Tag Archives: alcohol

The Interlock is Off: Getting the Breathalyzer Removed From My Car After Six Long Months

New_Ignition_Interlock_Device_Image-01_2

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The day finally came. Last Wednesday, I finally got my interlock device removed from my car.

The device is a breathalyzer attached to the ignition of my car that I had to blow into before I could start it. If the interlock registered any alcohol on my breath, it would not allow my car to start.

The court ordered me to have it for six whole months. Six months! So frustrating since my accident and charge had nothing to do with alcohol; it was a result of my medication. (You can read about the events leading up to this post here.)

Since the court didn’t specify if I needed a camera mounted on the inside of my driver’s side windshield, the interlock company was forced to install one. The camera, of course, was to make sure that I was blowing into the device and not some “sober” passenger.

Talk about embarrassing. For half a year, I made excuses as to why I couldn’t drive my friends around. I used my wife’s car whenever my family would visit to avoid them (and me) the shame.

I understand that, yes, there are convicted drunk drivers that need these interlocks. And, yes, the devices save lives. But for me? My situation? Ridiculous.

The judge I was assigned to made everyone get an interlock who was convicted of a DWI (driving while intoxicated), regardless of the source of intoxication.

Sadly, while serving my court-ordered labor detail (which I plan to blog about in the future at some point), guys would go right back to drinking and driving as soon as they got the interlock removed from their cars. One guy even bought a home breathalyzer kit so he would know how much booze he could consume hours before he had to operate his vehicle.

I remember having conversations with fellow “inmates” on the Chain Gang (the term by which some of us referred to the sheriff’s labor detail that we were on) about how we wouldn’t have even been there if MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) weren’t headquartered in Texas. According to my lawyer, they have been responsible for the ultra-strict DWI laws here in the Lone Star State.

Of course I think drinking and driving is wrong, as did the guys I spoke with on my labor detail. But, MADD has left no gray areas that some of us were stuck in; it’s either black or white. Heck, nothing is black or white anymore.

So, take it from me. It doesn’t pay to even drive while buzzed. For the interlock device alone, I paid nearly $100 per month for six months for “maintenance fees,” excluding installation and removal fees. (Not to mention thousands of dollars for my lawyer, thousands owed to the DPS (Department of Public Services) for the “reinstatement of the privilege to drive,” and several hundred dollars in court fees.

By the way, I just noticed on MADD’s website that “drugged driving” is a target of theirs now.

Conclusion: Don’t end up like me. Be careful.

And, don’t attempt suicide in your car ever.

~t


Another Court Date

I just got back from another court date. The pre-trials are over. All they consisted of were my showing up, saying “here” when my name was called by the judge, and my lawyer speaking with me for 60 seconds to say we wouldn’t accept yet another plea deal.

If you’re new to this blog, you can get caught up to speed here.

Today was the first date of the actual trial; however, the procedures were exactly the same as the multiple pre-trials that I have attended. My first thought was, I guess my lawyer made a mistake. This is just another check-in. So, I took a seat in the courtroom and watched as individuals approached the judge one by one with their lawyers.

All of the seats toward the back are taken first, so I usually sit in the front of the courtroom. It works out well, though; I can hear each case being tried right before me.

Today, one stood out in particular. A young man was charged with assault for the fifth time in four years. It breaks my heart to witness things like this, but I have to watch. For me, it’s a lesson in what not to do; the same reason I’m addicted to gritty prison documentaries.

It was evident from the proceedings that the young man had no intention of turning his life around. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, so I will be praying for him.

This time, the man was charged with assault on an elderly person. The judge always speaks at normal volume while the defendants respond as softly as possible. From what the judge said, the young man seems to assault only women and the elderly. While she was lecturing him on his anger problem, the judge suddenly stopped and said, “So now you’re angry at me?” I don’t think it was a coincidence that a third Sheriff suddenly appeared from a rear door.

