I’m Not Good at Reading Palms

One of the best parts of being a child is being carefree.  If a child has been blessed with a financially stable family, he doesn’t need to worry about where the next meal will come from, how life choices he is making right now will affect his future, or how he is in a mess that he cannot get out of.

I think lack of such cares lead to many an interesting conversation between children.  And these conversations often stick, becoming a part of the fabric of a person.  It is one such playground conversation with my childhood friends that I’ve been reflecting upon recently.

Growing up in Pakistan, superstitions and old wives tales ran rampant, and children would sit around in the summer talking about these for hours.  An upside down shoe results in a fight in the family.  A crow on the power lines indicates a guest will soon be visiting your house.  A broken glass cup is an indicator for impending good news.

One day over the summer, this other child, a bit older, told us all that the lines on your palm can predict your future.  The longer the first horizontal line, the longer you will live.  The second horizontal line’s direction indicates the direction of your life as the years pass by.  Any vertical lines cutting through the two horizontal lines indicate trouble, relative to your age (i.e. where the horizontal line intersects with the vertical line).  My lines tell an interesting story.  Here is how it’s broken down:

  • The first horizontal line, which indicates age, runs three-fourths of the length of my hand.  If the entire hand indicates a lifespan of 100 years, then I’ll live to be around 66.
  • The second horizontal line, which indicates the direction of life, keeps going up a little less than half the length of the line, and then takes a downturn after intersecting with the vertical line.
  • The vertical line, which indicates major trouble, intersects with the horizontal lines right before the halfway point of the horizontal lines.

So much to say that when you put the three items together the life story goes something like this.  I’d live to be ~65.  Just a little before halfway through my life, major trouble will brew.  Before the trouble, my life will have trended in the right direction (up, up and up), and after the trouble, it will take a nosedive.

I am almost 30 now…and therefore, just a little before the halfway point.  The major trouble in my life is the DUI.  Before the arrest, my life had going in absolutely the right trajectory.  As one former boss once said to me, “everything you touch turns to gold.”  And my subconscious fear is whether the rest of this childhood tale will come true, too…whether the rest of my life will take a nosedive.  And as I was resting after my DUI class two nights ago, I couldn’t help but look at my hand and think about the “prophecy.”

But you know what?  Childhood tales belong in the childhood.  If I had no control over my destiny, life would be utterly meaningless.  Instead, the DUI is a major speed bump.  And you get over those.  You eventually end up at your destination despite these bumps.  I’ve gotten lucky for 30 years – things have gone my way.  For the first time in my life, something major didn’t go my way, and it was because of my awful decision.  Lesson learned.  Time to move on and time to keep getting better.

In September 2015, I will be submitting my application to take the bar exam.  I will pass this bar exam.  And hopefully, the State Bar will give me a second chance.  And when they do, my life will continue on an upward direction.

DUI Classes and a Trip to the Video Store

The DUI classes are now finished.  To be completely honest, before walking into the DUI class, I was dreading the 12 hours ahead of me.  But as I sat down, I realized that the next 12 hours would be nothing compared to the night in jail and the stress that has followed.  Once the class began and the teacher started speaking, I felt enlightened.

What I was expecting was a preacher who would demean the class for drinking and driving.  But instead, our teacher was a realist who treated us with utmost respect and grace as he taught the curriculum.  Most importantly, while he didn’t downplay our lapse in judgement, he asked us repeatedly to not give up on ourselves.  Interestingly enough, he is a retired police chief and once worked in the vehicular homicide division.  When a person like this tells you to never give up on yourself and move on from this point forward despite a DUI, you listen.  And you take it to heart.

