The cost of drunk driving

  • Published
  • By Beverly A. D'Angelo
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program Manager
When I first came to work at Hanscom, it was after a long and fulfilling career as a private sector psychotherapist. I had clients with problems everyone recognized: depression, anxiety, relationship problems, financial stress, and children acting out. I felt what I was doing was important, and it was.

Then one day, my daughter got a call; one of her friends had been in a major car accident. He was a passenger in the vehicle. He sustained numerous injuries, among them, a broken neck and severe head trauma. I had never met this young man before, but he was a military service member. He had served his time on active duty and was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was currently in the reserves.

Over the next several weeks, we learned he would not be physically disabled by the neck injury but only suffered temporary physical limitations. The head injury was another story. He was going to suffer long term cognitive deficits. He didn't have any family members available to care for him, and he lived alone in a rundown one bedroom apartment.

He had no means of transportation to get to his medical appointments while he recovered. He had no car, no telephone, and was very secluded. When my daughter brought him over for dinner, it became clear to me he was not eating well, was not taking care of himself, and was terribly depressed. I questioned whether he was thinking about suicide. I asked him and his response was, "I am not much good to anyone now, am I?"

I invited him to stay for the night. Then, he stayed a few more nights and we helped him get to doctor appointments and make connections at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Over time he got back on his feet and the VA system assisted him in finding a better apartment and disability benefits.

Currently, I am the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, or ADAPT, program manager here at Hanscom. After seeing what this young man has been through, this job is particularly significant for me.

My daughter's young veteran friend was a passenger in a car with a drunk driver. Having been drinking himself, he made the poor choice of getting in that car, and a small but important choice not to put on his seatbelt. It was a Friday night and they were "trashed."

This proud, sharp, fit and bright young man is no longer capable of holding a job or sustaining a relationship. I am committed to do what I can to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

So, please be a good Wingman: drink responsibly; if you see someone struggling, ask if they are thinking about killing themselves.

Asking about suicide will not cause someone to harm themselves. September is Suicide Prevention Month and National Recovery Month, please do your part.

If a service member would like to discuss thoughts of suicide, alcohol, or any other issue that is troubling them, call the Mental Health Clinic at 781-225-6392. Dependents can contact case management at the clinic 781-225-6258.

Civilians should contact their Employee Assistance Program at 800-222-0364 or thier insurance company for referrals.