A hangover that will live in infamy

  • Published
  • By Airman Anthony Jennings
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
(Editors note: Due to recent events, this commentary is being rerun to provide insight on how dangerous and damaging it can be to drink and drive.)

Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his/her choices.

No sane individual wants to live with the blood of another human being on their hands. I certainly don't. But on Oct. 19, I made a choice that could have resulted in injury or death. I got behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

As early as I can remember, I've heard countless stories of people who've had loved ones taken from them because someone chose to drink and drive. Every time I listened to each account, I recall thinking, "how could someone make the choice to do something that; not only put their life at risk, but the lives of others?"

It was a normal Sunday morning, waking up with a headache the size of Texas and a nauseating discomfort in my belly - a hangover that will live in infamy. "I had a few more drinks than I should have," I thought.

Now anyone who experienced nights where a few turned into, "more than I should have," probably heard of some effective ways to get rid of a hangover. In the movies, you see people treating hangovers with coffee, others Tylenol. In this case, I didn't have either and wasn't in the mood to get any.

Of course there's the ridiculous mythic hangover cure of another alcoholic beverage, also known as "the hair of the dog that bit you." The origin of that literal phrase comes from the erroneous method for the treatment of a rabid dog bite by placing the hair from the dog on the wound.

"Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine next morning to soothe the nerves. 'If this dog bites you, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail in the morning,'" said Ebenezer Brewer, author of the Dictionary of Phrases and Fables.

It was a desperate time that called for a desperate measure, so I decided to give it a "shot."

One third of a bottle of Jack Daniels later, I didn't feel the hangover as much but the sour feeling in my stomach didn't disappear. While under the influence, the ability to make logical decisions dissipates rapidly with every sip. So the decision to get into the car and go to get something that could fill the empty void in my stomach didn't sound like a bad idea.

It was about half way to Waffle House when I realized just how drunk I was, because the white lines, which are suppose to help you stay within your lane, were moving.
After eating, I felt much better. Though, I finally came to the conclusion that I simply replaced a hangover with drunkenness and a full belly.

The drive home was a long, constant struggle between alertness and consciousness. I made it through the gate, across the base and back to the dorm parking lot.

"Home, at last," I remember thinking.

Pulling in, I saw a friend on the second floor, and for some reason or another I thought it would be a good idea to rev up my engine, show off. Yeah, show them how cool I really am. After all, I'm invincible, I can drink and drive without any consequence. Another example of the effects of alcohol on a drunk. Ego.

Engine roars, tires squeal, I pass out.

Boom, I crashed. I jump the curb and hit a tree but I don't stop, no... I have to park the car. Two of my tires on the driver side were flattened in the crash. Steering impeded, I smashed into a parked car while attempting to pull into an empty spot. Reverse, try it again. I hit the same car, again.

I finally came to rest six inches from the car I hit. This is surreal, this can't be happening. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

Within minutes, Security Forces are on the scene. I'm off to jail.

What seemed like a fairly innocent decision, the choice to drink in the first place, was followed by a sequence of events that led to more impaired decisions and subsequently landed me with an Article 15, reprimand, more than $3,500 in car damages, loss of rank, six months of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team meetings, and suspended $100 pay for the next two months.

Worse than any punishment that was issued, is the thought that I could have killed someone or myself, all because of one choice - to drive while under the influence.

As a journalist, I've covered stories and taken countless photos of safety briefings and events like the "Save a Life" tour, educating Airmen about the risks of irresponsible drinking and driving while intoxicated. At times we can get numb to the leadership barrage about the responsibility we have to drink responsibly, because we've heard it time and time again. We think things like, "oh it can't or won't happen to me." A sober mind may be able to decipher the logical decision, but an inebriated one has clouded judgment.

This is my call to Airmen. To use common sense, plan ahead, designate a driver if drinking becomes part of the night's activities, or simply stay put until the alcohol is filtered out of your system. To leadership and supervisors, make sure your troop knows all the outlets at their disposal, like Airmen Against Drunk Driving. Though they may have heard it millions of times before, tell them again and remind them of the possible consequences.

I've made decisions I regret but have learned from them. Sometimes leadership tries to drive home the severity of the consequences a decision to drink and drive will have on your life. But as someone who's living with those consequences daily, I can tell you those scare tactics don't come close to the horror you experience in the aftermath of a DUI. 

I'm not an idiot, but you don't have to be dumb to make a dumb decision.