So the 12 hours flew by. Here are the three most important lessons I took away:

  1. Even after just a few drinks, the driving capabilities decrease so tremendously. There was a video recorded by a California-based police department where an incoming class of cadets was taken to a controlled driving track, and their driving pattern was recorded before consumption of alcohol and after consumption of alcohol. Even after just 3 to 4 drinks, the cadets who drove expertly before drinking alcohol had difficulty driving properly.
  2. Alcohol is processed by the human body at 0.015% BAC per hour. Therefore, for someone with a blood-alcohol content level of 0.13, it would take almost 8 hours to be alcohol free. In my 15 years of driving, I never knew this. The teacher said that he was a police officer for 44 years, and even he didn’t know this before he started teaching the class.
  3. I was one of the lucky ones. People who have driven under the influence of alcohol have met far worse ends. Some have died. Others, who are even unluckier, have caused another human being to die. No amount of joy that people get from drinking is worth a human life.

During the first block, which was 4 hours, the class ended with a video.  It was about this young girl dying in a fiery car crash caused by a drunk driver.  The video had the woman’s sister talking about how her family was crushed and how her father was especially distraught.  I couldn’t help but cry…because I could relate.  It’s time for a story.

A Trip to the Video Store

Many years ago, when we first came to America, my family would go to this small video store that carried Bollywood movies on VHS that you could rent.  The store itself was tiny, I’d say about 10 feet by 12 feet.  It was filled floor to ceiling with Bollywood VHS’s.  It always smelt of discarded dip and Indian food.  I reckon the family that worked there didn’t always care much for the atmosphere.  It was a husband and wife operation.  He was all business.  She was all smiles.  She worked the register.  He did the stocking.

Right next to the video store was a grocery store.  It was everything that the video store wasn’t.  Clean, professional and it sold halal meat. One night, after the Friday prayers, as was the custom by now, our entire family headed to this strip mall.  The plan was that my father would go find a good movie, while my mother, my sister and I would do the grocery shopping.  In 15 minutes, we would meet back by the car.

The grocery trip was uneventful.  But when my mom, my sister and I got to the car, we found my father crying like a child.  You have to understand that this man grew up surrounded in adversity and he handled it all with a smile and a firm handshake.  Before this day, I had never seen my father cry.  But today he was inconsolable.

You see, my father had a sister who was over 10 years younger than him.  For all intents and purposes, she was his baby. He watched her grow up into an amazing young girl with a bright future ahead.  She graduated with honors; she could sing beautifully; and she wanted to become a doctor just like her older sister.  But then it happened.  My father was called by the police to come identify his sister’s body.  He says the next few hours were a blur.  But he remembers that he saw his dead sister lying on that cold metal desk – lifeless.  Beautiful as ever, but covered in blood.  His little sister was killed in an accident when she fell out of a bus and was then crushed under the weight of the bus.  My father and his family were crushed, too.  My grandfather, once a social butterfly, spent the rest of his natural life as a bitter old man.  My grandmother, till the day she died, would go to the mosque at 3 AM every night and pray for the grief to go away – it never did.  So she would come home, and like clockwork, would burn incense around her late-daughter’s picture and talk to her as if she was standing right there.  My father was a pallbearer at the funeral.  As is the custom in Islam, he lowered his sister’s body into the grave and shoveled dirt over it.  He buried his emotions along with his sister.  He says he didn’t “feel” again until many years later.  He uses the word numb.

It turns out that the woman at the VHS store was best-friends with my father’s deceased sister.  And after several months of having the inkling that she knew my father from somewhere, this lady asked my father about his sister.  It unlocked a flood of emotions that my father had buried for over 30 years.  It shattered him again.

The movie at the DUI class about death affecting the living really got to me.  I remembered that night at the video store and how my father felt – more than 25 years after his sister’s death, a simple question about his sister still hurt.

That got me thinking about how I would feel if I was called one day and told that my little baby sister was dead.  I reckon I wouldn’t be much different than my father.  I would never recover.  It would also likely crush my father beyond any grief imaginable.  She is his favorite child.  And my mother…well, unlike my grandmother, I think my mother would lose all faith in anything whatsoever.

Moral of the story is self-evident.  Knowing first-hand how an accident can destroy a family, I still took the risk of driving after drinking.  I could have destroyed another family – another family’s daughter, son, father or a mother, and left that family distraught forever.  I could have put another family though what my father’s family went through.  At least in my late-aunt’s case, it was a total freak-accident – truly unavoidable.  In my case, I would have been much, much worse – it would have been an avoidable travesty that only materialized because I was selfish, wrong, and despicable.

