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The Things We Tell Ourselves

We’ve heard the message countless times before: don’t drink and drive.

It may be a public service announcement from the Lane County Sheriff’s Department or a reminder from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but the message is the same.

Don’t get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve been drinking alcohol. And don’t ride with someone who’s been drinking, either. It’s pretty simple – just don’t do it.

A hefty fine and court costs – DUIIs can run $10,000 or more – should be the least of your concerns. You could find yourself sitting in a courtroom with the family of someone you seriously hurt or even killed. Try living with that for the rest of your life.

Unlikely? Sure. But it’s still going to be a reality for someone – nationally, many more than one – during the season between Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl. It could very well happen here in Lane County this year, and almost certainly will happen somewhere in Oregon.

Sometimes I wonder if the message has been repeated so often and for so long that many of us don’t even hear it anymore. It seems that some people just don’t get the urgency of the situation. It’s easier to ignore – and that’s really dangerous.

Think of the things we tell ourselves. At Serenity Lane, we’ve heard them all. They’re all ways we ignore a message we’ve heard many times. Any of them sound familiar?

“I just thought it couldn’t happen to me.” This is the one we probably hear the most. It’s basic denial – the things we say to ourselves to justify doing what we want. In that moment, years of warnings are swept aside with just a few words.

“I hadn’t drunk any more that night than I had many times before.” The more times we get away with taking a risk, the more we’re likely to take it again – even though with every roll of the dice the odds increase that something tragic can happen.

“I know that my meds say not to drink while I’m taking them, but I figured it would be OK anyway.” Many people don’t realize how much some common medications – especially sedatives and anti-depressants – intensify the effect of alcohol. When we ignore the warning stickers, people can get hurt.

“I had no idea that you can get a DUII with less than a .08 blood alcohol level.” You absolutely can, if you fail a field sobriety test. This happens more often than most of us would think.

“I know now I shouldn’t have been driving. I honestly thought I was fine.” One key effect of alcohol is that it impairs our judgment. That’s just what it does. It makes us tell ourselves things that simply aren’t true.

The list could go on – the many ways we go into denial, thinking that it just won’t happen to us. This kind of thinking can and does lead to injuries and fatalities every year.

The warnings we’ve heard for decades have done so much – they’ve saved so many lives. They remind us, as MADD says, that drunk driving is 100% preventable. But they won’t do any good if we ignore them.

Written by Jerry Gjesvold, former Serenity Lane Employer Services Manager. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer.

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