Can addiction be treated? Yes, but it’s not simple.
Alcoholism invites secrecy. You don’t want your family to know just how many sips you’re taking, so you do a lot of your drinking away from home.
At the end of a long day of drinking, your bed calls to you. How do you get there?
Many people slip behind the wheel of a car. They know it’s risky, and they know it could come with consequences. But they feel confident today isn’t the day they’ll get caught.
Does this seem familiar?
As Americans, we spend a lot of our lives in our cars. They represent adulthood, freedom, and prosperity. But if you’re convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), you could lose everything, including your independence.
Sobering Drunk Driving Statistics
You’ve downed a few drinks, and you’ve decided to drive home. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Researchers and safety advocates hope to convince you to think twice through the startling data they’ve gathered about drunk driving.
Drunk driving is responsible for:
- Car crash fatalities. In 2017, 29 percent of all fatal car crashes were due to alcohol, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Revenue losses. Costs from low productivity, court expenses, medical care, and more totaled $242 billion in 2010, says NHTSA.
- Repeat offenders. The average person drives drunk more than 80 times before the first arrest for that offense, per an analysis from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Drunk driving also causes consequences officials can’t measure. How many people lose their jobs? How many relationships break apart? These are real side effects of impaired driving, but they may never show up on a tally sheet.
Alcohol Impairs Driving Skills
Why do officials worry so much about drunk driving? When alcohol is almost everywhere and most people drink, why does it matter? The prevalence of drinking can blind us to how much it ruins our driving skills. But the science is real.
Alcohol is a muscle relaxant and a central nervous system depressant. In all states, a DUI label applies when a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent. But at even smaller levels, says NHTSA, the drug can harm your driving.
Consider the impact of these scores:
- BAC of 0.02 percent: Your ability to track items (like pedestrians) as they move across your visual field declines. You may struggle to pay attention to two things at once (like the radio and the steering wheel).
- BAC of 0.05 percent: Your coordination levels dip, and that makes steering harder. You need a longer time to react to a sudden change (like a car braking in front of you).
- BAC of 0.08 percent: Your concentration and processing ability worsen, even though you might feel like driving faster. You find it harder to concentrate, and your ability to reason fades away.
These side effects don’t stem from opinion. Officials who track them aren’t teetotalers who want everyone to stop drinking. But the stats demonstrate just how much alcohol can interfere with good driving skills.
When drinks and driving intertwine, law enforcement can get involved. The consequences are severe.
Drunk Driving Has Legal Consequences
Officials want people to stop drinking and driving, but simply making the request isn’t likely to change behavior. Strict laws and severe punishment can force people to deal with the problems drunk driving can cause.
Consider Florida. After your first DUI conviction, you’re required to:
- Take a class. You need to pay for your education, and according to the Florida Safety Council, the course comes with a $275 fee.
- Pay a fine. Your penalty fee ranges from $500 to $4,000, says the State of Florida. Higher fines come with higher BAC scores. You’ll also pay more if you had a minor in the car with you when you were arrested.
- Perform community service. You’ll need to spend 50 hours of your time giving back to the community.
- Head to prison. Not all people who have a DUI go to jail, but your judge can choose to send you.
If you keep drinking and you’re arrested in Florida again, the consequences increase in severity. On a third conviction, for example, you could be fined between $2,000 and $5,000, says the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. You will have a mandatory conviction of at least 30 days, and your car will be impounded at your expense for 90 days.
Other states have similar laws. In Pennsylvania, according to their Department of Transportation, fees can rise as high as $10,000, and you could pay more than $1,000 on educational classes to get your license back.
To drive legally, you need insurance coverage. Unfortunately, many companies won’t help people who have been arrested for DUI. If you’re in an accident, the company has huge bills to cover.
Companies need to keep expenses low, and that means they might deny your policy as soon as they hear about your conviction. If they keep you, they could charge you hundreds or thousands of dollars more every month for the risk you pose to their business model. You won’t be able to contest that price hike.
The Myth of Rock Bottom
You do not need to lose everything before you treat an addiction. If you think you need help, you can reach out at any time. The earlier you do so, the better. New habits are easier to change than those you’ve had for years.
Most states require you to take some sort of class after a DUI, so you’ll be exposed to the dangers and the penalties you’ll face if you don’t change your habits.
But these programs aren’t addiction treatment venues. They help you understand, but they don’t change how you behave.
An alcohol treatment program is different. Here, you will understand your particular path to addiction. You’ll dive into:
- Damaging thought patterns. Your inner voice can steer you to sobriety or intoxication. Changing your narrative can mean shifting your behavior.
- Unhelpful habits. Your daily routine involves alcohol when you have alcoholism. Eliminating the tasks you associate with drinking can ease the urge to drink.
- Impulse control. Techniques from your therapist can help you push back the desire to drink when it appears.
- Community support. If your circle is filled with drinkers, it’s harder to put your glass down. Meeting other people in recovery gives you added support.
You can enroll in a treatment program after your DUI conviction. It’s a wise way to ensure you won’t have another stain on your driving record. But it probably won’t change the legal consequences attached to your first arrest. You’ll need to pay the price for that mistake.
Your best solution is to get help before you are arrested for your first DUI. You’ll learn to change your behavior before you get behind the wheel and change your life forever.
But if you’ve already been arrested, it’s not too late. Reach out and get the help you need right now.