Emotional Impacts of DUI
What emotional cost, if any, is there to my DUI?
Drinking and driving has the power to affect your life, and the lives of those around you, for decades to come. While you might be thinking that you can drink, get behind a car, drive home, and none of those decisions will ever impact anyone you are completely wrong. Drinking and driving affects every single person. And the emotional impact is huge, coming with a cost that will likely be harder to settle than you can currently imagine. The consequences you face for a DUI extend to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and each of their families. And let's not forget to mention here, your family (be they near or far, close or estranged) will be completely affected by your choice to both drink and drive. An encounter with a drunk driver can be even more difficult emotionally, as it is financially and physically. You see, each and every single person, connected directly or indirectly, will have some measure of risk in developing PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What is PTSD and how does it affect you?
Specifically, this disorder goes beyond depression and often into experiencing flashbacks of the fear and danger envolved with your drunk driving and the crash scene. These thoughts have a direct correlation to the person's ability to navigate simple daily routine, getting into a car again, walking near other vehicles, and their awareness of life around them. Even certain smells and sounds will trigger the memory of that fateful crash, sending paralizing fear and muscle memory throughout their body, equally having a direct emotional impact on their life. Some symptoms of PTSD include:
- Flashes of anger
- Trouble concentrating or remembering
- Exaggerated responses
- Being overly vigilant or cautious
It is very common for those who are affected by PTSD to experience the majority, sometimes all of them, for a month or even longer. It is important to note, that should a sudden death occur, the likelihood of smoothly navigating the emotional impact on both the other people and yourself is near impossible.
What can be expected if death is involved?
In situations where a sudden death occurs, meaning there is no warning or anitcipation of loss, especially when there is violence or neglegance involved, you can totally prepare for the emotional impact to be beyond imagination and the fallout effect to be one of great proportion. When you lose a loved one, based upon another person's negligence and without any warning, there are severe emotions that come flooding into your atmosphere and have the power to hold you hostage emotionally. Anger would be the strongest emotion you would encounter, but also a severe struggle with violent thoughts and behaviors that are normally completely out of character.
Will grief play a role in the emotional process?
As with any loss or traumatic experience, it is most common for a person to go through a process of intense grief. There are seven stages to navigate through and prepare for:
- shock or disbelief
- acceptance and hope
Navigating the process of grief is relative to the person walking through it. There is no certain timeframe, you must simply give adequate time that is needed by that person to unpack what all this looks like for them. Remember, as we discussed before, there are triggers that can happen at any time and without warning. All of these will be specific to the person and their unique experience before, during, and after the traumatic event.
Are there other common reactions to traumatic grief, and how can I support?
Yes, there are many. Triggers will also apply to them, so proceed with intention and follow through in being sensitive and taking responsibility for your part you played in their loss. Those reactions could be:
- feelings of isolation
- poor appetite
- loss of self concern
- withdrawing from others
- loss of motivation
- spiritual confusion
As with any traumatic process of recovering, having the support and love from those closest to you is vital to the success of moving through the grief and into a full life on the other side of it. There are several ways you can be supportive, such as:
- allow them to vent
- give permission for them to talk without taking what they say personally
- create the avenue for them to tell their story
- encourage them to write down their story and their emotions attached to it
- provide the ability for them to seek professional counseling or a support group
- create a positive environment of support and trust
- information about the incident
- getting answers for their questions
- finding an avenue for them to reach out and give back to those affected by the same trauma
Always keep in mind, the emotional impact this event has had on you will differ greatly from the emotional impact on others. Taking an approach of honest humility, owning your mistakes and taking full responsibility for your choices, along with allowing the other person or persons to grieve as they need will allow you the ability to also move through your own process of grief, ownership, and getting your life back on track after a DUI offense. Kindness and understanding will go very far in your favor, as well as the other affects that take place with a DUI offense. Be mindful of your choice in words and actions, as you will most likely see the effects of those in court and interactions with the victims and their families as you all try and move on from this traumatic event.
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