Getting into a drunk-driving accident is like hitting the lottery. Everyone buys a ticket, but nobody actually thinks they’ll win. A friend of mine hit the lottery recently. His winnings were paid in tears.
Dustin Hillburn, a 22-year-old carpet cleaner from Kerrville, was doing what any of my friends would be doing on a Thursday night during a Spurs playoff game. He didn’t have to work the next day, had just cashed his paycheck and was ready for a weekend trip to Corpus Christi, where our close-knit group of friends and an annual beach party awaited.
That same night, I was drinking at a bar in San Antonio with a friend, watching the game, mixing beer and liquor in celebration. Dustin was last seen by his Kerrville buddies leaving his favorite bar at 2:30 a.m.
Last call had come and gone, and he was excited about his trip to Corpus Christi.
At the same time, I was heading home from the local bar, heavily buzzed, comfortably driving along Loop 410.
It was around 3:30 a.m. when Dustin’s truck smashed through a highway guardrail and rolled down a 40-foot incline into Quinlan Creek. The truck remained beneath the highway overpass until it was found at 6 a.m. By 3:30 a.m., I was sitting in front of my television set, winding down from the night of drinking.
We bought the same ticket, but my numbers didn’t come up. This story is common.
Everyone has heard it, and everyone’s reaction is the same: “I will never drink and drive again.” It’s a promise we never keep — much too easy to break.
For most college students, socializing with friends revolves around alcohol.
Parties, bars, night clubs, floating the river, watching the game, having a margarita with dinner, simple friendly gatherings — these activities don’t have to involve alcohol, but most times they do; and all too often in San Antonio, there’s no such thing as a short drive home.
Dustin’s passing brought our group of friends closer together than we’ve ever been, and it also opened our eyes. We have been drinking together since we’ve known each other. We’ve been drinking and driving for just as long.
For the same amount of time, or longer, we’ve also known not to drink and drive, but sadly, it took the loss of such a great friend to make us realize it.
It had been stated long before the funeral, but I remember most vividly my friend Alicia speaking through tears at the bottom of that shallow creek in Kerrville.
After walking along the trenches dug into the mud by Dustin’s tires, stepping over the crushed remains of highway guardrail and clambering down the steep incline into the creek below, she begged us to call a cab or a sober friend before ever drinking and driving again.
We watched the yellow roses that we tossed into the creek float away and I thought about her plea.
I spend a lot of money at bars. I don’t chase cheap drink specials — you pay for what you get. I drink what I feel like drinking, rarely considering the cost of each drink, be it an imported beer or an expensive scotch.
I can blow more than $60 on a night of drinking. Why can’t I spend a little extra on a taxi cab?
Surely life is worth it.