Thankfully, I didn’t cause can accident.  And realizing now what I did, I won’t ever do it again.

So to wrap up the DUI class discussion, I’d say just one thing: if you plan to drink, make sure that you have a plan to get where you need to before you ever start drinking.  If you’re making decisions while drinking, you’re going to make the wrong decisions.

The Daily Reminders of an Awful Decision

Getting arrested for a DUI changes the way you think. That may be by design, of course, so that you don’t repeat the error.

The one thing that I have consistently caught myself doing is thinking about the DUI, the stigma associated with being arrested, and how my future will now be different because of drinking and driving. Each time, I remind myself that the situation isn’t a tragedy. It could have been a tragedy but thankfully, it wasn’t – I was removed from the road that night before I could cause damage to anyone else. Even the consequences I am currently going through aren’t tragic. They are difficult now, to be certain, but they aren’t tragic. In fact, they for my own good. Oh, and they aren’t tragic because they are a but-for and foreseeable result of my actions.

What causes me to think about the DUI

Most things lead me down the rabbit-hole where I end up thinking about the DUI. It can be something complex, like visiting the city I grew up in for the first time since the DUI and realizing that the last time I was in this city, I had never been arrested and there was nothing holding me back in life. But often, it’s something much simpler – like a song coming on that I haven’t heard in a while, and automatically going back to the moment I heard it last, which soon leads to the realization of how simple life was in that very moment. Certainly, I had problems then, too, but none of them were criminal in nature. The song-association is especially troublesome because most of my music listening took while driving somewhere. So there’s the added pain of being unable to drive where and when I want.

But I am getting better, I think

Listen, going through the DUI process isn’t easy. Spending the night in jail, taking a financial hit, the social stigma, the uncertainty about the legal process, and the worries about how job prospects and bar admission will be impacted is stressful stuff. Hell, right now, all I can do is think about Wednesday – on Wednesday, I have my final DMV hearing. During this hearing, in all likelihood, my drivers license suspension will be upheld. This would result in 30 days of no-driving whatsoever, followed by 2 more months of restricted driving.

But through this stress, the actions I am taking, I think, are making me a better person. I certainly hope they are. And with each new event coming my way, I am attempting to keep a positive attitude. For the most part, I feel much better – so I have no reason to believe that these steps aren’t working.

  1. Each week day, I am attending an AA meeting. The meetings are a good reminder of what can happen to my life if alcohol takes over. And it also provides a good look into how good life can be if I keep at it on the straight and narrow. I am 24 days away from getting my 90-day sobriety chip, and by going without alcohol one day at a time, I’m sure I’ll get there before I know it. I chuckled a bit as I typed that because a couple months is such a short period of time. My sponsor has been in the program for two decades, and just last week I heard a gentleman speak who has been sober for longer than I have been alive. I hope one day I am one of these sages of AA.
  2. I decided to take DUI classes – the program has a two-fold purpose: through classroom education, they attempt to change your mindset about drinking and driving; and they make you take an evaluation to determine whether counseling could benefit you. My classes are scheduled for next weekend. The evaluation took place earlier this past week, and the results indicated that I could benefit from counseling.
  3. I spoke with the counselor last week after the evaluation. He mentioned that the referral likely took place because my BAC was .135 at the time of the arrest, which means I must have high tolerance for alcohol – and when you have a higher tolerance, the referral is almost guaranteed. He seemed like a great guy who stated he would like to meet with me at least 5 times for an hour each time; and since this is a 1 on 1 counseling session (instead of in a group setting), he said we can get right to helping me. I will be meeting with him weekly starting this upcoming week. I’ll post about my experience as I go through counseling.
  4. As I had mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve signed a contract with the state’s Lawyers’ Assistance Program. The contract has three major stipulations:
    • I cannot drink alcohol. At all. For any reason. Not even a non-alcoholic beer.
    • I have to check in every morning, and on any given morning, they can ask me to provide a sample to test for the presence of alcohol. The test can detect the presence of alcohol for up to 5 days.  Given that I check in every morning, even a single drink could spell the end of my chance at becoming a lawyer.
    • I have to attend lawyers’ support group meetings weekly. At this meeting, you get to talk to other lawyers who are in a similar position as you are. And like I mentioned last week, more than anything else, you feel like you aren’t alone which really helps me realize, albeit temporarily, that there is a future and it can be bright if I work at it.
  5. The Lawyers’ Assistance Program has also assigned me a monitor. I get to check in with him at least once a month. I talked to him on Friday, and I’m meeting him on Thursday in person. Hopefully, having someone walk me through the process will relieve the anxiety a bit.

