October 15, 2011

Occupy Your Own Brain: Stop Driving Drunk. ~ Lauren Flynn

As a yoga teacher in the Boulder area I was recently intrigued by the response of a local yoga teacher/acupuncturist who was arrested for allegedly walking a dog outside of her moving car. The backlash ranged from “…of course this happened in Boulder” to “yoga teachers should know better.”

Yes. We should know better, but we don’t. Like non-yoga teachers of the world, we too have to learn our lessons. Some would say these lessons make us stronger teachers—others might argue that these mistakes make us hypocrites.  I say it’s both. I say this after going through the hell of a DUI two years ago.

An average drunk driver will drive drunk 87 times before getting pulled over1. I am no exception to that rule.

Photo: brizzle born and bred

On the night of my DUI arrest, I was driving home from my “Welcome Home” party as I had just relocated from Santa Barbara to the Boulder area after losing my home in a wildfire.  I had failed to come to a complete stop at a light and was pulled over promptly. I didn’t try to pretend that I hadn’t been drinking. I valiantly attempted the commanded roadside test, failed and was given the breathalyzer. I stood in horror as I watched the numbers climb higher and higher. I was certain I wasn’t that drunk. But up until that point I had no idea what that drunk was.  I was handcuffed and thrown in the back of the police car.

I was humiliated. And I was a yoga teacher.

If this got out, I would be publicly humiliated. How crass is that? I was silent as I finished the booking process and waited for someone to come pick me up.

I spent the next month waffling between how I was going to skate by with the least amount of “punishment” and wishing that this would destroy me so I would never have to go through it again. Long story short, I received the “standard” amount of punishment and a destruction and rebuilding process that remains in progress. As part of that rebuilding I—under no circumstances—drive after drinking. Not because the second DUI is worse than the first. And not because I’m way too paranoid to drive drunk. It’s because I pulled my head out of my ass and saw the bigger picture. In fact, I rarely even drink anymore. (Sidenote: it’s an infinitely more rewarding experience). Not drinking also means not going out to bars as much—not because of the no drinking, but because I absolutely cannot stand to watch people convince everyone else that they are “okay to drive” after raging, downing beer after beer, shot after shot or even boasting at the stroke of midnight that they have been drinking since 3pm. It makes me mad.

I was an idiot before I got my DUI. Selfish, reckless…just plain asinine. I realized this fully when, as part of my sentence, I attended a three hour Mothers Against Drunk Driving panel, where three people shared their stories : a mother of a drunk driver who killed himself and a passenger, a victim of a drunk driver who remains in a wheelchair and will for life and a drunk driver who killed two people.

To say it was powerful would be an understatement.

Photo: Soulfull

As I’ve joined my friends in the #occupy movement these past few weeks it is amazing to watch the momentum of the movement and the evolution of people working in groups. But I also see many of those people acting in ways directly opposing the tenants of the movement in their own lives. Taken from the official statement of the #occupy movement with “they” being corporations:

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members2 (Drunk drivers kill someone approximately every 48 minutes1)

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses2. (Alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost the public an estimated $114.3 billion in 2000, including $51.1 billion in monetary costs and an estimated $63.2 billion in quality of life losses. People other than the drinking driver paid $71.6 billion of the alcohol-related crash bill, which is 63 percent of the total cost of these crashes1.)

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit2. (In 2001, more than half a million people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present—an average of one person injured every minute1.)

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas2. (2009 – 33,808 people were killed in traffic accidents. 10,839 of these deaths were a result of alcohol (32% of all traffic deaths1))

I could go on for hours about the lessons I learned and continue to learn. And in no way am I trying to toot my own horn. I’m simply pointing out that I was someone who was engaging in a selfish, destructive act that also happens to be illegal and I got caught. And getting caught changed the way I approach life.

I’m asking you to stop and think and acknowledge that there is a bigger picture.

As we head into the holiday season, I humbly request that you take a look at your habits. If you are one of the people out there who thinks they are a really great drunk driver, just please stop. For the sake of everyone.  We simply cannot create and sustain “anything that helps us to live a good life that also happens to be good for others, and our planet”3 by engaging in this behavior.


1 – http://dontdiedrunk.org/drunk-driving-stats

2 – http://anoncentral.tumblr.com/post/10909003533/first-official-statement-from-the-occupywallstreet

3 – http://www.elephantjournal.com/about


Lauren Flynn is a yoga teacher and musician living in Lyons, CO. If she’s in a bar she’s usually behind her guitar, at the microphone and drinking a club soda with lemon. She teaches yoga in tucked away places. Visit her online at Facebook or at Full Circle Yoga Online.

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