Monday, July 26, 2010


Last week a very good friend of ours was in a car accident. He was hit by a drunk driver. His car was t-boned on the passenger side, then spun around, and then smashed into the retaining wall. My friend came out of it badly bruised and sore, but alive. His passenger, however was not so lucky. After a week of fighting through a punctured lung and infections from the surgeries to try and save her life, she died today. I didn't know her, but my heart aches for her family.

This is too close to home for me. I lost one of my best friends in high school, just before my junior year. He, too was the passenger in a car that was hit by a drunk driver. I went to his funeral and visited with his parents in the weeks following the accident. He was the only child in his family. The emptiness and despair in his house were so powerful it was hard to breathe. How his parents continued on after that, I will never know.

The most devastating part in all of this is how often the drunk driver SURVIVES. They get to walk away after taking someone else's life. Their lack of judgment stole a child from their parents. No son should ever outlive his son. One bad decision snuffed out a life before it truly had time to grow and bloom. No mother should ever have to bury her daughter. As a child, I lost an uncle because he decided to drive drunk one too many times. My grandmother never really recovered from the grief of losing her youngest son. Just after high school, I lost two school mates and many, many more were injured or permanently disabled when a drunk driver plowed into a crowd of teens hanging out together.

It is the most senseless of all accidents because of how completely it could have been avoided. Call a cab. Call a friend. Crash on the couch. Walk. Stop drinking. How many other choices were there besides getting behind the wheel too inebriated to see a stop sign? Why doesn't common sense kick in before it gets to that point? What makes a person decide to get in the driver's seat behind thousands of pounds of metal that turns into a killing machine in the blink of an eye? Isn't the embarrassment of asking your friends for cab fare or bumming a spot on the couch WORTH your life and the lives of everyone else on the road?

I am not suggesting that alcohol is the culprit. By all means, drink up and be merry! Just don't be merry and then kill a family of four on vacation by driving the wrong way on the highway. Only you know whether you can handle a drink or two without stopping. You are the only person who can tell if one drink makes you sleepy or downright drunk. No one else is responsible for your actions but yourself. Wine and beer and liquor can be enjoyable, but they can also be deadly by association.

Parents, let your kids know that you love them enough to drive to the bad part of town to pick them up instead of letting them attempt to drive home on their own after partying harder than they planned to. Friends, tell your friends that you care enough to take their keys if you don't think they can drive. Kids, help your friends understand that testing the limits of invincibility is not cool. Families, don't be afraid to tell your family members that they are not allowed to leave unless it is in the passenger seat.

Please, use your own brain and just don't drive drunk.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. How many people have to die? And why are so many drinkers so cavalier about the risks they take?

    I risk sounding ponderous, but in my experience (with alcoholics,a group that I include myself in... as well as the consequences of drunk driving, as a medic,) I think the core of "alcoholism" isn't about the booze, it's about the externalization of responsibility.

    And what I mean by the "externalization of responsibility" is that the drinker refuses to look inward for causes to his problems, and also refuses to look inward for responsibility for his life (and by extension, his actions.)

    It's the drinking that makes him like that, after all.

    Sadly, it is also true that drunks also often leave the scene of the wrecks they cause relatively unscathed. I used to think that the guilty conscience that they are left with might be a better punishment than death or dismemberment; I'm a bit more cynical... dare I say realistic... now. An alcoholic cannot feel the emotional consequence of murder because they cannot take responsibility for their deed; they will always externalize blame. An unhappy childhood, an "addictive personality," unfulfilled expectations... anything, or anyone else... killed their victim. Not them. They do not suffer remorse. If anything, they are victims yet again of whatever external agent "made them" act so irresponsibly.

    Is alcoholism a disease? To me the debate is moot. If a person has AIDS, it's not necessarily their "fault." But that fact that it's a disease does not excuse them from taking care of themselves... or at the very least... being careful not to infect others.

    I'm not so sure alcholism... or most cases diagnosed as such... are really "genetic." I object to AA on similar grounds; AAers chant that they are "powerless over alcohol." Well, if that is one of your foundational beliefs, then it's probably true, as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    You HAVE power over alcohol... just abstain.
    It will mean that you will have to confront your problems and your feelings in the raw.

    "The truth will set you free, but it will make you miserable first."

    Of course, no-one else can do that for you, and no-one else is to blame if you fail.

    Um, delete it if you think its inappropriate, I certainly don't want to hijack the memory of your lost friend with my screed.

    Like she said, don't kill somebody because you won't admit you're human, superman.