So what?

Well, this morning when I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel, I remembered that the last time I listened to them, I had been driving through the mountains of North Carolina with my girlfriend. As much as I’d like to make that drive again, I can’t – not for another 4 months at least while my drivers’ license is suspended…potentially even longer if the judge in the criminal case finds me guilty, which would result in an additional 6 month suspension. And that’s really disappointing. But then I took about 15 minutes and tried to remind myself of all the good things I am trying to do to rehabilitate myself. If these actions have the intended result, in a year when the legal process has worked itself out, I will look back and this may have been the best thing to have happened to me. I hope.

The Anxiety from the Unknown

When one sits around looking at the clock, time seems to slow down to a gut-wrenching crawl.  I can attest to it because I did that yesterday.  Each passing second felt like an eternity.

It happened because I had my second DMV hearing yesterday.  A loss at this hearing would mean 30-days of no driving whatsoever, after which point I could get my conditional business-purpose-only license back.  By the time my attorney called me, I had perhaps refreshed the drivers license lookup page about a dozen time throughout the day.  It showed my drivers license as suspended each time.  My attorney informed me that they need yet another DMV hearing, and it would take place in two weeks.
What followed was rather unnatural.  Given that my fate was not yet sealed, I should have rejoiced just a bit.  But no.  I felt like there will never be a day when the DUI doesn’t stop haunting me…that perhaps I would be better off if yesterday the DMV had just suspended my license for 30 days and I could move on from there…that now I would have to wait in limbo for another two weeks.  I completely overlooked the small joy of having the business purpose only license for another two weeks.
Then in the evening, on my way back home from work, I heard something on NPR that changed my perspective.  On the show All Things Considered, they replayed the interview with this gentleman from Greece.  It had been recorded five years ago.  In that interview, the man stated that he had a fiance but no job.  He lived with his parents, and she lived with hers.  He desperately wanted employment but none was available due to the economic crisis in Greece.  But he was optimistic.  Optimistic that the future would be better than the present.  Fast forward to today, and he was interviewed again.  His fiance left him for someone with employment.  He has moved out of his parents house but still does not have a steady job.  The longest job has lasted is 2 months.  And yet, he remains optimistic.  Because he stated that is the only way he can survive from day to day.
And it hit me — here is this man who is suffering from the consequences of something that he had nothing to do with.  He just happens to be a Greek citizen and it just so happens that the Greek economy stinks, causing his lack of gainful employment, achievement of life goals, etc.  But through it all, he has remains optimistic.
Unlike the gentleman, my consequences are a direct result of my decisions.  So unlike him, I have a reason for my drivers license suspension and a criminal case against me.  If he can be positive about his future, why can’t I?  Being down about this serves no purpose whatsoever.  All I can do is never make such a terrible decision again, and remain optimistic that life gets better.  And I honestly believe it does get better…if you make the right decisions going forward.  I am not saying that I, and people like me, shouldn’t feel awful.  I do, and I’m sure everyone in my position does.  In fact, this guilt and anxiety is important for making sure that we don’t drink and drive again.  But in order for us to never drink and drive again, it’s also important to ensure that we become rehabilitated.  And if we go into rehabilitation with a positive attitude, life becomes easier to manage.
Last time, I’d mentioned about meeting people from all walks of life at AA.  That remains true.  These are people, some of whom have had DUIs, that have come together to form an amazing community that is ever so helpful towards newcomers, and ever so grateful for their sobriety. These people are the living proof that life can get better if you put in the work.  I have been going to AA meetings daily, and each time I walk away with a message of hope — and as humiliating as a DUI is, I walk away from these meetings feeling like a person again.
A few weeks ago, I reached out to the Lawyers Assistance Program in my state.  My contract with them states that I cannot and will not drink again.  And to prove my sobriety, I will be randomly tested for alcohol and drugs.  I also have to attend weekly meetings with other lawyers who have had substance abuse issues in their past.  My entire law career depends on meeting the terms of this contract.  And to be completely honest, I love it.  LAP is one of my only hopes at getting admitted to the bar.  So just even having the possible opportunity to get admitted makes me feel elated.
Oh and it’s empowering — you walk into a room with attorneys and realize that you’re not alone.  There are others who have made similar mistakes; but rather than just being dejected, they’ve actively sought help and are now members of the Bar.  It’s just…helpful…to see that you can be in my position and still have a chance to practice your passion.  That life isn’t going to stop.  That there is a tomorrow.
Until the next DMV hearing, all I can do is hope for the best and keep working on myself.  And while the DMV hearing and its inevitable result will come an end one day, the process of keeping watch over myself, lest I make a terrible decision again, never will — and never should end.

