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This is the second story in a series about drinking and driving. This story focuses on the people who choose to drink and drive.
Samantha Worthy, 32, of Fulton County hasn’t seen her two little boys since May.
Her mother passed away in July, and she wasn’t there to say goodbye.
Her father is extremely ill in a nursing home, and she’s afraid she might miss his final breaths, too, as she sits behind a jail cell in the Marion County Detention Center.
During the late night hours on May 24, she was arrested while driving under the influence with her six-year-old son in the car. She had drank at least a half a pint of gin before getting behind the wheel, she said, and she was charged with DUI first offense, and wanton endangerment. As of right now, she doesn’t know when she will be released from jail.
Her eyes well up with tears as she talks about her children, her mother, her father and the guilt she feels for getting behind the wheel intoxicated.
“I made a mistake,” Worthy said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “I shouldn’t have done it. I thank God that nothing did happen. I should have just stayed at the house and never took my son with me. I shouldn’t have been drinking at all. I’m glad nothing happened because if something had I would have never been able to forgive myself.”
Before being arrested on May 24, Worthy had never been in trouble with the law. But, she admits to drinking and driving prior to that night, she just never got caught. However, she said she had never driven under the influence with her children in the car until that night.
Worthy admits that she knew she was taking a chance every time she got behind the wheel after drinking, and she knew it was wrong. While she can’t really explain why she did it, she regrets it.
“I couldn’t live with myself if I had hurt someone or hurt my children,” she said, sobbing. “It’s just not worth it. I don’t want to lose my kids. I don’t want to be in here. It’s just not worth it.”
Her mistake cost her time with her mother during her last few days alive.
“I have to live with that the rest of my life,” Worthy said.
And being five hours away from her children is extremely difficult. She occasionally gets to talk to them on the phone, but she hasn’t seen them since her mother died and she was allowed to go to her funeral. She said her children know she’s in jail, and her 6-year-old son knows what she did.
“He knows what I done is wrong,” Worthy said. “I told him that I was sorry. He just wants me to hurry up and come home and not do it again.”
While she’s been at the Marion County Detention Center, Worthy has been participating in the Substance Abuse Program, and is working on earning her GED. She said alcoholism runs in her family, and the SAP program is helping her learn how to deal with the stresses of life without turning to alcohol. She graduates from the SAP program on Sept. 23.
“The SAP program has helped me realize that alcohol and drugs are not worth it,” she said. “My kids… my family… they are more important.”
Worthy said while being behind bars she’s spent a big portion of her time praying, and preparing for the day she is released from jail. In fact, she already has an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor lined up at home to help her stay sober. And she wants to continue working toward earning her GED.
“I ask God to lead me to a better life,” she said.
And a better life, according to Worthy, is following Jesus more, going to church more and helping other people.
“I want to pass on what I’ve learned here,” she said.
Worthy said something she does not want to do once she’s released is drink.
“I don’t even want to look at another bottle,” she said. “I don’t want to be anywhere near it. It’s not worth it. I just wanna go home.”
Worthy said this entire experience has been a huge wake up call for her.
“I guess God was trying to show me something,” she said. “I’m just hoping that the judge and God sees that I’m trying.”
THE REPEAT OFFENDER
Larry Williams, 52, of Lebanon is currently serving time for his third DUI.
He denies any guilt for his third offense (he said he wasn’t driving when he was arrested) but he openly admits that he’s guilty for his first two offenses. He also admits to driving under the influence many times before that, he was just lucky and never got caught.
“After my first DUI, I told myself I wasn’t going to do this anymore, but as soon as I started drinking again I got my second DUI,” he said. “The alcohol makes you do crazy things.”
And Williams admits to spending a big portion of his time drinking.
He hasn’t worked in six years because of his disability. He has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and deteriorating bones in his hip. Before becoming disabled, Williams worked in sanitation. His work options are limited because he doesn’t have a high school diploma. He got kicked out of school his senior year.
But, now with his disability status, Williams admits to sitting at home, watching television and drinking beer.
“I drink beer every day,” he said. “There’s nothing else to do.”
Before being arrested for his first DUI, Williams admits that drinking and driving was a daily occurrence for him. When he got his first DUI, he was on his way to a liquor store to get another six-pack. But, he didn’t have to serve any jail time. He was ordered to attend counseling, which apparently wasn’t very effective because he was arrested for a second DUI and spent 14 days in jail. On Aug. 27, he was arrested for his third DUI, which he said he didn’t commit because he wasn’t actually in the car when he was arrested.
