Being convicted of driving under the influence can completely derail your life. Not only could you have to empty your bank account to cover court fees, fines, legal representation and other costs, but in many states, that DUI may be a black mark on your driving record forever. It may be more difficult to get affordable insurance , good housing and even a job. Really, a DUI may feel like the transition from a good life into a miserable one.
But it doesn’t have to.
There’s no getting around the fact that a DUI is tough to deal with. But you can pick up the pieces and move on with your life. It will take time. And lots of effort. But not only is it possible, moving on is completely doable --- and realistic. Here are a few steps you can take.
1. Don’t Further the Damage
Right after you were charged and arrested for DUI, you probably had a million things running through your mind. Maybe you wanted to give the cop a piece of your mind. Or, perhaps you wanted the world to know that you have been wronged, and the entire system is corrupt.Don’t act on these urges.
If you are still waiting for trial, do not post ANYTHING about it on social media or anywhere else someone may read it. According to Pennsylvania DUI expert and attorney Steven Kellis , “Too often, people overexpose themselves online. If you post about how you are going to get out of these charges, you could see your case quickly turn sour.”
If you absolutely have to talk about your case and air your grievances, talk about it with a pet. Or your attorney. Or write your complaints on a piece of paper, then throw that paper in the fireplace.
2. Evaluate Your Drinking Habits
Just because you got a DUI doesn’t necessarily mean you are an alcoholic. However, it is a wakeup call that you need to reevaluate your life and drinking habits . It may be a good idea to lay off the sauce for a while, even if you only drink socially. After all, that’s what got you into this mess in the first place.
Ask them if they’ve noticed a change in your behavior , or if your drinking has had a negative impact on their lives. Make sure they are being completely (and brutally) honest with you. Lying about problems they have noticed won’t help anyone.
3. Distance Yourself from Toxic Relationships
One of the key factors in recovering from any addiction is cutting off those who encourage your habit. Even if you aren’t an alcoholic, distancing yourself from those who you drink with, at least for a while, may be a good idea. That’s not to say that you should never see your friends again.
Unless all they do is drink.
You do need your support system to move forward with your life after a DUI. But if your support system is filled with people who only drink with you (and never hang out with you sober), it may be time to cut those people out. Look for people who are perfectly fine with you being sober, and are willing to do so themselves when they are around you.
4. Look for Professional Support
After a DUI, it may be a good idea to seek counseling. You may be mandated by the court to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, or perhaps you understand you need help. Whatever the reason, if you need help giving up alcohol (a sign of alcoholism), professionals are a great way to go. They have the experience needed to help you get through the tough times.
But counseling isn’t just for alcoholics.
Remember that long list of consequences at the beginning of this blog? Dealing with all of those can quickly lead to depression, anxiety and other issues. Having a professional who you can rely on to hear your concerns and support you while you pick up the pieces can be paramount. Your friends and family may get busy or otherwise unable to listen. A professional counselor will always be there --- after all, that’s what you pay them for!
5. Forgive Yourself
Even after you have received forgiveness from your friends, family and even other people involved in the DUI (if there was an accident), you may be withholding forgiveness from yourself. It’s common to believe you deserve to be punished, and everything bad that happens after the DUI is only your fault, and nothing can be done to make things better.
While it is technically your fault, refusing to forgive yourself is not healthy.
Humans are creatures of error. Even making the choice to drive while under the influence is an error that can be overcome. No amount of self-loathing will fix the mistake. By forgiving yourself, you can focus not on your past, but on moving forward and becoming a better person. If letting go of the past isn’t something you can do, volunteer with organizations like MADD to make sure your mistake can be used for good.
Though a DUI can wreck your life, you can get back on track. Allow yourself to remain calm and focused on the future --- even if it means cutting some habits (and people) out of your life.
Adora Collins is a blogger and Digital Publicist in Atlanta, GA who specializes in introspective self-discovery and natural remedies which she publishes on AdoraCollins.com.