The defendant works only three days a week at a nightclub. Alcohol was involved in each of his assaults, yet he chose to seek employment at a bar (the judge’s words). This is a big reason why I gave up drinking. I’m not saying it’s “evil” per se, but I’ve seen nothing good come from alcohol. In the Bible, Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine to help with his stomach problems, so I believe it’s okay when consumed in moderation.

I’ll never touch the stuff again because, although no alcohol was found in my bloodstream after my accident, it was still a factor that led to my DWI charge. Plus, it’s a depressant, and I sure as heck don’t need any help feeling depressed.

By the way, the young man was ordered to attend anger management classes, to get his GED, and to serve ten days in jail. What about the alcohol part?? I thought.

My lawyer came running through the doors like she usually does, spoke briefly with the court assistant, and then motioned for me to talk with her outside the courtroom.

“The expert witness isn’t ready, so you’re free to go!” she said before walking away.

“Wait,” I called after her. What in the world just happened? For $4,000, I expected a little more information from my lawyer.

Apparently, the expert witness, a medical doctor who had analyzed my blood sample after my accident, wasn’t prepared for whatever reason. Without him, the trial would have to be postponed . My lawyer had no idea when the next court date would be. No surprise there.

Even though I never intended  to operate my vehicle with a bloodstream full of Xanax, what’s done is done. I can make excuses like, “This shouldn’t have even happened,” or “My blood alcohol content was 0.00%,” but it wouldn’t do any good.

Intent or not, recollection or not, I have to face the consequences. It could be worse, I tell myself as I think of the financial costs that have been adding up since spring. I could have taken an innocent life. Someone’s son. Daughter. Mother. Father. My own life.

Thank you, Lord. I am a nervous wreck right now, but thank you for sticking with me through the thick and thin.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


That Fateful Night: An Excerpt

Credit: realhdwallpaper.com

I have been writing a lot for the past couple of years. How much is a lot, you ask? Well, I have a few completed manuscripts that I’ve accumulated.

That’s great!! What are you waiting for?? Send them in!!

Ha.

If only it were that easy.

I haven’t wanted to release any of them yet. And the one manuscript that I did shop around turned out to be lacking something. Oh well. We live and learn.

Live.

Yes, it’s all about living. That much I know.

This current project feels like it might be the one that sees the light of day. It may very well be the one that gets published self-published. Why? Because it’s the only one that feels right: the story that is bleeding out of my still-open wounds. It’s not like I’m on a 1,000-word-a-day writing binge, but I’ll get it written at some point.

My goal is to have it finished and bound before my mother passes away. She’s not sick or anything, but she’s the one who keeps urging me to publish it, so I’d at least like to finish it before she does pass away someday. She wants me to get my story out there so others can learn and benefit from it. Plus, she thinks it’ll earn me millions of dollars.

Yeah, right. It helps to dream, though.

Anyway, below is an excerpt from my work in progress (I almost said Enjoy! but decided not to). Mind you, it’s a rough draft, so please overlook mistakes of any kind:

 

**************

 

I never thought I would be so brave as I rushed toward my death. No goodbyes, no crying (and I was quite the crybaby). The four margaritas, each with an extra shot of tequila, had given me the courage, though. They had taken the credit just like everything else in my pathetic life.

Luckily I had enough sense to pick up my prescription at the drive-thru. The Muslim lady with the head scarf gave them to me through the window just like she always did. She has her faith. That’s good, I thought. I had mine: nearly two full bottles of Xanax.

Like in that Clint Eastwood flick where the one-armed deputy had two guns in his belt.  “But you only have one arm,” someone had asked him. “Well, I don’t wanna get killed on account of not being able to fight back,” he had responded. I, too, wanted to be like that.

 

**************

 

Not so smart now, are you?

Why was my mind still working?

Somehow I knew it wasn’t God’s voice; sounded too familiar.

I didn’t see anything.  No blackness.  Just… nothingness.  Even with all the liquor and drugs in my system, I was still somehow tied to reality. What was going on?

