I got arrested for drinking and driving – and it changed my life

I pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not an alcoholic. Just like every other college student, I tended to party every weekend and hit up the bars with friends whenever I could. I wouldn’t drink enough to get trashed – that only happened a few times – and I only once came close to blacking out.

If there was a big holiday or event coming up, I’d go and fill up the trunk of my car with alcohol, as I’m sure is normal of other college kids at big party schools like Iowa State. In fact, when “State Snaps” was a thing on Snapchat, I got a picture of my trunk full of alcohol to make it on there, which at the time was pretty exciting. That much alcohol lasted my friends and me at least two or three weekends, so it was a worthy investment.

I consider myself close to a heavyweight when it comes to drinking, meaning I don’t get drunk easily. Unfortunately, that also means it’s hard for me to tell when I hit that point… which led to one of the most life-changing events I’ve experienced.

The incident

In January, I was driving to my friend’s apartment around 3am on a weekend during the Iowa winter (ice, snow, subzero temps). It was pretty much pitch black outside besides what the headlights illuminate in front of the car. All of a sudden, I hit a patch of ice and lost control of my vehicle, causing it to go off the road and skid on the sidewalk for about a block. The car then hit a crosswalk sign, causing it to slide back onto the road – and allowing me to keep driving. I had no idea at the time how bad my car was damaged: Since I could still partially drive it, I assumed it wasn’t that bad. I was quite mistaken.

My car took a little damage

When I got there, I was approached by officers in the parking lot, who ordered me to do a sobriety test – and I blew over the legal limit. I’m not sure if I was trying to act like I wasn’t intoxicated, but I tried to keep calm as best I could, despite being cuffed for the first time in my life.

The longer I was in cuffs, the more I felt reality slapping me in the face and the more worried and scared I got. The one positive thing was that, since the incident happened just before dawn, I only had to be at the county jail for a couple hours and not “overnight.”

Tire marks from my car

Life after my OWI

I got a little lucky and got the least severe punishment for my violation by pleading guilty to Operating While Intoxicated. As a result, though: I’m on probation (meaning I can’t drink) until at least mid-September, I can’t drive until mid-September, and I can’t enter a bar or place where alcohol constitutes 50% or more of their sales.

I can deal with not drinking and not entering a bar just fine – sure, I might be tempted some nights, but that’s what caffeine and energy drinks are for. Not driving is unfortunate but doable as well, it just means I need to use my legs and other forms of transportation more.

I mention the consequences of my actions because if you can’t handle any one of those three, or other possible consequences, then don’t put yourself in the position where you can even get an OWI. (Not to mention, drinking and driving seriously endangers both you and others.)

Staying positive

Even with getting an OWI, there is a silver lining. I got counseling to get some things straightened out in my life, which helped me focus more on myself and my grades (in fact, I might get my highest GPA ever this semester). I was pretty close to dropping out of college and giving up a few times, so setting my priorities straight allowed me to succeed.

I realized just how much money I’d spent on buying alcohol over the years – it’s not cheap let me tell you. As a college student, there are so many better things I could have spent that money on. It also opened my eyes to the fact that I’m not invincible when it comes to law enforcement. Sure, I’ve gotten in trouble before in life but nothing this severe and life-altering.

Do I attribute my recent college success to my OWI? Not necessarily, but it definitely was a catalyst that helped me get some much-needed perspective, opened my eyes to some questionable habits and helped me change them.

Mt. Dew is my preferred drink of choice

I’m not trying to preach to you and say you can’t drink or have a good time – just don’t get in trouble for it. In addition to the obviously terrible danger drinking and driving poses to you and your community, you could also get kicked out of school, lose a job, lose scholarships, or even do time in jail (which I kind of lucked out on).

If you’re thinking this kind of thing would never happen to me – think again. It’s easy, when you’re a naive college student, to think you’re invincible, but when it comes to consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel, everyone is at risk. The solution: Just don’t do it.

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