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Driving under the influence: Is it worth it?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mike Tryon
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
I'm writing this in the hopes that you'll learn from my situation. We've all attended, and or have given, drinking and driving briefings. We have all been made aware of the potential risks. After learning we have had another member charged with driving under the influence, I felt compelled to share with everyone my personal testimony regarding my pending DUI charge, and hope no one else places themselves in my situation.

First, let me describe the evening's events that led to my particular situation. Unfortunately, I think many people have placed themselves in a similar situation and have not been caught; yet it is only a matter of time.

It was about 1 p.m. Aug. 19 that I was released early for the weekend. So, I headed down to Colorado Springs, Colo., to visit my dad, who just had major surgery and was recovering at home. Before I got to my dad's house; however, I decided to go to the bowling alley I previously worked at to visit with former coworkers and friends -- something I always do when I am in the Springs.

While at the bowling alley, I got to talking and decided to have a couple of beers. My only plan for the weekend was to hang out with my dad and to ensure he was healing well. Did I think about how I was going to get to my dad's before I started drinking? No. Did I have any sort of contingency plan for the evening? No.

The choice I made was to drive after having a few drinks. There are several reasons I thought I was good to go; my dad only lived a mile or so down the road, I have driven that route a million times over, this wasn't the first time driving while impaired, and I felt fine due to my perceived alcohol tolerance. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The bottom line is that I did not realize or fully understand how many, or few in some cases, drinks it took to be legally impaired. Not to mention that when you've been drinking, good judgment and reason are the first things to go away. But by no means is this an excuse. There are reasons why we are told that after you have been drinking not to drive.

The result of that decision was a ticket for driving under the influence -- a crime. Not only did I violate the law, but I was potentially playing God at that point. When I was pulled over, two thoughts went through my mind: one was that I could've injured or killed innocent people; the other thought being my career. I don't know which thought occurred first, or which of the potential negative possibilities was more shocking to me, but both scared me.

Thankfully, I didn't run into anything or anyone, and nobody was hurt. Having to live with a DUI is bad enough, I can't begin to imagine how horrible things would be had I hit someone.

Now, while this event is still pending adjudication in civilian court, my career and life have changed. Career wise, I've already lost my driving privileges for a year, a stripe -- and with that money -- and credibility. On the civilian side, I've already had to pay attorney fees, and I'm not allowed to drive in Colorado for at least nine months. That's just the start of my punishment; more may or may not be coming after all is said and done -- and that's on both the military and civilian sides.

This situation has forced me to take a hard look at myself. I came to crossroad: Do I accept all that's coming to me and strive to change for the better, or do I write it off as a mistake and ignore the issues? As much as I'd like for this to never have happened, I have accepted responsibility for my actions and this incident has motivated me to be a better person.

Going forward, what steps do I need to put into place that will help me make better decisions? For a start, it's using all the negativity to make positive changes. An example of that happened one night around the middle of November. I was out having a good time. I was enjoying company with friends and my original plan was to catch a ride with them, as they were not originally supposed to be drinking; however, that plan fell through. Had the DUI situation never have happened, I can honestly tell you that I most likely would've gotten behind the wheel. However, when that plan fell through, I called someone who I knew hadn't been drinking at all that night for a ride -- my wife.

Was she mad that I called her late at night when I knew she took off from work early as she wasn't feeling well and was sleeping? You bet she was; yet, the next morning she told me how proud she was of me for making the responsible decision.

I know that making one right decision doesn't mean I'm in the clear or set for life. All it means is that I'm back on the right track. Because of the DUI, I've judged myself and have set new standards and expectations I hope to live up to. I know it won't be easy, but it is worth it. Only time will tell if I will live up to the new standards and expectations I've set for myself.

The bottom line is, no matter what situation you're in, there are decisions that need to be made, and for every decision you make, there are consequences for those actions. Before you set your mind on doing something, take a second to think of all the possible outcomes of your actions, formulate a plan, come up with a contingency or two and make the smart decision. Use the lessons you've previously learned, either first-hand or through someone else, to help guide you in making the most responsible decision.