I watched a Today Show piece "Rossen Reports" on drunk drivers yesterday morning that was really bothersome to me. The piece focused on the alarming number of repeat offenders who go basically unpunished.
The part of the piece that bothered me the most was when Rossen went to the door of the man who had many DUI's asking why he continued to drink and drive. The man replied, "Because I'm drunk all the time."
The report then went from that scene to a statement from a MADD spokesman.
If a family member of mine was killed or hurt by a drunk driver, I would in fact be mad too. I would want retribution. I would hopefully use that trauma as these women do to protect others.
I worry that a loved one of mine will be the cause of a death because he or she is drinking and driving. It is one of my great fears as the mom of an alcoholic.
Those are all of the facts. But, the problem that I have with that piece is not so much with what it said, but with what it didn't say but was implied.
Remember the 'War on Drugs'? I am curious who benefited from that war. What are your thoughts? To me, I think a few politicians gained the most by spewing a few sound bites that sound like something might just happen to eliminate a terrible problem if we just wage war against this elusive enemy--drugs.
Remember the commercial "This is your brain (showing a frying pan) This is your brain on drugs (break an egg into the pan)? I wonder if that really stopped anyone from trying drugs.
When I saw the man who said, "because I'm drunk all of the time" I didn't see a guy who was having a good time. I saw a man in pain. I saw a man who did not know how to stop.
Does that excuse his decision to drive? NO!
Then why am I bothered?
I am bothered because that report falls under the "If it bleeds, it leads" column for me. Yes, perhaps the spotlight will be placed on states with lenient laws for repeat offenders. But, as a gal who volunteers in the county jail, I have a few questions for you:
Do you understand that part of the definition of addiction is that the need to use or drink is so great that they will do anything regardless of the consequence?
Did you know that Dr Gabor Mate, an addiction doctor in Canada, says that we need to stop asking 'why the addiction and instead ask why the pain'?
Did you know that author John Bradshaw says that at the root of all addictions is shame?
Do you know what the rate of recidivism is from most jails or prisons?
I think that you and I and those who have lost a loved one to drunk driving all want the same thing. None of us want to see lives lost. But, how do we accomplish that? Should there be tougher sentences?
I do not know the answer. But, I suspect that we need more than just incarceration. I think we need to offer some sort of treatment before we turn them out to just do it again. And, there is one thing that is for sure: if we shame and blame they are less likely to come forward for treatment before a tragedy strikes.
Remember the parable of the Leper? I think we just keep living that parable over and over again. I think we should all be looking at the bottom line. The bottom line is that we want to prevent deaths as the result of addiction. The question should be are we using every possible avenue to do it?
I'm praying for all of our loved ones and for those who have suffered as a result of them.