My DUI conviction changed my life

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Attending the USAFE Road Show the other week was very hard for me because I knew that I was "that guy" that they were talking about. I made a bad decision one night that I can never take back. 

The conviction of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol has been a completely life changing experience. I can say from personal experience the impact goes much further than losing a stripe, money, and driving privileges for a year, while gaining a court-martial on my permanent military record. 

I had to live through the shame of telling my loved ones what I had done and seeing the disappointed faces of my coworkers and leadership. I have had to cope with the guilt of knowing that I put everyone's lives around me in danger because of my selfish and irresponsible actions. 

I used to think it was normal to have blackouts and have to be reminded what happened the night before. I used alcohol for the wrong reasons such as coping with stress. I could not rely on the decisions I made while drunk and once I started it was difficult to stop, yet I drank anyway. 

I did not consider myself to have a problem with alcohol and I was afraid to talk about it because I thought it might negatively affect my career. Well, my career has certainly been affected now. Ironically enough, as I was trying to avoid a black mark on my record through silence and self-denial, I actually made things a whole lot worse for myself. 

After being referred to ADAPT and going through treatment at Landstuhl I consider myself lucky that nobody was injured or killed. Although, my decision to drive after drinking has adversely impacted me in more ways than one, I am using the experience to make positive improvements in my life. 

It's unfortunate that I had to hit rock bottom first, but I am extremely grateful for this chance to have a new beginning as a sober alcoholic. I encourage everyone to consider the impact of drinking irresponsibly. Learn from my mistake rather than your own. Let my punishment be your wake up call. If you feel that you might need help, then reach out for it. 

Do the responsible thing and talk to a supervisor, ADAPT, your First Sergeant, a chaplain, a friend, or attend an Aviano Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. If you are concerned about a friend or coworker encourage them to do the same. If you plan on drinking responsibly then stick to your plan and your wingman and watch out for those around you. Stop dangerous behavior before it becomes a problem. 

Finally, keep in mind that the next time you have to hear from someone else what you did the night before, you might be lying in a hospital bed, a prison cell, or six feet under the ground.