Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Choices We make In Life

The choices we make in life are ultimately what shapes our future and makes us who we are. God gave us the ability to make choices, and each of us exercises that ability every day. We are responsible for what we do, as individuals, and the outcome of those actions.

It is truly a sad situation when the safety of others is threatened by those who would act irresponsible and then claim it is their right to act in that manner.

This, then, passes on the choice of placing oneself in the position of being unsafe, to the person whose well-being is threatened.

Take, for example, the alcoholic, whose actions are solely their own, to drink in excess and operate a motor vehicle. It is their choice to drink, or drink in excess, regardless of the law. No one forced them to do it.

It is not the choice of those who do not drink and drive to share the road with a drunk or alcohol impaired driver and be at risk. The safe choice may be not to drive at all, to avoid encountering a drunk or impaired driver. However, society has decreed that driving while alcohol impaired is against the law, to protect the lives of innocents.

No one sensibly denies that driving while drunk is wrong or unsafe, and indeed society provides strictly enforced laws to bring those who do drive inebriated to answer for their actions. Those who are not caught eventually cause harm to another, and by then the crime is already committed. The injustice is done. Someone is injured or dies. Families suffer.

As a motorcyclist, I know that reaction time could mean whether I live or die in the event an auto driver should violate my right of way. I practice all the safety skills learned by riding many years. I am continually on the lookout for those who don't see me. To ignore this ever present danger is to invite disaster, sooner than later.

I enjoy riding my motorcycle, and every moment that I do not have to spend looking out for 'the other guy' is a moment I can bask in the enjoyment of riding.

Just as there are those who drink and drive autos, there are many who drink and ride. Just watch the newspapers if you want to see the results of motorcyclists who drink and ride. They are the ones who ride too fast and lose control, misjudge a curve and leave the paved road, or cause injury to another rider or driver, and many times end their lives then and there.

Some of us know a few who have died. Many will shake their heads and say they never thought it could happen to him, he was such a good rider. Alcohol impairs the brain's normal functions and awareness. They don't mean to crash, but they do. It is always sad when someone dies, motorcycle or not. It is even sadder when it can be prevented.

Alcoholism is a disease. It wrecks lives, and the lives of family and friends. It is also a threat to strangers; all in the name of demanding the right to drink and drive. In the throes of this disease, the afflicted is blind to their own sickness. Denial is prevalent. Those close to them try to help and then finally realize it is futile and retreat to a safe distance. It is impossible to help those who will not help themselves.

I am continually amazed at the blatant disregard for the safety of others, when riding in a group, from those who exercise their selfish right to drink and ride and violate the law. Can we predict the sudden appearance of a dog in the road, or a deer? What about a rider in the middle of the pack whose reaction time is slow due to alcohol and fails to stop in time, or swerves into your 'safety zone'.

We've all heard the inebriated person state they are fine to drive, and off they go weaving all over the road. We often take keys away from such individuals to prevent them from injuring themselves or someone else.

Where does this perceived arrogance come from? Do I have the right to set fire to some one's home, were I a pyromaniac? Just because I choose to?

No, I don't, but this is the logic of the non-addicted person, not an addict. The alcoholic's need for the "fix" overwhelmingly overrides any logical right or wrong. They become irrational and paranoid. (Why are you trying to ruin my life?)

Almost always, the alcoholic has succumbed to their affliction out of the need to feel good about themselves when they otherwise do not. Does this excuse their behavior? No. Can we help them? We can try. More often they must seek help from professionals, which most of us are not.

We have all either heard stories or witnessed a collision caused by a rider who is impaired from alcohol. Some are killed, while others live to change their ways. At what cost? The unintentional death of a fellow brother or sister? The death of themselves?

I choose to ride safely, but that includes not riding and drinking, or riding with those who drink. And though it may appear that I am selective with who I ride with, it's not personal. It's a matter of wanting to live another day to ride.

You may choose to drink and ride. It is, after all, your right to make that choice. It is not, however, your right to endanger the well-being of others by doing so. If you can't drink responsibly, don't ride. If you don't want to ride without drinking, ride alone and allow others to be safe from you.

And if others decide they don't want to ride with you because you drink, take a long hard look in the mirror, preferably when you are sober. In the end, the choices you make in life determine whether you reach the light at the end of the tunnel, or run head on into an oncoming train.

Ride safe, and watch out for trains.

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