 

***************

 

“Scott, Scott, where are you?!” The voice was frantic. I knew it was my wife’s, even in my condition. That smallest hint of recollection. Funny how the mind worked. Her voice sounded tinny, like it was coming from my grandma’s childhood radio that she had shown me pictures of.

I was fumbling with my work bag on the floorboard. “I can’t find my phone!!” I was frantic, too.

But why? 

Oh, I know. 

The redneck standing outside my passenger window. I’m not actually sure if he was a redneck, but that’s what I called those guys in Texas who drove those huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks. I think I had asked him if he were okay. “I’m fine, but your car is totaled,” I remember him saying.

I never started up my car.  I was still in the crowded parking lot of El Ranchito… right?

“Where’s my blasted phone?!” I shrieked again and again. It was no longer in my bag. I was going by my sense of touch, unable to see. I could still hear my poor wife’s frantic question coming through the receiver like a short-circuiting megaphone in the darkness of my mind.

“Scott!!”

 

******************

 

–killed someone!  You could have—

I was on my back, staring up into a bright light. Nothing but radiant fog, like headlights shining through early morning mountain air. It was a woman’s voice. She seemed to be addressing me.

–could have killed—

–someone!

You could have—

Yes, I get it, now shut up, I thought.  All I was conscious of was my vision, or lack thereof; I hadn’t noticed my limbs, if I were even able to move them.  Was I strapped down?  Was I in an ambulance?  Were we in motion?

Who cares?  The radiance was giving way to a shadow; an eclipse entered my line of mental vision and sent icy pellets of fear through my body.

I’m dead.  Oh my God, help me…

Someone had an arm around me and was helping me walk. I felt cold. I sensed that nothing was covering my legs. Where were my clothes? I was doubled over and staggering like an old man, a few baby steps at a time. I’m 6’3” and a lean, solid 220 pounds, so whoever was helping me was pretty strong, that was for sure.

Come on…  you can do it…

An old man’s voice. Maybe it was God.

 

*******************

 

~topaz


The Consequences of Surviving a Suicide Attempt

People commit suicide because it’s a way out. A way out of the gloom that has encased them. They see it as a way to finally achieve peace; little do they realize that they leave behind family, friends, and other loved ones who have to carry on with the enormous amount of grief weighing on their hearts.

Being a way out is the reason why I attempted to end my life last summer. Had I been successful (and I still don’t see how I wasn’t), it would have put an end to my suffering — or so I believed. But who’s to say the afterlife doesn’t have its share of problems? Hmm. Maybe it depends on which afterlife to which one goes.

Individuals who are trapped in their mental illness don’t/can’t stop and say, “Hey, what if I don’t die? Will I be paralyzed? Will I suffer permanent brain damage? Will I be hooked up to feeding tubes, my brain a worthless vegetable?”

When I was being checked in to my first mental hospital, the nurse and I began to chit-chat. Normally I don’t like to make small talk; it’s a waste of time. However, she brought up a topic that immediately drew me in. “You know,” she began while filling out the first of numerous pages of forms, “you’re lucky.”

“And why is that?” I asked bitterly. I was ticked off that I was still on planet Earth.

“Well, because some people live through their suicide attempts.”

“Really.” I didn’t ask in a typical shocked or interested tone; it was more like a response to her telling me what she had to eat for dinner the night before.

She began to tell me about a young man, a former patient at the same hospital, who shot himself in the temple and actually lived. The bullet passed through his head, somewhere between his brain and his eyes. It missed his brain but severed some nerve systems leading to his eyes. He was perfectly normal except for permanent blindness.

She said that another person at the county hospital (where I was initially taken) survived after jumping off a five-story building. He was in pretty bad shape, as you can imagine, with permanent damage to his back and legs.

She proceeded to explain why I was so fortunate: I didn’t have any lasting damage (at least at that time I didn’t; the overdose may have affected my memory and so forth).

So, to summarize a bit, it basically sucks to live through a suicide attempt because most people suffer physical and other lasting injuries.

However, at the time I didn’t know, but I wasn’t off the hook.

