A recovering alcoholic made a long-awaited visit to a California police department on Wednesday to thank police officers for helping save his life, following a series of drunk driving incidents that police say came after the man was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Now sober for more than more than two years, the man, who only wanted to be identified as Douglas, is honest about his long wrap sheet of offences.
“I acquired four drunk drivings in less than two weeks,” Douglas told the reporters inside the Alameda Police Department, who were in attendance to witness him present officers with a plaque as a symbol of thanks.
In fact, Douglas received all four charges within 12 days.
Another incident involved police finding Douglas passed out on his lawn following a night of drinking. Instead of throwing Douglas in the drunk tank for the night, a compassionate officer helped carry him inside and put him into his bed.
But the breaking point came on Oct. 30, 2015 — the date of his last DUI.
“I blacked out and I hit seven cars,” Douglas said. “Those cars were unoccupied fortunately.”
But Douglas is aware the outcome could have been far more severe.
“Where would I be today if I had hit seven children in a crosswalk?” he wondered.
Alameda Lt. Wayland Gee told Global News on Friday that Douglas was in a hospice when the DUI incidents began, the first time having snuck out to go on a “drunken binger.”
Gee said Douglas revealed to police at the presentation on Wednesday that he had the terminal illness, leading him to drink and drive because of his diagnosis. Police did not reveal the exact illness, only that it was terminal.
According to police, after arrests were made and Douglas was issued citations, he was given a court date but before he could attend and a conviction possibly put on his record, he was back behind the wheel.
Asked why a trend wasn’t noticed at first with Douglas, Gee said it was because they did not expect it would continue, but as more incidents occurred, Douglas dealt with two or three officers more than once.
“It became apparent he’s got some other problem here … It’s not just someone going out drunk and driving,” he said.
Following the final incident, officers escorted Douglas to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to help him begin his rehab and get his life back on track.
The meetings allowed Douglas to confront his behaviour and the alcohol that controlled it.
“I don’t look back on it as a negative experience. I look at it as the greatest helping hand probably I’ve ever been offered in my life.”
That was the motivation behind his visit to thank officers and present them with a “Certificate of Respect and Sincere Gratitude.”
“They just need to know that they are the well-source, the touchstone, that has created a new life for me moving forward,” Douglas said.
Police said Douglas met and “thanked each and every officer whom he encountered during his time under the influence.” Gee said the move was something they haven’t seen before.
“We’ve had people express gratitude to us, but never in this form,” he said. “Most of the time, it’s a phone call with a thank you, something like that. But never where they’ve wanted to do a presentation.”
Gee said Douglas’ story is one that can give recovering alcoholics hope.
“We are happy to see the changes Douglas has made and appreciate him personally thanking our responding officers,” a police statement read. “We hope sharing Douglas’ story serves as a reminder that it is never OK to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.”
Douglas now travels to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to tell his story and explain how alcohol can lead some people to make damaging and deadly mistakes.
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