This is a guest blog. The names have changed to protect author privacy.
My name is Jennifer, and my husband's name is Mark. The following is my perspective from a spouse's perspective of someone in a Georgia DUI Court Program.
My husband was charged with his second DUI; he received the first one on the night of his high school graduation. At the time he entered the program for his second DUI, we had been married for three years and had a 2-year-old child together. We had just bought our first house and were excited to be starting this new chapter in our lives: new marriage, new child, and a new home. We were very much in love and thought it was the perfect time to have another child. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by his arrest. My husband's actions directly impacted our family and close friends. We had not gone to church often together before this, but I have to say that I turned to my faith during this time, and so did he.
The Night of the Arrest:
It was a Monday night, and I was working late from home. He asked me if he could put our child to bed and go to the Irish pub with his best friend. I knew he was going to be drinking, so I asked his friend (whom I trusted a great deal) if he would drive him home, and I would take him to his car the next morning. The parking lot of the bar was less than the length of a football field away from my work. I got a phone call around 1:30 AM, and I was still working. It was my husband's friend telling me he was being arrested for DUI. I was confused because he was not supposed to be driving.
Instead, my husband felt he was sober enough to drive home, and his friend was going to follow very closely behind him until he made it back. I assume a police officer saw how closely he was following my husband and squeezed in between them and turned on his blue lights. He was about 5 miles away from being home. His friend told me the police officer would let me pick up his car instead of having it towed if I came right then. So, I went and picked his car up and took it back to the house. I was very anxious about him, as he wasn't able to get out of jail until 10:30 AM the next morning. By that point, we were too exhausted to talk about what happened. When the dust settled, his attorney recommended DUI Court. We were thinking anything just to stay out of jail and have him with his family. His lawyer told the Court that my husband was a perfect candidate for this type of program. Little did we know how challenging this program was, and it was not for the faint of heart.
The DUI Court Process and How it Affected Our Family Life:
The stipulations were he was not to have any contact with alcohol, not to take any over the counter medications or Rx prescriptions unless cleared by the courts, and he needed to sign away his 4th Amendment right to have his house and vehicle randomly searched throughout the duration of the program.
In Phase 1, which lasted eight weeks and throughout the entire program, I was the breadwinner and worked full time, but I was able to do part of that time working from home. Mark worked part-time, and mostly at night. He took care of our child while I was working. I cannot tell you enough how fortunate we were to be in the financial position where he could focus and complete the classes each week that the court required him to do. Since he was not to be around any alcohol, that meant every bottle in the home needed to be removed. I had decorated with wine bottles and had to take them down and find something else to go in their place.
He had to pay $150 a month for DUI Court; $69 a month for probation; a minimum of 2 random drug screenings per week; 3 AA meetings per week; 3 hours of in-group therapy; report to court once a month; and have the interlock ignition system installed in his car for 120 days. Phase 1 was such an adjustment for our family and Mark was extremely cautious. The other participants in his phase had a buddy system, and they called each other every day to remind the other of what was going on that day. My husband had to pick up several people each time because they did not have a license or a ride to these places. Mark had to focus on getting better and giving 110% to the program; however, it left very little time and energy for much else.
In Phase 2, which lasted 22 weeks, is very similar to Phase 1. Mark had to pay $150 a month for DUI Court, $69 a month for probation, a minimum of 2 random drug screenings per week, 3 AA meetings per week, 3 hours of in-group therapy, report to court once a month, complete a DUI School, and attend a MADD seminar. He lost a childhood friend during this time, and I was very thankful that he was able to go through that time without drinking. Phase 2 fell during the Thanksgiving Holiday, and they tested him almost every single day that week including Thanksgiving Day. I couldn't believe they were pulling him away during a time he was supposed to be celebrating with his family. Also, toward the end of Phase 2, I became sick and had to have several months of physical therapy. The physical therapy was very painful for me, and I felt alone going through it.
Phase 3, which lasted 22 weeks, the rules and regulations changed. Mark and I were very excited because that meant he could be home more. There was a minimum of 1 random drug screening a week, 3 AA meetings per week, 1 hour of in-group therapy, report to court once a month, listen to a Victim Impact Statement, $150 a month for DUI Court, and $69 a month for probation. In Phase 3, they tested on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. Also, before this program began, we took vacations twice a year together. Mark and I had not been on a vacation in quite awhile when he asked DUI Court if we could go to New York for four days. To our surprise, they granted his wish. The only stipulation was that when he returned he had to do a drug screening that was more in depth and it cost $35. That trip was enjoyable, and it was his first time seeing New York. The getaway felt so nice to be removed from the daily reminders of the program and the responsibilities it carried.
In the Final Phase, which lasted 24 weeks, the rules and regulations were similar to Phase 3. He still had to have a minimum of 1 random drug screening a week, 3 AA meetings per week, 1 hour of in-group therapy, report to court once a month, write a 1000 word essay on “Now that I'm sober, what's next?”, $65 a month for DUI Court, and $69 a month for probation. One Saturday morning, when our child was eating breakfast, and I was getting ready for a baby shower, I heard a loud bang on the door. Mark was still in bed because he had worked the night before. To my surprise, there were two police officers at the door. I couldn't believe it; they were there to search the house and his car. I was so upset and embarrassed as to what my neighbors were thinking; however, I had to remain calm, so my child did not get scared. The officers went through everything. They went through my kitchen cabinets, drawers, cupboard, my child's bedroom, my bedroom, our nightstands, his closet, my closet, the attics, the garage, and even the baby present that was sitting next to the door in a bag. It was personally the worst experience for me during this entire time.
I felt humiliated and upset that my husband put us in this position. Everyone has a neighbor that is the nosy one on the block, and of course, that neighbor came and knocked on our door later that day and asked me why I had a police car in my driveway. I would like to say that I began to see the end in sight, but I did not. I became impatient with the program. I was hurt by his actions and the stress that it had caused our marriage and me. With working from home, it impacted my life in every area. A few months later, Mark lost a friend in the program. He died in his sleep, and the people that were with him through each phase were saddened by his death. Then later on in Phase 4, there was a terrible ice storm, and the roads were awful. The program still made everyone come in and do a drug screening. Unfortunately, one man arrived late, and he did not get to graduate with the rest of Phase 4. Mark felt disappointed for him, and so did everyone else. After seeing him go through another death and the adversities along the way, I chose to show him compassion and tell him I was proud of how far he had come. I think he was surprised at how strong he had become too.
Once Mark completed Phase 4, he got to graduate from DUI Court. He made it through the 18 months without any legal bumps in the road. We celebrated with family and friends. Thankfully, things never went back to the way they were before he was arrested. He still has not had a drink of alcohol. He says that drinking equals nothing but a bad decision for him and trouble along the way. It took me awhile to trust him again, but I do, and now we have two healthy and happy children.