In the months following my DUI, life for me did a complete 180. Nothing to me mattered other than buckling down, saving money, and making sure I completed every step and order demanded by the courts. I did everything with no complaints and no hesitation. When I initially succumbed to all that was going on (not to me but BECAUSE of me) I told myself that I would just go through the motions. I would do what I needed to do and just move on with this chapter of my life. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I, the person I was on the inside, would truly change.
It has been only three months since the fortunate night I got pulled over. *Note here that I said “Fortunate” for I am firm believer in that every thing that happens, happens for a reason.* This night was peril for my soul’s evolution. A change I always knew I needed. A change I desired but never knew how to set those wheels of change into motion. I’ll begin today’s blog with who I was before all this. I’ll speak of that ordinary night when I was pulled over (because for me it was just another ordinary night), and how it completely changed my life for the better. If you’ve just begun to read this, I hope that you’ve got time for a little bit of family history is needed for where I’m going with this. Do also realize while reading and taking in a little snippet of my life, that although I have been more than honest with friends and family about this incident, this will be my first time speaking so openly about it with people like you.. strangers. So here goes nothing:
Growing up in in a Colombian household, the motto always was work hard, real hard, and when you got the chance, play harder. During the holidays, it was the norm to watch the adults drink, and drink to excess. Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, ect… are all memories wrapped up in blankets of liquor induced laughter and roaring good times. As kids we would watch our parents work their asses off, strictly. Most of them worked back breaking jobs and not just one, but two even three jobs at a time. When they were given time off and were able to all get together, they drank. I always knew it was going to be a party when I’d watch them come home with bottles of Aguardiente, cases of beer, tossed within the bags of food they’s be cooking that night. The excitement within me would build because I knew this was their time to let loose and enjoy themselves. I loved watching them tell jokes and stories of when they were growing up. They’d play music all night long and dance. You could always tell once they started reaching past the point of being drunk because their dance moves weren’t as precise, their jokes became more absurd, and the laughter was just non-stop and over everything. I loved it.
Photo Credit: Natal Galvan Location: family gathering in NJ ’14
I’ll never forget the first time I ever got drunk. It was Christmas and I was 14 at the time. I was at that stage where I was no longer a kid who wanted to hang out with the little ones and was slowly making my way into hanging out with the grown-ups. That night I was in charge of pouring the shots of Aguardiente for them. What they weren’t aware of was that I was being sneaky (imagine that). Anytime I saw that one of them didn’t finish their entire shot, guess who’d make sure to clear it to make room for the next shot? THIS GIRL of course! Before you knew it I was letting loosey goosey. I was funny and goofy, making sure everyone’s eyes and ears were on me. It wasn’t long before they realized what had happened and instead of being upset, they let me steal the show for the night. Even my super religious, always serious grandfather (whom I adored so much) was laughing his ass off at the ridiculousness of it all. The very next morning I was awakened by my crazy aunt (who we now know is literally crazy) nudging me, “You were grown enough to drink last night, you’re old enough to get up and clean with the rest of us adults. Now get up.” As I went around picking up shredded wrapping paper, empty beer cans, bottles with only about a shot or two left in them, dishes, all and any evidence of a good night before, I had realized how “fun” could be amplified by what I call today, the devil’s brew. It didn’t matter to me that my head was pounding like a jack hammer, or that the smell of food was making my stomach churn. The night before had been FUN for me in a different way.
Now don’t go thinking that this began my love for drinking. At 14 I had no time or business getting drunk. It wasn’t for few years later that I began to have a drink here and there. Be it at a house party, special occasion, or on the rare nights I was able to sneak into a club or bar, which was extremely easy to do in the city. When you’re a girl all you have to do is bat those lashes and slip the bouncer a $10 and presto, this 17 year old was being let in to 21 and over clubs left and right. Normally, I was always known as mother-hen among my friends. Sure I would drink but not enough to loose my senses. I always felt like I had people to look after, friends to help out once they had a bit too much. When I began sneaking into the clubs and bars, I tended to just have one or two cocktails. I loved to dance so for me I had just enough to help me feel the music better. With maybe just a night or two of over doing it in public, embarrassing myself by falling or what not, that at the time was enough for me, for I knew I didn’t want to be “that” girl. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to overdue it.
