If you ask most people, “What kind of person comes to mind when you think of alcoholism?” they will probably say things like the following:
• Somebody who has a weak willpower
• Somebody with low self esteem
• Somebody who is depressed
• Somebody with a family history of alcoholism
• A person who is poor or homeless
At first glance, these beliefs may appear to be true. For example, you might see a person who is depressed who also has alcoholism and you might think to yourself, Depressed people develop alcoholism.
Keep in mind, however, that alcohol is a depressant drug. If you drink it enough, it will cause you to be depressed even when you are not drinking.
You might see another person who is poor or homeless who also has alcoholism and you might believe that poor or homeless people develop alcoholism. The person you see, however, might be a Harvard graduate and had an excellent career until he started drinking.
Why should we even care about what most people think about the kind of person who develops alcoholism? This is very important.
Most people do not believe they are “that kind of person.” If I really believe that the only kinds of people who develop alcoholism are people who have low self-esteem, are depressed, and have a weak willpower, would I be open to getting help if I developed a drinking problem myself?
In fact, I would probably either get angry that somebody had the nerve to believe I was “that kind of person,” or I would laugh it off like a big joke.
On the other hand, if I did believe I was the kind of person who developed alcoholism, I might see my situation as being hopeless. After all, if alcoholism is caused by the kind of people we are, how important are our choices? Why even try at all?
The truth is, there is no certain kind of person who develops alcoholism. Some of us do have a higher biological risk for developing it, however.
This does not mean that individuals who do not have these risk factors cannot develop alcoholism. Anyone who abuses alcohol for a length of time is at risk for developing it. Nobody is immune.
Two years ago, a young man approached me after class. He said he could actually drive better when he was drinking, and that the numbers presented in class were unrealistic.
Even though the numbers we discuss in class are research-based, I chose not to argue the point. This young man obviously had his mind made up that he knew more than I, and that was that.
Six weeks later, I heard he was in a crash. I still do not know the extent of his injuries, but I do know he required several surgeries.
Another one of my students said she had no intention of driving on the night she was arrested for DUI. I planned on getting drunk while watching a couple of movies, and go to bed. I rented two movies, bought a twelve-pack, and started doing just that.
After beer number 7 or 8, my daughter called, said her car was broken down, and needed a ride. Her boyfriend was still at work, so I was the chosen one.
On my way to pick her up, I crashed into a brick mailbox.
The bottom line here is obvious. If you drink to impairment, you cannot realistically say what will happen beyond that point.
I hear stories like this on an almost daily basis. The truth is, if you have more than one drink in an hour, you are in danger of something similar happening to you.
If you do this enough, such an event is almost guaranteed.
For most of us, just the thought of losing the things we value most causes feelings of fear, pain, and stress. For people who make high risk choices with alcohol or drugs, however, these losses are not as far removed from their lives as they might believe.
For example, if an individual is arrested for DUI, that person will be sentenced to a minimum of two days in jail. For those who cherish freedom, this can be unbearable. These are two days are not seen again.
This is time that could have been spent with family or friends. Instead, this person is being forced to be somewhere that is somewhat less pleasant, doing something no sane person would choose to do.
A first offense DUI also means the individual will lose driving privileges for approximately one year. This might be in the form of a suspended driver’s license, or being issued a restricted license, in which the person may only drive on certain days or times.
At this point, the individual has lost two major freedoms. But the losses do not stop there.
An increasing number of employers are adopting zero tolerance policies when it comes to drug and alcohol offenses. The chance of the individual being terminated because of this arrest is real, and becoming more likely as awareness of alcohol and drug abuse increases.
This is especially so if the individual’s job is transportation related in any way.
At this point, the person has no job and no driver’s license. Without a license, the individual cannot legally drive to look for a job. The complexity of the situation now begins to become obvious.
Even though the person is no longer employed, court costs and probation fees still must be paid. Failure to pay these will result in re-arrest, causing even more fees, fines, and jail time to be incurred.
Even with an extremely supportive spouse or other family member, relationships are strained to the fullest extent. For example, if the person has been the primary source of income, the spouse may now have to seek employment in order to meet everyday financial obligations. This, in addition to paying for the offender’s court costs and probation fees can create enormous resentment in the marriage.
A less supportive spouse may mean a whole new dimension of stress and turmoil. Marriages and families can be torn apart in this manner.
These are the potential ramifications from only about a simple, first offense DUI. If a crash is involved and other persons are injured or killed, the consequences become much more severe. A crash might also seriously injure or kill the impaired driver.
In some instances, a DUI arrest might save the life of the individual on many different levels. Many view their arrest as a wake up call, and change their lives accordingly.