There is Hope Because Life Goes On

Over the past few weeks, I’ve increased my AA attendance – I am now attending daily meetings. I have also found that the early morning meetings work best for me. This way, I can not only start my day early, but also start it with the right message. It is a message of hope. And that is what I wish to share in this post today.

If you’ve ever been to a meeting, you realize that attending the AA program has numerous benefits. You are surrounded by people who are in recovery, and understand what you’ve been through. If, like me, you thankfully never hit the absolute rock bottom (prison, homelessness, lack of food, withdrawal symptoms, etc.), you realize what you’ve avoided. And all around you, you can see what you can become if you put in the work, because you are surrounded by absolutely fantastic, most caring and enlightening individuals from all walks of life. If you’re lucky, you may even get one of these people to sponsor you. So you see, through the stories of others, you can see who you were, what you avoided and what you have the potential to become.

What is helping me immensely is knowing that I am not the only one who has ever gotten a DUI. There are many others like me. This means that I am not far gone just yet. I have a chance to become a better person, and perhaps one day even be someone who helps others rehabilitate.

Perhaps your story is different – perhaps after a DUI you haven’t been too down. In all honesty, I went about my life in as…normal…a manner as I could, except I didn’t drink, for the first month and a half. But there was this lingering sadness. There still is. The selfish part of me only wants to think about the harm I’ve done to my life (even knowing full well I posed a far greater danger to others). The financial, social and career costs are so high – perhaps rightfully so because they force you to change. And thinking about the damage just brings me down. The thought that keeps coming back to me is, “you worked so hard to get to a point in life where you were at a jumping off point. You were ready for a career in law. Your finances were in order. The girl of your dreams thought so highly of you. And you messed up big time. Nothing will ever be the same.”

And then there are moments, like now, when I am hopeful. Maybe it’s good that nothing will be the same, because things have a chance to be much, much better. The one thing that sticks out is this statement made by someone at an AA meeting a few weeks ago, “life doesn’t stop because you stop drinking.” I’ve been thinking about this for quite a bit. There are two things that I have been able to flesh out:

  1. First and most obviously, life goes on. You have to keep living.
  2. But more importantly, it is because that life goes on that you too much keep going on. Changing your life for the better isn’t just a passive process. You must push in the proper direction to get the proper result. So while the life can absolutely keep going on, in order for it to go on in the right direction, you have to attempt to do better.