I’ve got a nomadic nature. A care free spirit who wants to roam every inch of this earth and experience anything and everything. So it was no shock to anyone when I moved out of state at 19, away from all I knew, to a place I knew nothing about. The first few years all I did was work. I was responsible, I paid my bills, went to school, saved up money, ensuring to make my momma proud. By 23 I began to really follow in the steps of my elders. I worked hard, real hard, and played harder. By this point I was what you would call your average stoner and in many ways I was totally ok with that. I found that under the influence of pot I was able to control myself and my spending way better than when I went out to drink. Weed is what I would say my substance of choice was. It relaxed my always “on the go” nature as well as sparking my creative juices. Still, I would join my friends out for drinks a couple times a week. By 25 I was an expert at handling myself no matter what influence I was under. Or so I thought now looking back. Hindsight is truly amazing. How many times have I not driven knowing I had one too many? But I was ok. I made it home every night safe and sound. Even on the mornings I would wake up, not remembering half of my night, not knowing how I got home, yet looking out my window and seeing my car there, I felt ok. I hadn’t harmed myself, or most importantly anyone else. I was a happy drunk each and every time. I never once woke up feeling down about myself or my life. Again, drinking was my “fun” juice. It amplified my inner joy and unless I KNEW I was going to overdue it, I always drove. I was what my friends could call the designated drunk driver.
In March of 2013 I decided to move all the way across the U.S to California, my dream. No I wasn’t headed out there to find fame or fortune, but adventure and change. Originally from Jersey, then living on the gulf side of Florida, life for me became boring and stagnant. I had money saved and had one day randomly decided, “Hey, why not?” As a kid I had read so much on California. I’d seen awesome pictures of the mountains and hiking trails. The beaches looked way cooler to me than those here on the east coast. I was young and thought better now than never. When I arrived, I was bombarded by how cool it was. There was anything and everything to do. The art scene was awesome. The music scene even better. I was centrally located to all I loved to do. Naturally I went ham.
It was maybe my second month there when I had my first thought to lay off on the drinking. My sister, who had also moved with me, and I were at a bar we both liked to frequent. It was quite a ways from where we lived at the time but the drive through the mountains and into the city was totally worth it. That night we had both had way too much to drink. So much, that on the way back to the car, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and fell face first busting my entire face. Neither of us truly remember the details of the fall and the reason I even know this was because once on your way back home, my sister who was black out drunk at the time of the fall came to, and was horrified by what she saw. There was blood all over my face and clothes, “What the fuck happened to YOU!!!!!” I too barely recalled what had happened. I was so concentrated on trying to get back home that I hadn’t even looked at myself to see how bad it was. Needless to say we were BOTH freaking out. In all this, I get lost, and there begins an argument between her and I. That night there are bits and pieces of what I remember. Sort of like snap shots taken of my life. I do remember that at one point, we were shouting at each other, loudly. I went to take a u-turn to head back on the right direction, and I was so angry that as I turned the wheel (quite aggressively) the car turned and at one point was on two of its four wheels. We had almost flipped. By the grace of god or some unseen force we made it home that night. We went to our separate rooms and it wasn’t until morning that we both put the fragmented bits of our memories of that night together.
We made it exactly a year in Cali. We were both flat broke. So broke that in order for us to get back home to Jersey we had to borrow money from friends and family (and paid back every penny). You would think that a night like that would have scared anyone straight. But no. We were lucky and what do lucky people do? Well they push their luck of course because in all reality, things happen, but horrible, worst case scenarios never happen to you. They happen to other people, right? I could tell you all the drunken stories I have up my sleeve but this would turn out to be a novel not a blog. So let’s fast forward to the night of my DUI.
