4 Ways to Make Your First DUI Offense a “Blessing in Disguise”
If you are reading this article after getting your first DUI, first of all, let me say that I am so glad you are alive, and I hope nobody was seriously hurt. Second, I am sorry that you got a DUI– it’s almost always an extremely stressful experience. A DUI takes a severe financial toll on you and often profoundly impacts how you and your loved ones see you. A DUI offense affects so many areas in one’s life, and by no means would a therapist undermine that.
Have worked with many people who are questioning their relationships with alcohol, I also believe your first DUI, or any DUI that you survived, can be a blessing in disguise. Here, I would like to support you in turning this stressful experience into an opportunity for positive change.
Make Your First DUI a Reality Check for Your Alcohol Consumption.
While getting a DUI does not automatically mean you have an alcohol use issue, it’s often an indication that a person has lost some degree of control over their behavior regarding alcohol. Have you ever felt that you may have lost some control over your alcohol use? For example, have you ever found yourself drinking more than you intended? Have you ever tried cutting down but were unable to? Do you experience an intense desire for alcohol during certain situations or times of the day? It could be scary to answer these questions honestly, but remember, nobody has to know your answers until you’re ready to share them.
Make Your First DUI the Motivator to Make Positive Changes.
If you have been secretly questioning your relationship with alcohol but feel conflicted about the idea of cutting down, you are not alone. Making changes in life almost always brings up ambivalence. Reducing alcohol consumption can be a major lifestyle change, and it’s normal to feel unsure about it. Although a person believes that there are many good reasons for them to drink less, many times, they still need an external motivator to mobilize them to take serious action. A DUI could be just that outside motivator that you need. I know you probably still have some doubt about whether to commit to such a significant change or don’t quite know where to start. Here is my tip on starting with something small. One good place to begin is by setting a limit on the number of drinks you have each night out. I recommend telling someone about your plan, which makes sticking to it easier.
Make Your First DUI an Opportunity to Reach Out
After being arrested for drunk driving, you may feel embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed. It’s normal to want to keep it secret or even reach for more alcohol to take the edge off. However, it’s important to do the opposite–reach out to support instead of isolating yourself. If you have been secretly struggling with alcohol, use this DUI as an opportunity to let your loved ones know. I know it can feel very vulnerable to let others know that you are struggling, but you don’t have to let everyone know all at once. Start with someone you trust who will provide you with non-judgemental support.
Support groups and professional therapists are other options. Whether or not you believe you have an alcohol use issue, support groups such as AA can provide you with emotional support from others who have gotten DUIs themselves and lived through the struggle. A professional therapist can help you manage stress related to your DUI case, cope with its emotional impact, and provide you with a safe space to explore your relationship with alcohol. If you have been ordered by the court to attend AA meetings or individual therapy, it’s not a punishment. In fact, it could be a valuable source of support and healing.
Make Your First DUI an Invitation to be Sober Curious
Changes, even positive ones, could bring up doubt and fear because they bring us out of our comfort zone. When we are trying to let go of something that we are familiar with, it’s easy for us to be overly aware of what we could lose in the short run but not see what we may gain in the long run. However, changes and possibilities lie on the edge of our comfort zone. Have you ever wondered what difference it would make to your body, mind, and spirit if you spent less money, time, and energy on alcohol? An alcohol-related arrest, despite all the stress and chaos they cause in one’s life, it’s an invitation to be curious about the alternative to drinking–limited alcohol consumption.
If you are feeling scared, unsure, or restless about what to do next after your first DUI, you are invited to join us in the 8-week Sober Curiosity Group where you can explore possibilities of cultivating a new, healthy, and more mindful relationship with alcohol. Curious about Sober Curiosity? Join my next workshop, where you can talk about all the mixed feelings you may have about cutting down in a supportive and non-judgemental environment.