By Anna MorelockNovember 14, 2019
WIESBADEN, Germany -- Matt Murcin, the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Army Substance Abuse Program manager, recently talked with three community members about the consequences of getting a DUI and what led up to their choice to drink and drive. To protect their privacy, the community members are not identified by their real names.
Murcin said he saw several similarities in their situations. All three had suicidal ideations to various degrees and expressed thoughts of loneliness and depression, he said. They were also each having relationship problems.
"If you find yourself drinking too much," Murcin said, "is there other stuff going on? Seek help for those issues."
Scott's path to receiving his first DUI began long before the night he failed a breathalyzer on his way home from a nightclub.
At 16, Scott had his own place; a home from which his grandmother sold alcohol. He drank with his mom and other family at a young age. It all seemed normal to him. When he joined the Army, everyone was drinking, he said, often more than him.
"Ain't nothing wrong with me," he said he recalled thinking. "I can still do my PT, I can still do stuff, so there ain't nothing wrong with me. I'm still doing all the stuff I'm supposed to do; I haven't gotten in trouble yet. Yet."
People who grow up in an environment where drinking, sometimes to excess, is the norm, often take that perception of normal into adulthood, Murcin said, but it's important to realize how much alcohol is in a drink and that it can affect people differently. Sometimes just one or two beers is enough to reach the 0.05 blood alcohol content level, which is the legal limit to drive in Germany. But if drivers get in an accident with even 0.03 BAC, they'll be charged with DUI.
Scott's trouble didn't stop when he received his DUI. Shortly thereafter, he woke up at Landstuhl where the last thing he remembered was hearing his daughters in the states playing in the background when he called to tell his soon-to-be ex-wife and children goodbye. He then took all the pills in his medicine cabinet.
"After I got my DUI, everything in my life just seemed like it was gone. I lost my career which I loved," Scott said. "I felt like I disappointed everybody."
Scott completed in-patient treatment at Landstuhl.
"I guess at the time I didn't realize because I was masking it with alcohol and other things," Scott said about his lifestyle at the time. "I didn't drink during the week, then on the weekend the part of me I tried to bury deep down inside came out; put my priorities at risk."
After seeking help and making lifestyle changes, Scott didn't have issues until years later when he found himself out of the Army, back in Germany and facing relationship problems again. After slipping back into old habits, he got another DUI.
This time, "instead of taking the easy way out," he said, he is dealing with the consequences and proving to himself and everyone that he can deal with his drinking. Scott completed the Prime for Life class offered by the Army Substance Abuse Program and said he continues to deal with his history and making amends for his past.
Tom, a civilian employee, said he was going through a divorce and was "partying, doing whatever I could to get over that emotional rollercoaster.
"That one DUI completely changed my life," he said. "I won't even think about driving after I've had a drink or so. I just Uber it; take a cab or whatever."
Six years later, and after thousands of euros in fines, Tom is still waiting on approval to get his license reinstated after returning to Wiesbaden from the states.
Some people get scared by that first DUI and can just quit drinking, Murcin said. Before going out and drinking, community members should ensure they have a plan to get home - a taxi, public transportation, walking or a designated driver - so they don't have to deal with the costly, life-changing and permanent consequences of a DUI.
John, an active duty Soldier, was using alcohol to medicate himself to sleep most nights. "As a senior leader in the community, I was having a hard time voicing concerns about myself and my family. I fooled myself into thinking if I took care of everyone else that somehow my own issues would resolve."
John planned to stay home the night he received his DUI, but ran a last-minute errand for his son.
"I never felt so ashamed in my life," John said of his arrest. "My life instantly became a series of crises."
John managed to keep his career, but said he has no potential for promotion or to fulfill his life-long career goals. He's taken advantage of behavioral health services and went to counseling with his wife.
Each of these individuals addressed their drinking in a way that worked for them.
"There's no right or wrong way," Murcin said. "The biggest thing is finding what works for an individual, and a lot of times it's trial and error."
Some individuals can quit drinking completely, Murcin said. Some may need a self-help group or traditional counseling.
Over the past year, only two of the DUIs received by community members were below 0.1 BAC, which is still twice the legal limit, Murcin said. About 50% were civilian employees with the rest being Soldiers and family members, he said, many of them high-ranking. It's not just the young Soldiers getting DUIs like many people think, Murcin said.
Resources across the community include behavioral health, the Employee Assistance Program, Military Family Life Consultants, chaplains, self-help groups and more. Anyone who has questions about which resource might be best for them, a family member or friend can stop by ASAP in Building 1023 East and talk to him, Murcin said. Or, call ASAP at (0611) 143-548-1400.