I’m in Florida again. I decided to move back since Jersey was just NOT for me, hence why I had moved away in the first time. So here I am in my own little comfort zone of familiar places and new friends. On this night, I was out with two girlfriends of mine. I was to spend the night at Emily’s house. I had to work quite early the next day and at this time I was living out in the middle of bumble fuck in order to save up for a better place (this is another blog for another valuable lesson to be learned). In the mist of hanging out with these two girls, I ran into a buddy I had not seen since I had initially moved away to Cali. We’ll call him Jake. Jake isn’t the best of influences. He’s a business man who wheels and deals in the drug trade. Whenever you hang out with Jake you KNOW it’s going to be a hell of a hangover day the next day. The girls I was with at the time know of Jake and don’t like him very much, which is understandable. They’re “nice” girls who’s idea of going ham (a term I stated earlier) is going out for beers to the same bar, sitting in the same bar seats, while chain smoking cigarettes, as Papa Roach plays in the background and ordering soft pretzels with extra dipping sauce. I don’t mind Jake. Yes, he’s trouble. But I have never been one to judge people on what they do in their spare time. If I can laugh and have a good time with you, hey, we’re friends. Anyhoo- on this particular night I gave in to the pressures of Jake and had shots, which I RARELY ever do, especially if I have to work the next day. But after being at the bar for a while with my ladies, by the time Jake came into play, I was pretty boozed up on craft beers and it was easy to talk me into shots. By the time “shot” time came around, the mother hen of this group had gone home. Before leaving she had told me to make sure I stay at Emily’s that night and not to drive home. By this point Emily’s boy toy had also arrived on scene. The four of us had decided to take our group to another bar right down the street since they also served liquor vs only beer.
Photo Credit: Natal Galvan
A long story short, and many shots later, I had begun feeling uncomfortable for Jake had begun to insinuate I stay at a close by hotel since I was pretty toasty. I wanted to go home. Emily was having a great time with her guy and in my drunken stupor I had thought that the two were going back to her place and I didn’t want to be the third wheel. It was getting pretty late, midnight was creeping up and I had to be up for work by 5. As we got back to the cars, I reassured everyone I was with that I was ok to drive home.To be honest, I had driven home in even worse conditions than the one I was in so I felt quite confident that I’d make it home just fine.
I tore out of that parking lot like there was no tomorrow. In my mind, I had almost an hour drive home. That meant if I hurried, I could make it home and at most have four hours of sleep before heading into work. Tunnel vision kicked in. All I saw was the road ahead of me, so 30 mins later it was a shock to me to find cop lights flashing in my rear view. “Where did HE come from? Err, No problem. I got this”, I said to myself. Once pulled over and asked the typical initial questions, “Mam, Do you know how fast you were going? Do you have license and registration with you? Proof of insurance? Have you been drinking? How much have you had to drink? Do you have any weapons on your body or in your vehicle? Any weapons of mass destruction? Any drugs of any sort or drug paraphernalia?….” He took my information and ran my plates. I at this point still wasn’t worried. It wasn’t until he came back and handed me my documents and asked, “Would you be ok with doing a few field sobriety tests just to make sure your not impaired to drive?”, that I kind of became a little worried. I obliged. What was I going to say, no? So I played his game. I followed the pen with my eyes. I walked the line while looking straight ahead. I touched the tip of my nose with my index finger. Passed every one. So WHY was I arrested for drinking and driving? The police report reads, “due to the heavy scent of alcohol present on her breath and watery eyes..” Cuffed.
The police officer was doll. You can look into his eyes and see he wasn’t a mean cop. He was doing his job. He left the cuffs loose on my wrists, so much that while I sat in the back of the cop car on the way to the booking station, I slipped my left wrist in and out quite easily. He made small talk on our way, much of which I don’t remember. My mind was too wrapped up in the situation I had found myself in. I laughed at myself for how stupid I had been. I even told myself that this is what I deserved and more since I had been so careless not only this time, but many of times before. That night, sitting in the back of the cop car, the girl I had always known had died. Death Under Intoxication. In her place sat, a humble young lady who stood at a fork in the road. She looked to her left and saw a path in which she could just step over the twigs and branches that stood in her way. I was a semi familiar path, slightly darkened, but still it was familiar and not all too scary, so it would have been easy to find her way through. It was a path she seemed to have taken many times before. Then as she turned to her right, she saw a forest full of thick trees and hardly a path to follow. It was unfamiliar, but as she looked deeper down this direction, off in the distance she noticed the brightest light she had ever seen. She knew that if she truly wanted to, she could make her way through the thickness of mother nature’s greenery and appear on the other side, with not a scratch on her. Only life.
The details of my ordeal while going through booking, then being locked up for 14 hours and within that time having to stand before a judge, and even all that has happened since then will be for a later blog. But for now I will leave you with this. Although I am still in the beginning phases of my “punishment” for the crime I had committed, I feel victorious. In this small chapter found within the novel of my life, I did come out sitting on top of the world and although what goes up, must come down for even briefly, for now, I am a very happy and positively changed girl who’s been living happily so ever after.