Seven: A number I will never forget

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ray Lara
  • 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron
Many different events in my career have lead to celebrations and joyful occasions: promotions, returning from deployments, award ceremonies, etc. And every time I prided myself on the fact that I used available resources to get home safely after engaging in even a few drinks.

I always heard the briefings and was told about all of the safe alternatives to drinking and driving, and I heeded that advice. I would make the call, and return the next day to pick up my truck, life and career intact.

Seven. The number is thought by many to be a lucky number; but for me, it turned out to be a number I ignored and it changed the course of my life.

Seven. Seemed easy enough to disregard the number, seemingly so insignificant. When nights would lead to having a few, I always knew at the very least I had the 572-RIDE program to get home safely. I remember wondering if it would work the first time, because I had heard that it takes too long, they sometimes don't show up, or they ask all kinds of questions. But, from the very first time I used the program, I found that it was pretty easy, and I was always grateful for using it.

Seven. The number became a nightmare one night after I thought I was doing the right thing. I went out with a friend to help him deal with a personal, family issue. He needed a wingman, and I was going to be there to help him. He needed to get his mind off of things, and I wasn't going to let him down. After enjoying a night out at a local bar, I felt like I was okay to drive. No matter how many times I had used 572-RIDE, I figured I was right down the road; I'll just take the neighborhood roads.

Seven. The number of minutes it would take to drive through the neighborhoods to get home safely. Besides, I wasn't too drunk; I only had a few and was fine. As far as I was concerned, I was driving as straight as an arrow. There it was, one more block to go, one more right turn, then my driveway, coast is clear. The darkness was soon emblazoned with a familiar red and blue glow behind me.

Seven. Seemed like a small number, but turned out to be only as many steps I could take in a straight line before I drifted to one side and heard the rapid clicking of handcuffs being placed around my wrists.

Seven. Turned out that is how many officers showed up at my house the next morning. See, I had called someone close to me after I was picked up and brought home. I had told them that I wasn't worth anything, and it scared them. They thought I had made a decision that I couldn't undo, and they called the police to check on me. Here it was, seven in the morning, with seven officers standing in my home trying to wake me from my "light" drinking the night before.

Seven. That's how many classes I had to take about drinking and its effects in a civilian program, ironically every Saturday at seven in the morning. The number seven was becoming more of a nightmare every day.

Turns out, the one night I didn't use 572-RIDE was the one that changed my life forever. I had lost the respect of so many for making that decision, and had derailed my career all in a matter of minutes. I'll always be second guessed, never have the opportunities I could have had, and always regret that time in my life.

The fact is, had I remembered something as simple as the number seven, I would have dialed the seven digits of 572-RIDE, gotten home safely and reached my potential. From normally making the right decision through the full spectrum of making the wrong one, there is one thing I learned that I will never forget again: seven.