July 5, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver
A recent column generated a large and highly positive response from readers, who saw in themselves, friends and family members, the same young man we wrote about.
According to his mother, “Our adult son either has become or is on the way to becoming an alcoholic, constantly out with his drinking friends, making us terrified that we will get a call from the police that he was killed in an accident or arrested.”
The message in that article from Educational Psychologist — “Dr. Ken,” 34 years sober — was simple:
“Do you really want to stop the cycle of madness and insanity that is alcoholism, then this young man must give up a lot of his old life. He has got to be able to say-and act on-I want to find something new. This can be through church, school, you name it, and simply be around people who do not drink,” he maintains.
“If all your friends have in common is drinking, then try showing up and have no money. Just see how long that social contact lasts,” Dr. Ken pointed out.
Lawyers can help young alcoholics but are often enablers
“When a young alcoholic actually spends time in jail for DUI or public intoxication, this is often be the best medicine. They have an easier time in quitting, usually getting the point that jail is a very bad place to be once.
“Often parents or grandparents urge the attorney-who they have hired — to obtain a real jail sentence-just a couple of weekends-but many lawyers refuse, saying they cannot ethically do that. But lawyers who understand what works at a young age, will absolutely convey that request to the judge “When continued destructive behavior is enabled-getting them work release instead of jail time for that first offense-lawyers are not helping, in my opinion,” Dr. Ken believes.
“Keep telling ’em the truth, what they need to hear”
Proof of the need for more honesty from the legal profession, caring less about a fee than in helping your client face consequences and change behavior — came to our office in a letter from Tom.
It had a July, 2013 postmark, yet took 27 years for him to write it.
Dear Mr. Beaver:
I’m not sure if you are the same attorney I went to years ago, if not, I apologize; but if you handled DUI cases, then I think you are the right person.
It was 1986, I was 22 years old, facing my third DUI and came to you looking for a defense, a technicality, an out. You had no mercy, telling me I was an alcoholic, that I should have been scared to death after number two and I better pull my head out and realize it!
I was shocked, offended and dismayed all at once; you were supposed to help me get off!
But you were right.
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson there, in your office, but it took me many more years and quite a few stints in jail to make me realize you were right! I’m only glad to say that I never hurt anyone, but myself.
I always remembered your speech and have thought about writing this letter for years. I don’t think you do DUI’s anymore, but if you do, keep telling them the truth, keep telling them what they need to hear. You may just save a life or two.
Thanks for putting a bug in my ear that never went away. God Bless. Tom T. Los Angeles, California.”
And what became of Tom?
You might wonder “What became of Tom, and the DUI charge he faced then?” We certainly did, Googled him, called and told him how great it felt to receive his letter.
“All these years I never thanked you for being honest with me. Had I admitted my fault and paid the price, my father would have saved thousands of dollars on a lawyer who took our money and I still went to jail – which is where I belonged! If I listened to you my life would have been so different!
“I just had to write you! I started to write that letter so many times, but felt embarrassed.”
So, what are you doing now?
“I woke up in my 40s and became an R.N. a little over three years ago. Working in a hospital, I get to help people, instead of putting them at risk, driving drunk.”
Tom had no way of knowing the good that his letter has accomplished, shown to young clients on a collision course with disaster.
Some things do get better with age.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.