Guest Post written by Stephie Mager
I hate the word victim. I never wanted to be one. Feb. 14, 1996 my world ended as I knew it. My only child, Stephen was killed in a car being driven by his best friend. I did not want to live one minute without him. I did not know how anyone could survive the sudden loss of their only child. I did not sleep for four days. My mind would not turn off. I found my thoughts drifting off as if he were still alive. Waiting for the noises he made every morning. When I was able to sleep I would suddenly awaken unable to breath. I would later learn that it was a panic attack. Wanting to make sense of this tragedy. Feeling as if this nightmare would never end.
I needed to find survivors. I needed to find other people who knew my loss and could help me find a reason to live. I attended a meeting of parents who had a child die. In some cases more than one child had died. They were a tremendous help but I still felt that my life had no purpose. I was a parent and now I was childless.
I decided to call MADD of Nevada. There I found people with a purpose. There were other people who had lost children, siblings, husbands, wives . There were individuals trying to overcome severe injury and there were people who just felt it was the right thing to do. Everyone doing what they could to stop DUI.
It started out by helping with the MADD Red Ribbon campaign. I wanted something more to do and found myself speaking in school classrooms, along with other victims about DUI. I found that I felt better when I was doing something with MADD. I found that this was also something my husband and I could do together. We found ourselves helping other families going through the legal system. We became active with our State Legislature, supporting or opposing legislative bills that involved DUI.
I found that I was becoming stronger. The emotions that drained my energy were being replaced by a feeling of usefulness and purpose. I was helping others as well as myself.
Now my husband and I volunteer with Northern Nevada DUI Task Force. We speak at the monthly Victim Impact Panels. DUI offenders are ordered by the courts to attend these panels. Victims speak about how DUI crime has affected their lives. Some speakers have experienced severe injury. Some, like us, have lost a family member.
These panels are very hard to do. It means going back to the most painful, devastating day of our lives. It is only because of the strength I have gained through volunteering that I am able to participate. I also know the importance of these panels. The sense of empowerment . We survivors are speaking freely to people convicted of DUI . We can tell them how devastating DUI causing death or serious injury is to families. We can talk about the life lost. We are given the opportunity to make a difference in their lives. We may say something that will make them think twice before driving impaired.
If you are a victim of DUI and want to make a difference, volunteers are always needed. I am sharing my experience with the hope that it will encourage others to get involved.