Luckily my parents helped my wife and me pay off the thousands of dollars in hospital, ambulance, and “miscellaneous” (i.e. doctor visits, blood work) bills. Psychiatrists and medication that they dispense are not free: They cost a lot. As do therapists.

My paid-off car was damaged beyond any hope of repair, so we suddenly had a car payment again. Plus, my insurance went up. Way up.

After the horrible accident which I don’t even remember having, the police mailed back my driver’s license without a single note attached.

I was finally free!

Months went by, and as each one passed, I prayed hard. Six months after the accident, still no word from the police. Lawyers began telling me: You’re in the clear. Nothing to worry about. Go on about your life. It’s all behind you.

Nine months after the accident, nine months, I received an ominous envelope in the mail one day from the police department. My first thought was that I had run a red light and one of those intersection cameras caught me.

I opened it and almost fainted: It was a warrant for my arrest.

“Why did it take nine months for them to send me this?!” I remember yelling to my wife. For crying out loud, they even told me my blood alcohol content was 0.00% after the accident.

So, it was not the end of the story; in fact, there were quite a few more long chapters that I had failed to notice.

I turned myself in and was booked like a common criminal, including the infamous mugshot and fingerprinting. I had to scramble to get a bail bondsman and pay the 20% which turned out to be $200.

Then I had to get a lawyer who charged $4,500 whether we would win or lose the case.

Then I had to start missing work due to psychiatrist appointments, counseling appointments, and court dates. The first several court dates were pretty much a joke: I had to be in the court with a bunch of other offenders for roll call, and then, one by one (i.e. whenever the lawyers got around to it) the lawyers would saunter in. Some would appear with their clients in front of the judge, and others, like mine, would take us out into the hallway and tell us the lowdown before releasing us.

By the way, if you have read any John Grisham novels or have seen the movies, um: He doesn’t embellish a whole lot. I would say not at all.

The lawyers that walk in and out of county criminal courts are the most eccentric, goofy-looking lot. Okay, okay, some look and act normally (like mine of course), but, but…

I know this is Texas, but do some of them have to wear their ten-gallon hats to court? Some lawyers look like they wear the same suit day after day, and others don’t seem to own any hair brushes or combs (or soap).

I swear, one guy came stumbling in, a small black bag in his hand, and almost tripped over some of the benches. His eyes were bloodshot, matching nicely with the color of his face. Yep, he turned out to be a lawyer.

Anyway, it’s a circus in the court on any given day. People milling about the spectator area, conducting business, while the judge hears cases at the same time. The second time I went to court, I made sure to get a seat in the very front row right behind the rail.

This is so embarrassing for the defendants, I thought as the judge heard cases while the circus was in full swing all around her.

Another thing I was surprised to witness was that the judge carried on emotionally and admonished the defendants like a drill sergeant mother, not that much differently than Judge Judy and all those other reality show court programs. Who would have thought?

Today I was actually glad that my lawyer was running three hours late because I got to witness several cases. The first one was a 40-something man who got his second DWI conviction. The judge had no mercy on him because, for some reason, he hadn’t even bothered to start an AA program that he was supposed to. Plus it was his second DWI charge in two months, bumping it up to a class B misdemeanor (that means hello jail and goodbye driver’s license).

Another lady looked strung out and was dressed in light blue county jail attire. She didn’t seem to understand why she was before the judge. Her charge was public intoxication for the fifth time. I’m not kidding. She got sent back across the street to corrections just as quickly as she had entered the court.

One case really pierced my heart, though: An 18-year-old pregnant woman went before the judge for an offense which I didn’t really hear. It could have been DWI or drug possession (seemingly most of the cases in County Criminal Court (CCC) #6). The judge went through questions about her life, and for the first time, I saw the judge’s compassion for certain offenders: She was asking the defendant what kind of future she imagined for her and her child because the father had abandoned her. The young woman had recently quit her waitress job and was living with acquaintances. Even the stone-faced bailiff looked softer as he fetched a box of tissues for the young lady.

