My husband was killed by a drunk driver.
Quick, what picture did your mind flash when you read the words 'drunk driver'?
In our case the words 'drunk driver' mean a 22 year old girl. A lovely young woman with her entire life before her. Recently graduated from college, with honors. From all reports, she was a goal oriented, studious college student.She is very close to her family, she goes to church on Sunday. After her May graduation she went to work, as an accountant and moved into her own apartment.
After she got off work Friday night, she reportedly went out with some friends. Young people, enjoying themselves on a Friday night. Laughing, talking, drinking. Then she got into her car to drive home. Her blood alcohol level was around .118, well over the legal limit. In her intoxicated state she drove up a freeway off ramp, past the signs that said WRONG WAY and drove northbound in the southbound lanes for a couple of miles at freeway speeds until she hit my husband's car head on, killing him instantly I am told.
This is on my mind because my friends and I have children in this age group. Children that are stretching their wings. I remember reading somewhere about how a butterfly struggles to exit the cocoon. If we were to help the butterfly, the butterfly would not be able to fly and would die. It seems that the struggle to break free creates the strength necessary to fly. Those of us with growing children know the truth in this. We watch as our children struggle with the silken constraints, and we want so much to help them, but the most we can do is hope that we have taught them right from wrong, and that life is always about choice, and every choice has consequences. We watch our children stretch their wings, and hope they know that there is nothing they can do that will make us stop loving them. We hope they know that when we see them struggle, we will do our best to make sure they learn how to fly.
My husband and I were always very open with our son about our youthful struggles with drugs and alcohol. We felt that since genetics may play a role in addiction, we had a responsibility to tell him our stories. He knows about our 12 step programs, and why we attend. He knows that we celebrate 2 birthdays a year. In fact, he has been quite proud of our milestones over the years. He will tell you that we choose not to use alcohol at our house. He will tell you that we choose not to use illegal drugs at our house. He will tell you these things with pride in his voice, because he knows that in life there is always a choice, and every choice has consequences.
Being a parent is a hard job. We watch our children stretch their wings with such pride and fear. What if we see them struggling, when do we help, how do we help. Have we talked to them about the embarrassing stuff? Kids will groan when the subject turns to sex, drugs, alcohol. They will roll their eyes, but we must tell them anyway.
Do your children know your stories? Do they know that you were their age once, and that you made choices and lived with the consequences of those choices. Sometimes the consequences are benign. You are 22 years old and you choose to celebrate the end of the work week by going out with friends and laughing and talking and having a good time. Since you are choosing to have a drink, you have chosen whose turn it is to be the designated driver.
Sometimes the consequences are tragic, and you have too much too drink and you choose to drive drunk, and you drive up the off ramp past the WRONG WAY signs and you kill a man, and nothing is ever the same again.