of mine who we’ll call “Eunice” (inside joke).  She happens to be one of the most amazing people I know.  She also happens to be one of the people I know who has gotten 2 DUIs.  Which probably makes her one of the dumbest people I know. Totally joking.  She’s extremely bright which makes it all the more difficult to believe she’s one of “those” people; you know, the ones who drink and drive.  I wanted to try and understand what goes through the mind of someone who does such a thing. Below are the questions I asked and the answers I received.

1)   When was the first time you ever drove drunk?

I was the first to get my license, when I was 16, so I was always the one to drive my friends and I from party to party and everywhere in between.  We used to stash Everclear underneath my seat and would chug it before going into the club.  I didn’t really think much of it at the time, but looking back I can’t believe how naïve I was.

2)   Were you familiar with D.A.R.E. or any other educational programs that focus on driving under the influence?

I went to a private school so we didn’t do any of that.  Even if there were, I don’t think it would have made a difference or changed my decision to drive drunk.

3)   How old were you when you were convicted of your 1st DUI and how did it happen?

This was after I came to Chapman.  I was 19 and I was at a frat party playing beer pong.  When it got broken up, I was on my way to another party when I saw some friends walking with open beer bottles and told them to get in my car so they wouldn’t get caught.  They hopped in and we started driving, but as soon as I turned the corner I saw lights flashing in my rear view mirror.  My heart stopped and all I could think about was how I was going to explain this to my mom.  They made everyone leave so I was alone, and they make me take the field sobriety test.  I thought I did pretty good but then they pulled out the dreaded breathalyzer.  I blew a .12.  Oops.  When they arrested me, I started crying hysterically and begged them not to put handcuffs on me but they said it was procedure.  When I got to the station, they took my photo (I wasn’t smiling) and they put me in a holding cell.  I was then able to call my friend, who we’ll name Joanna, who actually drove my car drunk to come pick me up from the police station!  I don’t remember anything after that.

4)   When you woke up the next morning and realized what you did, how did you feel and what actions did you take?

I was laying in bed and I couldn’t face the morning.  I called my step-sister crying I had no idea how to tell my mom what happened.  I felt like the worst daughter in the world.  When I mustered up the strength to call her, the moment I told her, her voice dropped.  I’ve never felt so ashamed.

5)   Legally, what did you have to do?

I got a lawyer, who cost $5,000.  She went to court for me, and told me that I was going to be charged with a DUI.  I went through 3 months of classes, a year without a license, two MADD classes, and a visit to the coroner’s office.  (And let me tell you, you never want to go there.)

6)   Which part of that was the most effective?

We had to hold a dead fetus that had come from a pregnant mother who had been killed in a drunk driving accident.  I could hardly hold back my tears.  We also had to visit the ICU and see this man who had turned into a vegetable after crashing his motorcycle while under the influence.  The MADD classes were the most emotional for me.  I sat in a room for four hours listening to mothers talk about their children who had been slaughtered by drunk drivers.  The worst part is that they weren’t angry with us.  They didn’t try to make us feel like horrible people, they just wanted to tell their story and make an impact.

7)   I’m glad to hear that you took what you experienced to heart.  However, you continued to drive drunk! What’s up with that?

I definitely have cut down but there are some nights when I drink that I just don’t think straight.  That’s why it’s so important to have people who care around you who will never make that mistake again.  Sometimes when we’re drinking, we can’t think for ourselves.

8)   If you feel so out of control when you drink in that aspect, shouldn’t you cut down on the partying instead?

Yeah, I shouldn’t drink as much when I’m out.  But I like to party and it’s easy to get caught up.  Everyone is out looking for a good time.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as long as you’re with the right people.

9)   Tell me a little bit about the 2nd time you got pulled over driving under the influence.

I had been drinking back home over the summer (hardly one year after I got my first offense) and was driving some friends home because I was the most sober out of all us.  My friend was giving my directions and told me to turn right, but at the last minute he told me to take a left so I ended up turning left with my right turn signal on.  I got pulled over right in front of the house we were going to.  They patted me down and searched my car for drugs because apparently I had “suspicious” looking people with me.  They breathalyzed me twice; I blew a .13.  They took me to the station and got out at 3:30 am.  I couldn’t bear to go home so I took a cab to my friend’s house where I stayed until the next morning.  When I woke up, it was surreal that I had done this again.  I took a 3-day intensive-inpatient alcohol treatment program.  After paying $10,000 for the best lawyer in the area, I was able to reduce my charges to a “wet and reckless.”  Luckily, neither state found out about the other so I have remained a first offender.

10) So after all that, the humiliation and the letdown not to mention the financial burden, why do you still drive after drinking?  And why did you let yourself get into that situation again after the first one? Didn’t you learn your lesson?

To be honest, after a while you forget how shitty the situation was at the time.  You start to feel normal again and when you’re back in the party scene with keys in hand, you automatically assume responsibility for your friends when you’re the least drunk out of the group.  (I know this really isn’t responsible in any way at all).  You lose track of your limitations and you continue to let up more and more on the limitations you set for yourself until you get another DUI.  As soon as your life starts to feel normal again, you start playing around and feeling invincible the way you once did.  You just don’t think anything seriously bad will ever happen to you.  It’s definitely a vicious cycle.

There it is.  Annoyed with some of those responses?  So am I.  I had hoped this interview would set some things straight but it has only become more mind-boggling for me when I think about why someone would continue driving under the influence after being given a second chance.  Especially someone who excels in every other area of her life (a motivated and otherwise intelligent human being).  I was frustrated to say the least.  A part of me wanted to  slap my friend in the face with a reality check but she had already been given one: her DUI.  And it didn’t seem to do much for her in the long-term.  I suppose some people learn and some people don’t.  For those who don’t (and believe me, there are a lot of them), we need to offer a solution that will provide an incentive for them to stay off the streets because apparently tighter laws, thicker regulation, and tougher consequences just aren’t enough to convince people to think twice.

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