“This is the point of decision,” a dear friend often says, in our deepest conversations. And, isn’t it always points or places in time that cycle over and over in our spirals of regret? That was the first phrase that came to mind, Memorial Day morning, when I woke up on the drunk tank floor dressed for a night on the town.
I helped to coordinate and prepare food for a weekend event. Sunday evening, I enjoyed it with friends, the view, the food & wine, spectacular! I love Anderson Valley! Life is good, I’ve accomplished so much in the past few months, all my major deadlines were successful and my future plans were finally looking bright. I was excited to meet friends in town for “one more drink.” I remember asking for that drink, celebrating with friends and next thing I remember I was stuck in the ditch on Mountain View Road.
The Mendocino Sheriffs showed up about 2am and found myself (the driver) and my passenger with the front end of the car in a dirt wall and the front tire dug into the loose dirt in a ditch somewhere on Mountain View. The officer asked me to submit a breath test and I requested a blood test as my alternative. I was outraged when a set of handcuffs were tightly secured and my head was lowered to avoid me hitting it on the roof of the police car.
From that moment, the only emotion I felt was anger while I behaved like an idiot to my arresting officers, the Ukiah hospital staff and the Sheriff’s at the Ukiah jail. I rambled on about being a “responsible citizen” whose rights were being violated, calling them all “ridiculous” and “power trippers.” I’m just sure we’ll see me on one of those cable TV shows of how Drunken Knuckleheads are just plain Stupid.
I woke up on the floor of the drunk tank in a skirt and barefoot in a puddle of disinfectant. The guard tossed me a plastic bag of “breakfast” and my water source was drizzling out of the drunk tank water fountain next to the toilet. Hungover, I wanted to hide in the bathroom but, the drunk tank is a room with a toilet and sink. There are “zoo” windows on two sides where guards and other prisoners stand around and talk. Curling up into a ball on the floor is the best form of privacy and going to the bathroom was definitely out of the question for the remainder of my stay. Who’s the ridiculous one in this picture?
The more sober I became, the deeper my spiral of shame. Responsible citizen? Obviously not, in “many points of decision,” the night before. Violating my rights? Pretty clear I was violating the rights of my community by drinking and driving on the roads of our community. All of the possibilities that could have happened are all horrible. I know how dangerous Mountain View Road is, when sober. I’m deeply ashamed of my actions.
Here in the story I want to tell everyone how responsible I usually am, I want to defend my ego and explain this being my first offense and on and on. As much as I go round and round I realize that none of that matters. All that matters is my “point of decision(s)” and the series of bad decisions I made on that Sunday night. I am grateful that no one was hurt. We landed in a ditch on the opposite side of the road from a steep cliff. I walked out the back door of the jail in slow motion when I looked over at the morgue door while a soprano in the cemetery across the street belted out her version of “God Bless America.” I sat waiting for a ride and thought about my parents, who must be watching me now.
I was in the “twilight zone,” I’d gone out for a “night on the town” and had just lived the “night from hell” with no one to blame but myself. It was Memorial Day, a day for reflection on so many levels. I sat there in the jail parking lot picturing my booking photo on the “page of shame” in the AVA. All I could do was laugh at myself, thinking how much I deserved it.
It’s not in my nature to ride the shame spiral in secret. I’m one of those optimistic “silver lining” people. I’m pretty transparent to my friends. I believe in full disclosure and accountability and I moved to this small town to be that and be an asset to this community. I hate drunk drivers or any irresponsible or selfish action taken that negatively effects the community.
I wanted to print my entire story hoping that everyone will share this with a friend or family member, a teenager before summer vacation, or anyone who would be encouraged to stop at the “point of decision,” remember my minimal consequences (no one was hurt), and make more responsible choices in times of celebration with friends. It all happens so quickly. The day started feeling like life was full of new possibilities and hours later, I made a series of cause and effect decisions resulting in:
• A personal “shame spiral”
• The obvious list of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” regrets
• No driver’s license for a minimum of 30 days
• I will pay $400 cash on my day in court (I already live on a limited income)
• I will pay a minimum of $3000 in fines
• I will attend a series of driving classes in Ukiah that I will pay $500 to attend. I will arrange rides to these and will need to schedule them around my work schedule.
• The judge will decide any additional classes, fines or public services that I will be responsible for.
• My insurance company will either cancel me or raise my rate substantially. I will no longer receive the “good driver” rate with my insurance company
• These immediate financial responsibilities along with a dose of personal introspection have caused me to cancel a variety of future personal projects and plans.
• A DUI will stay on my record for several years and may effect my future employment, possible business loans, buying a car, renting a car, renting/housing, my credit… You get the picture.
This was nothing compared to what could have happened if someone would have been hurt. I am grateful for “hitting a wall” and living to tell about it. Please share this article with everyone you know. Laugh, judge, look through me — just don’t drive drunk.