DUI: A first-hand perspective from a fellow Fairchild Airman

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- I am a fellow Airman stationed here at Fairchild and wanted to address the effects of drinking and driving. I know most, if not all, have been to seminars on this subject and will probably go to many more during their time in the Air Force but it is for a good reason. I was not instructed to write this by anyone for a bullet or award. My experience really opened my eyes and wanted to share my story. Hopefully, these few words will deter anyone from making the same mistake I did. 

I recently received a DUI coming on base after a night of drinking. After a few hours at the bar with some friends I made the decision that it was okay for me to drive. I had many offers for a ride home that night but I neglected them. I thought my alcohol level was not high enough to impair my driving or judgment, but in the end my choice inevitably got me caught and arrested. I was put through a few tests which lead to me being placed in the back of the cop car. As I waited in the holding cell, all these thoughts were going through my mind a mile a minute. I knew my wife had no idea where I was or what happened to me. I sat in the Security Forces building while she was up all night worried, crying and panicking because she had no idea where I was. I wasn't able to talk to anyone or even give her a call to let her know I was okay. My first shirt, along with my supervisor, had to pick me up and take me home at 5:30 a.m. The look on their faces as I walked out of the building was of confusion, concern and disgust. I couldn't say a word and just held my head down; it was too hard to make eye contact. Even worse was the look on my wife's face when I came through the door as the sun was coming up behind me - almost too much to take. 

The shame and embarrassment I felt following the incident was almost more than I could bear. Not only did I let myself down, but I let down my wife, family and the Air Force. I had to experience the grueling task of standing in front of the Wing Commander in full dress blues and have him inform me that he was not pleased with my actions. It was really hard to hear from the people I love and respect most tell me how disappointed they were in my actions. On top of that, I constantly thought about what was going to happen. Am I going to get kicked out of the Air Force? Am I going to lose pay and rank? Have I ruined my career in the Air Force? Have I lost the respect of everyone I admire? A lot of those questions were answered with negative responses but I am lucky to still be in the Air Force and able to share a few viewpoints so hopefully you don't make the same decisions I made. 

There are so many things that can happen from one drink too many. I was fortunate enough not to harm anyone or myself that night. I tell myself it was the worst night of my life but also the best because no one was hurt. There were so many ways I could have avoided this situation. Planning ahead and sticking to that plan is the most important thing you can do before going out. I must emphasize how important it is to take that one second to stop and think before you do something you regret. I know I regret my decision of getting behind the wheel. Have a designated driver, call a cab, call a friend or even someone you work with. I am sure they would much rather pick you up than see you go through what I went through. 

Bottom line, I didn't write this article to tell you not to drink. I know most will and I know you will think you're alright to drive. Take it from me - even if you think you might be okay, or think you won't get caught...you're wrong. One shot, one beer, or one glass or wine can be one too many. Just don't take a chance. You have all worked very hard to get where you are sitting right now. It is not worth putting your career or anybody through the stress or pain. I will end with one last thing - drinking and driving is one of the top causes of driving accident related deaths each year. Is it really worth it?