The judge cut her a break, only adding on an extra six months to her probation and telling her to complete her GED program. Since I was directly behind the bailiff area, the young lady had a seat inside the court and was just inches away from me. I wanted so much to tap her shoulder and tell her everything would be all right because there were strangers who cared about her and who were going to pray for her. She could have been my daughter.

However, I didn’t dare attempt to reach over the courtroom barrier. I had already had enough excitement a few hours before.

Earlier in the morning, as I passed through the metal detector downstairs to come in, of course all the bells and whistles went off even though I had taken off my belt and wedding ring. Well, I had totally forgotten that the rosary ring that I sometimes carry in my pocket could be considered a weapon in a county courthouse. I had to leave it with one of the sheriffs. Talk about embarrassing: I was whisked away and separated from the general area while the rosary ring was examined and while I was yelled at.

Rosary ring: a weapon for spiritual warfare. In a county courthouse, though, just a straight-up weapon.

Anyway, after several initial appearances, the trial is finally set to begin in September. My lawyer told me it will more than likely be moved back due to the state having to assemble witnesses and experts. So the end to all this is still nowhere in sight.

A whole year after my suicide attempt, the consequences of that fateful night are still popping up like ant hills in our backyard during the long summer months.

Here is the moral of my story: Don’t try to kill yourself.

Just don’t even try.

Besides forever hurting those who love you, you just might live through it, and your problems would then be multiplied. And, believe me, it sucks.

~topaz


Dear Rhonda

This post consists of Rhonda Elkins‘ comment that she left on this blog and my reply. I didn’t intend to make them into a blog post, but it seemed like the right thing to do: I realized there was some information contained in our exchange that could be helpful to people.

Topaz,

I am greatly moved that you have made an entry in your blog about my blog and the loss of my beloved daughter. Your writing is beautiful and moving. What I am very happy about also, is that my blog and my feelings about my daughter’s suicide made an impact on your life and cemented your promise to never do that to yourself. In the depths of depression, many people don’t see the impact that it will have for those left behind, they only see their intense mental pain and want to end it. However, if people know beforehand, before they get to that point, maybe that knowledge can be retrieved in that dark moment and decide not to do what their depression is asking them to do.

I wish you happiness in your life, and if you ever need a friend, I will be here. Thanks for mentioning my blog. The more people can read about what suicide does to those left behind the better and I also want to fight against the stigma of mental health problems which prevents many people from seeking help. I think this is what happened to my daughter.

My name is Rhonda Elkins. I really did not realize I had not put my full name on my blog. It’s in the article I wrote way down at the beginning of my blog, but sometimes people might not go back that far. I don’t mind people knowing who I am.

Please keep in touch and thank you.

***************************

Dear Rhonda,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Everything I wrote in this post was true and from the depths of my soul.

When I used to be a Bible discussion leader back in college, members told me that they admired me for the way that I could “feel.” I never really knew what they meant until recently. I often feel for others so much that it overwhelms my soul and envelops me in a dark cloud.

I blame this ability/curse on the reason why I haven’t been able to achieve more in a career. I feel like such a loser because I’m approaching middle age with a Master of Arts degree, and I am still underachieving professionally. This thorn in my side, as I refer to it, is more than likely my illness. I think God is showing me that it can be a strength after all. I don’t know.

I didn’t want to tell you about this blog entry because I don’t like drawing attention to myself. I figured that if you found it on your own, then it was meant to be. That’s one reason I blog anonymously; the other reason is, of course, the personal nature of my posts. As you mentioned, there is an enormous stigma tied to mental illness that keeps me “in the closet.”

You’re right: Many people cannot think rationally in the depths of depression. I know I sure didn’t. For some unknown reason, it just wasn’t my time to die. Right before my first attempt, I remember cursing God and telling Him that He would have to physically come down and stop me. I said all this as I consumed about six shots of tequila. I said it one last time back in my car before I swallowed 40 Xanax tablets (1 mg each).

As you can see, I should not be here right now.

