DUI: You don’t want to tell this story

Driving under the influence — DUI, DWI, drunk driving, driving drunk, however you decide to say it: the sting of those words hits harder than you know.

When I left my last duty station en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, I was labeled as “a perfect candidate” for officer training school by my shop commander.
I was doing a do-it-yourself move and decided to stay at a friend’s house for a week in South Dakota. The night before I was going to head out, my friend had a party.

My first mistake was allowing someone I did not know to make my drink. My second mistake was not asking someone responsible to take my keys.

As we sat down at the table to play a game, I took my first sip. It was 7 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2008.

Next thing I knew, I was waking up in a cold room with loud noises and in clothes that were not my own. There were three beds with other girls. When I looked down at my shirt, it read: “Pennington County Jail.”

What happened? Who was I with? Was I driving? If I was driving, did I hurt or kill anyone? Where was my phone? Was I driving my new vehicle I just bought? What time is it? Those were just some of the many questions I was asking myself at that moment.

In the next room, there were cops at a desk with a line of females in the same clothes. I was terrified. How did I get into this mess?

The clock on the wall read 7:30 a.m., 12 hours later. A nurse came in to see me. There was a very bad burn across my chest and hips, and on my face from my forehead down to my neck.

When I was able to talk to a cop, they informed me that I would go to court at 10 a.m. What could I argue? I knew that I had chosen the option to drink in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.

According to the report, I “apparently ran a stop sign. At the end of the road there was a steep hill with marks in the grass from a vehicle, indicating that the vehicle had rolled over more than once.”

I was lucky that there was a nurse living in a house near where my vehicle had crashed. She was able to immobilize my head to prevent any spinal damages.
My blood alcohol content was 0.136. It didn’t matter that I didn’t remember ever finishing the first drink. After pleading guilty and letting the judge know my situation, I was released and took a taxi to my friend’s house. My previous and future commanders had already been contacted.

God must have had an angel sitting on my shoulder for saving my life during this accident. My vehicle looked like a pancake.

I was also thankful that my previous commander wanted to defend my reputation, and allowed me to continue my PCS to Alaska. I lost my license for a year, on top of totaling my brand new vehicle. Walking around in Alaska during the winter was not a pleasant experience.

I lost the option of receiving a below-the-zone promotion, my car, my license, half of my belongings in the accident, extra leave time and my reputation.

The next important thing I had to do was start proving myself to my new Air Force family. I volunteered for almost everything. If I was asked to complete a job, I surpassed the expectations.

I am determined to become a story of recovery, not of failure. 

I encourage you to make sure you have a plan in advance when you go out. Don’t be the next service member that has to share their story. Telling mom and dad was hard enough.

My first mistake was allowing someone I did not know to make my drink. My second mistake was not asking someone responsible to take my keys.