During his most recent court appearance on Wednesday, Sept. 4, he said he gave the judge his license because he doesn’t want to drive anymore. He’s not willing to give up his drinking, but he said he is willing to give up his driving privileges.
Williams doesn’t consider himself an alcoholic. He said he had his first drink when he was around 14 years old, and he’s been drinking ever since. He added that when he gets out of jail on Oct. 3, he plans to limit his drinking. He’s no longer going to drink four six-packs of beer a day like he used to, he said. And he’s considering going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings once he’s released.
“I thought about going to AA meetings before, but I never made it,” he said. “My wife might make me go now.”
Williams said he’s promised himself that he’s not going to drink and drive anymore, but his primary reason for not doing so is so that he won’t get in trouble again. He’s never really considered the fact that his drinking and driving could hurt himself or someone else.
“I haven’t even gave that a thought really,” Williams said. “I’m just glad nothing bad happened.”
When asked what might have kept him from drinking and driving after getting his first DUI, Williams admits that longer jail sentences would have definitely been a strong deterrent.
As for his plans once he’s released, Williams said he’s going to sit at home, go fishing and go to football games, but he’s not going to drive.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to change,” he said. “I promised the Lord I’m not going to do it again. I’ve said it plenty of times. But, this time, I won’t be back here.”
Melissa Hoisington, assistant director of the Substance Abuse Program at the Marion County Detention Center, works daily with inmates who are struggling with addiction. She has success stories, and unfortunately, she’s seen her fair share of failures.
“We’ve had several inmates who have participated in the program be able to get their children back,” Hoisington said. “They have stayed clean. They have stayed sober. They’ve gone to their meetings. That seems to be a big mountain for them. Going to the meetings helps them. The meetings give them people to talk to who understand. Being able to find somebody who has shared that same struggle, it helps them cope.”
But, often times, when inmates are released from jail they go back to the same environment, the same friends and the same bad habits and behaviors.
“Going back to the same lifestyle is their biggest downfall,” Hoisington said.
However, overall, the participants in the SAP program learn that the impact of their addiction goes far beyond just themselves.
“They learn that their drinking doesn’t just affect them,” Hoisington said. “It affects their family, their community… There is a whole ripple effect. And they learn that.”
A support group that can be effective for people suffering from addiction, specifically alcohol addiction, is Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership. Its primary purpose is to help people stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
Lebanon Alcoholics Anonymous meets at 8 p.m. every Monday at the Marion County Public Library located at 201 East Main Street in Lebanon. For more information, call (270) 692-1502. Lebanon Alcoholics Anonymous also meets at 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at The Coffee Club located at 120 Depot Street in Lebanon. For more information call (270) 865-3147 or (502) 827-4819.
DRINKING AND DRIVING KILLS
• Every 53 minutes on average, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash. Every 90 seconds, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash.
• About one-third of the drunk driving problem – arrests, crashes, deaths, and injuries – comes from repeat offenders.
• One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime.
• During the past five years in Kentucky, there have been approximately 927 DUI fatalities.
• Over half of all children killed in drunk driving crashes are killed while riding with the drunk driver.
• If someone you know is driving drunk with a child in the car, call local law enforcement (692-2121) or call MADD’s toll-free, 24-hour support line at 877-MADD-HELP.
* Info provided by Mother’s Against Drunk Driving.
MARION COUNTY 2012 DUI STATISTICS
• 27 total alcohol related crashes
• 35 total injuries
• 14 crashes that resulted in property damage
* Info from Kentucky State Police
DUI ARRESTS IN MARION COUNTY
Marion County Sheriff’s Department
2009: 6 DUI arrests
2010: 14 DUI arrests
2011: 22 DUI arrests
2012: 33 DUI arrests
* 2013: 20 DUI arrests
Lebanon Police Department
2008 - 43 DUI arrests
2009 – 132 DUI arrests
2010 – 115 DUI arrests
2011 – 117 DUI arrests
2012 – 146 DUI arrests
* 2013 - 110 DUI arrests
* As of Aug. 30, 2013
* To report a drunk driver to the Kentucky State Police, call 1-800-222-5555. Or, call the Lebanon Police Department at 270-692-2121.