Maybe God wanted to use me as a testimony to help others. Again, I don’t know. I haven’t mentioned this publicly, but I attempted a second time last October. However, I got scared and changed my mind as the carbon monoxide fumes started burning my throat. I called 911 and was soon whisked away. My two little boys and my wife were waiting for me at our local community center for a Halloween event; I never showed up. It was the second time in two months that I had disappeared from my family. I am amazed and humbled that my wife is still with me.

My support team consists of two certified therapists, my psychiatrist, and my mother. I meet with all of them regularly (Well, my mother lives out of state). One of my therapists used to be an interrogator for the U.S. Army, so he pulls no punches. I also spent time in three different mental hospitals last year and earlier this year.

I already consider you a friend and it goes without saying that I will be in touch on a regular basis, because that’s what friends do.

[~topaz]


I Have No (Online) Friends

Well, I completed the deactivation of my final two social media accounts yesterday.  After much internal deliberation and feedback from my wife, I deleted my personal Facebook account.  Gosh, I had had it for ages.  I also got rid of my Untappd account.  For those of you who don’t know, Untappd is like Facebook for beer drinkers/connoisseurs.

Facebook was hard for me to purge.  I had collected tons of photos from various places that I had traveled to.  All of my sons’ photos from when they were born were displayed on my page.  For the most part, I don’t miss a lot of my “friends” on there; however, there were a few contacts from my past whom I will miss.  At least I can keep in touch with my family through email and texting.

I had been considering starting anew for the longest time.  This Independence Day weekend clinched it for me.  It really hurt when I would find out the hard way that someone whom I considered close to me had “unfriended” me on Facebook.

You know, I have enough drama and difficulties in real life; I don’t need double the amount (the real world plus my cyber world).  Individuals from the younger generation will probably read this and assume that I’m an idiot.

I disagree.

I benefit from not having grown up with all this technology.  I never even became interested in LinkedIn although all of my older colleagues use it for networking.  To me it just seems like another juvenile way to show off and incite jealousy and unnecessary stressful competition.

Man, Topaz, you are one messed-up dude.  I don’t think that at all.  

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Well, that’s because you’re not struggling with a head full of crap.

Untappd required lots of money, and I risked continued brushes with the law.  See, last summer I was charged with a DWI after my suicide attempt.  The police found no trace of alcohol in me (because I had been passed out in my car for ten hours prior to operating my vehicle); only a crapload of Xanax in my system.

Yeah, I know: You could have killed someone, you piece of ****!  That’s what the paramedic kept screaming at me, too, as I lay semi-conscious in the back of the ambulance, babbling in my stupor, on that fateful morning late last August.  For what it’s worth, I never expected to wake up from my deadly cocktail of tequila and benzos, nor do I even remember operating my vehicle or intending to.

Untappd was just like the other social media distractions: Trying to keep up with the Joneses.  

I couldn’t keep up with IT computer geeks and web developers who were making at least double of what I make per year as a college teacher.  I just couldn’t keep up financially.  Drinking gourmet Belgian brew every other day is rather expensive.

I shouldn’t have been drinking so much anyway.  Luckily my wife cared enough to make sure that I only drank at home. For my DWI, we spent thousands of dollars just on the attorney alone.  Plus, I’d rather not do any jail time; I’ve seen too many scary episodes of Locked Up.

And it hurt to give up those social media accounts.  Oh man, did it hurt.  Talk about a blow to my already low self-esteem.  (My virtual self is way cooler than my real self.)

I got rid of my personal Twitter account and Instagram (I loved my photos) a few days ago.  The funny thing is, I don’t really miss any of it.  I feel lighter.  Happier.  (I think.)

Last.fm helped me stay connected with other outcasts (and web developers who “work” from home), sharing new black metal and death metal bands that we had stumbled across, trying to find the most evil Scandinavian misanthropic noise creators.

I don’t regret deleting all of those things:  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Untappd, Last.fm, Rdio, Spotify.  I’m pretty sure it was God’s will.  All of these things were hindering me from getting closer to Him and carrying out His will for my life.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Whatever helps you sleep at night, dude.

~topaz