Highs and Lows

WOW….. Facebook memories! One year ago- these photos are such good reminders that so much can change in one year. Or one month…one day…one hour…one second.

June 29, 2016 was the day I officially earned my Lexus! Super exciting, huge milestone. That evening I presented at a packed event in Tacoma with some of my colleagues, and was feeling on top of the world! The funny thing about being on a high – the low can be So. Far. Down. My life-changing free fall happened when I made the decision to get behind the wheel that night.

I thought I was fine. Or did I? I don't remember it being a decision I put much thought into, honestly. I was generally pretty good about making sure that I had a safe ride home, but for some reason, that evening it didn't dawn on me that I might need it. It had been hours (?) since my last drink. Was that one or two drinks? More? I couldn't tell you. “We've all” driven in that gray area, right? That's what well-meaning friends assured me for the weeks and months that followed, anyhow.

Unfortunately, I wasn't fine. Instead of making it home safe and sound as expected, I was followed by a police officer (thanks to my driving and a tip from a 911 caller) and I was pulled over. After a below-average performance on a field sobriety test (I had heels on!), and subsequently refusing a breathalyzer (because?), I was arrested. Rights were read, I was handcuffed, put in the back of a police car, and I watched as my brand-spanking-new car got towed away and impounded. It was unbelievably scary, demeaning, humbling, humiliating … really there isn't an adjective to accurately describe the feelings I had that night. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been a jail visit, but thanks to a clean record and sympathetic police officers, I was released and sent home.

The next 9 months involved PILES of money, lawyers, a suspended drivers license, fines, applying for a restricted license, more money, an interlock (breathalyzer) installation in my car, multiple court appearances, more money, a professional drug/alcohol assessment and testing, more fines, dropped insurance coverage, alcohol education classes, dui victim panel, more money, more court appearances, a day of community service, more money (did I mention the insane amount of money yet?), and finally……..a charge of reckless driving to put the whole ordeal behind me.

As shitty as all of that sounds (and it was awful, all of it), I thank God every day that nobody was hurt because of my bad judgment that evening. It could have been SO much worse. I'm also grateful that it brought a very private struggle with addiction into the public eye. Although it took me another 6 months of trying to gain control to finally realize I had none, it still set the process in motion, and it's one of the many reasons why I'm 6 months sober today.

I've been asked many times why I've been so forthcoming with all of this “private” info. Well, for one, this is my FB timeline, I can post whatever I want, #thankyouverymuch! Seriously though, I almost feel obligated to share as a PSA. I was naive to what ACTUALLY happens when you get pulled over after drinking. Even if you are within a legal limit, even if you get the best possible lawyer, it can totally eff up your life. Did you know that in WA, if you refuse a sobriety test, no matter what the reason, you automatically lose your license for a year, even if you are never actually convicted of a DUI? I didn't. My education came from the cheesy DUI-away ads I'd heard on the radio! I've learned so much and have talked to so many people through this process, it really opened my eyes. I had NO CLUE what an unbelievable pain in the ass it could be, and I got off pretty easy! Most people don't. So, do yourself a favor, even if you have one drink, even if you think “you're fine” and only have 5 blocks to drive, call a cab, uber, lyft….for goodness sake, west seattleites…call me! Don't drive. It is NOT worth the risk. Ok? Ok – PSA OVER!

Im so grateful for today, and for the happy memories that will be popping up “on this day” on Facebook from now on! #gratitude #6monthssober#heybabywannausemybreathalyzer?

© 2020 by Emily Lynn Paulson

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