Knowing this gives me some semblance of comfort. As I type this, I can see that all of this makes so little sense. One moment I am complaining because of my selfishness, and the next I am talking about positivity. I suppose here is the best I can do, for now: a DUI takes away much of the control you had in life – you’re burdened financially, emotionally and spiritually; your driving privileges are gone; you can’t think about the past without remembering the night in jail; you feel like you’ve let everyone down; oh and by the way, your physical freedom rests in the hands of a judge, your future driving privileges are up to the mercy of the DMV, and whether you ever get to practice your career in the state of your choice is up to the state bar. You have officially placed your fate in the hands of people you have never met. But knowing that life goes on, that you have a chance to make your life better, and that you have examples of fine people at AA who have been through the same mess as you and come out on top is an amazing feeling. You feel that you have some input in your life again. And at this point, that feels good.

First AA Meeting Experience

The Pre-Meeting Fear

Throughout the day, I thought about attending my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  I feared that if I attended, I would be looked down upon — by others…people at the meeting and people who may someday find out that I attended an AA meeting.

By around 5 pm, two things had happened: I was convinced that I was actually going to attend the AA meeting, and I had registered for a DUI/alcohol evaluation course.  I also reached out to the State Bar to see if I could be included in the program for lawyers who have had substance abuse issues.

The Rationale

As I discussed last night, becoming a better person does not stop at stopping to drink for 30 days.  It requires a commitment.  And my fear of commitment regarding AA seemed rather silly – I was afraid of what people would think about me:

The People at AA:  The people over at the AA were once in the same position as me.  They are no different than me.  They are wonderful people who have been impacted by alcohol.  And, therefore, they have the potential to be wonderful mentors.

People who Find Out I am in AA:  This scared me a little — what would people with whom I have shared a beer with previously think? What would my friends make of me? In the end, it’s simple.  If they are my true friends, they will understand that I am going through changes in my life that require me to be alcohol-free.  If they cannot accept that, well, then perhaps I should find better friends.

The Bigger Picture

Why am I doing all this when I could simply let the legal process work itself out?  I think there are a couple of reasons – one of them is obviously selfish.  First, I want to prove to myself, others around me, and even the legal process that I am truly serious about my reformation.  Second, I continue to believe that I owe a higher duty — if I ever get a chance to become a lawyer, people that place their trust in me must know and firmly believe that I can place their best interest ahead of anything and everything, and I won’t betray their trust by making awful decisions.  So beyond just “proving” anything to anyone else, I must rely on those who are willing to help me in avoiding the awfulness that surrounds alcohol.

The Meeting Itself

The meeting itself was an amazingly uplifting experience.  As I walked in, not knowing which room to go in, a gentleman introduced himself and told me that I should feel safe — that he had been in the same position as me many years ago.  Then when the meeting began, people shared their stories and their struggles.  And while I can’t go into the details of others’ stories, they all resonated with immensely.  For that, I am immensely thankful.

The Ending

As the meeting was coming to a close, I was asked a simple question — do I accept the path towards recovery?  And just like that, I got a hug and a white-chip.  Oh and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

A Month of Sobriety: My Observations

It has now been over a month since I gave up drinking.  While I thought I would have quite a bit to say about giving up alcohol, I’m coming up blank right now — what follows here is likely more rambling and superficial observations.

The Beginning

Since the day after graduating high school, I have worked full-time.  Additionally, until July 2014, I have always had something academic on my plate to keep me busy in the evenings.  Through vast majority of it, drinking wasn’t an option – I viewed it as something inherently evil that could cause me to lose my path.  It wasn’t until 2012 that I started drinking a once a week due to new friends I had made who meet over dinner and drinks frequently, and it wasn’t until I moved out of state in a place with no family and very, very few friends for work in 2014 that I started drinking regularly.  It helped in killing time.

When I started studying for the bar exam in early 2014, I would spend myself locked in my apartment all evening.  Work, study, sleep, work, study, sleep.  Through it all, each evening begin with a glass of whiskey, and was followed by a few more as I studied.  Living in the Pacific timezone makes it a bit worse too — by 9 PM the rest of the world was fast asleep, and it was just myself, whiskey, piles of notes and half a dozen highlighters.  In the end, it worked out.  I passed the bar exam, somehow leading me to believe that alcohol and I can co-exist.

This was followed by another move in 2015 — to another place across the country.  My only friend, my girlfriend, lived an hour and a half away.  Without anything productive to do in the evenings and without anything else to do, drinking and surfing the web became a daily routine.

And then I decided to drive one evening after drinking, and the DUI happened.

Giving-up Drinking

My girlfriend has been truly supportive.  She not only bailed me out but also encouraged me to give up alcohol.  In the month since, I haven’t really had the urge to drink.  Part of it may be because I’ve come to dislike the relationship alcohol and I developed.  Another part of it is knowing that I made the most terrible decision of my life while consuming alcohol.  Another part of it is likely that I don’t t rust myself to drink again without causing damaging decisions.  Mostly the last one…

Difficulties

I can honestly say there haven’t been any.  When I first started, I thought social events would be the most difficult.  But since then, I’ve been offered alcohol on multiple occasions at work events, and each time, “nah, thanks” has sufficed.

What has Changed

This is the part that makes it all worth it.  Just a few things that have changed for the better in the last month:

  1. No more waking up, feeling dazed.  Waking up is easy and pain-free;
  2. I have spent the evenings working on my start-up.  I have been much more productive.
  3. I’ve played video-games to get my mind off the situation.  It’s a much less destructive way of spending time.
  4. I’ve decided to take a professional exam that should help me become better at my job.  The books arrived yesterday.  Each evening, I shall be spending some time focused on this.

What’s Next?

I have been apprehensive about this — but I think tomorrow I will go to my first AA meeting.  I am terrified, ashamed and hopeful.  At the end of the day, the process does not stop at giving up drinking for a month.  For all I know, I am one drink away from it all again.  I need to prove to myself and those I owe a humanly duty to that I am reformed.  And part of that process is seeking and getting help where it is available.  While I can’t be certain of what the future holds, I will continue to try to make myself better.

Life without Driving Privileges

Last week was my DMV hearing.  My attorney called me afterwards stating that the hearing went as expected, and another hearing has been scheduled for mid-August.  By the time the mid-August hearing rolls around, I will have been without driving privileges for over 70 days.  The business purpose temporary license helps.  But at the same time, here are my impressions around the rehabilitative aspects of losing the license.

  1. Living without a restriction-free license is an effective tool.  Most, if not all, folks with a DUI would think about committing the crime again.  Seriously, things like buying pet-food require coordination.  “Hey, when you come over this weekend, can we please stop by the grocery store?”
  2. The temporary business-purpose-only license is a blessing.  I can maintain my livelihood, and hold on to some semblance of normalcy.  Sure, I miss colloquial “open road,” but with the BPO, you learn to appreciate the simple pleasure of driving to work on the daily basis.  And I am terrified — if I lose at the second DMV hearing, I lose my driving privileges, including the temporary BPO, for 30 days.  This means no driving whatsoever.  This will, without question, be the most trying experience of my adult life.
  3. You get to know Uber and Lyft drivers.  Seriously – want to get on the train to go see your girlfriend who lives out of town? Take the Lyft to the train station. Get on the train. Get off the train. Get into a cab that takes you to your girlfriend’s house.  A $30 dollar per-trip gas bill is now $120 but that’s the price I must pay.

In my mind, sometimes I have inappropriate thoughts — most commonly, “why me? I have already promised to never drink again, and I sure as hell won’t drink and drive! Why can’t I get my license back already?”  But then I put myself in my pre-June shoes.  I would hear that statement and say, “great that you’re repentant, but keeping you off the road is definitely working both for the society at large, and yourself as a person.  So let’s make sure you finish your punishment.”  And if you have never gotten a DUI, I am sure you feel the same way.  So I understand why my driving privileges are revoked.  I understand it is doing me good.  I appreciate that it has already done me a lot of good as a person.  Therefore, nothing I can or should do other than keep moving forward from this point on.

As I finish typing this, I can’t help but appreciate how lucky I have been…been with a car since the day I turned 16; lived a fantastic adulthood; never had any issues with the law; finished law school cum laude…and then made a horrific decision which has led me to this point.  And even in that horrific decision, the consequences have been minimal — I didn’t injure or kill anyone.  For that, I will be forever thankful.  Perhaps one day when I get my driving privileges back, I can prove to the society that it was right to give me a second chance.  Until then, I shall take joy in my drive to and from work.

The Silver Lining: All is Not Lost

Getting a DUI hurts.  But if you are one of the lucky ones, like myself, who did not harm anyone else despite your actions, all is perhaps not lost.

Look, getting a DUI isn’t the worst “mistake” of your life — a mistake is when you step on someone’s glasses accidentally.  Rather, a DUI is perhaps the worst result of your irresponsible actions that you’ve ever encountered.  A DUI case is the government’s attempt at retribution and rehabilitation.  You will, and I continue to, pay for this decision.  There are court fees, lawyer fees, fines, insurance costs, lost salary because of missed days, and the list goes on.  There are also non-monetary repressions because of the criminal record: the shame, guilt, remorse, lowered self-esteem, etc.

But, hopefully life goes on.  There is silver lining.  Hopefully you are rehabilitated due to this experience.  Just last week, I was worried sick about being able to travel to see my girlfriend after her surgery.  She lives several hours away.  My license is currently suspended.  But thank heavens there is a train — for the first time since moving to the United States, I took advantage of the railway system.  It got me to her and back safely.  It also gave me time to think about life ahead.

As much as life going forward may be difficult, remember that you are a lucky one — you are still here; and hopefully, you didn’t hurt anyone along the way.  You have a chance at making something of yourself.  Life goals and aspirations aren’t all lost.

Let’s get better, together.

PS: 2 weeks and not a single drink of alcohol.  I am a bit proud of myself.

30 Years of Hard Work: Your Actions Can Ruin Everything

Let me begin this post by acknowledging that the only real victims here are those that were on the road with me the night of my DUI.  I have before, and I continue to feel apologetic for my actions.  There was a real possibility of me hurting you, and I count myself lucky that I did not.

I also want to state that anything that happens to me as a result of my DUI is both deserved and just.

With that out of the way, this post is more about what a person can lose as a result of a DUI.  Besides just the shame of having a DUI on your record, the constant embarrassment of being unable to drive for anything other than work, and an overall tumble in self-worth, there are real and direct consequences.  These are the consequences I am suffering and will continue to suffer in addition to any punishment the justice system levies upon me.

I am 30 years old.  In 2013, I finished law school.  In 2014, I was authorized to practice law in California, passing the most difficult state bar exam in the United States.  All through school and bar exam, I continued to work as an engineer, hoping that through all this hard work, I can make the switch to law and practice law in the state of my choosing.  Over the next two years, I had planned to take the state bar exams in multiple states.

That dream is now on life-support.  From what I understand, a recent arrest for a DUI makes it darn near impossible for one to take the bar exam.  You see, each state’s supreme court ensures that the lawyers being granted the license to practice in their state are of good moral character and fit to practice law.  And a person with a DUI is perhaps both unfit to practice law and of not-so-great character.  Thus, the state bar will often punt on allowing the potential lawyer from taking the bar exam or granting the license after the bar exam.  This is especially true when the DUI, like the one I received, isn’t a youthful error but rather a result of a horrible decision of an adult.  They may change their minds after a few years if they have evidence that the individual offender has rehabilitated himself.  Unfortunately at 30, a five year delay in getting the bar license for the state I live in may as well be a death sentence for my law career.

As I’ve stated before, my parents immigrated to the United States and spent their life-earnings on lawyer fees — all to make sure that I could pursue higher education, and make something of myself.  And when you come from a third world country, there are a few things you respect — doctors who are leaps and bounds better than your old home; educators who care about you; and the rule of law which ensures peace across the land.  This admiration of the rule of law drove me towards law school.

So at the end of the day, I am left with a few things: unfulfilled childhood dream; six-figure student loan; immeasurable remorse; but still…the respect for law.  The same one I broke.