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Yes, that's Driving While Intoxicated, and, yes, there is no real "plus-side" to committing the offense itself. In fact, it is maybe the worst thing one can do and was definitely the worst experience of my entire life... BY FAR! If you've gotten nabbed you know right well what I mean. Utterly, utterly, devastating. Thank my lucky stars no one was hurt or, ugh, killed. Anyway, I was arrested for this offense on 11/04/04, and was recently sentenced to 3 months loss-of-license.

And now my story...

I used to be into biking, big time, having once ridden 10,000 miles exactly (turning over my old cat-eye computer) in one year (from 1/1/89 to 12/31/89 - I was 29). In the ensuing years I got off the bike and out of the gym and watched my weight steadily balloon up from 180 (I'm big-boned and muscular) to 232 lbs. at a height of 5' 9" at the age of 44. Ridiculous.

I awaited my sentencing knowing that I could get as much as 1 year loss-of-license because I'd blown an astounding, World Record Breaking, .30. (My doctor said he's known of people dieing at .27) I went unconcious behind the wheel and smacked into a barrier on a major highway during rush-hour. If not for that barrier, to the left of the left lane on a 3-lane highway, I would've gone head-on in what could've been the ugliest of collisions. People could've died, and I've lived with that thought every day since. That all-encompassing thought, combined with the specter of losing my license for up to a year, was enough to drive me into the deepest, darkest depression imaginable. Counselling, Zoloft, support from friends and family, all were of little help. I lost 35 lbs. in the first 2 months from not drinking and worrying alone. By February 1st, 47 days before my trial on St. Patrick's Day, I was a total basket case. Sunken eyes, sullen appearance, a stress-induced pain manifesting itself in my neck to the point where I couldn't even move my left arm, all combined with a Why-don't-I-just-kill-myself attitude.

And that's the day I bought my bike in anticipation of it being my sole means of transportation for however long my sentence was going to be. And THAT'S the day my life took on the most profound change I've ever experienced.

A good friend of mine, Bill Koltonuk, owner of Mr. Bill's Bikes in Palmyra, N.J., helped me pick my machine, recommending a straight-bar road bike. This combines tremendous speed and exceptional comfort for the 40+ rider, or for the person who just wants to get places with minimal effort and maximal comfort. I was that person. The bike I picked was a top-of-the-line FUJI Royale, weighing a scant 20.4 lbs., complete with a wonderful Shimano grouppo, high-strength aluminum frame with carbon forks and seat stays to smooth out the ride, and alloy wheels with tires that handle 125 p.s.i. In short, this thing is smooth, exceptionally comfortable, and it FLIES. I fitted it with a rear rack that attaches to the seat-post. To that I added a bag that slides on and off the rack. The bag is compact yet unzips and folds out to give you 2 side panniers if you need them... and I've needed them. Got a dual-beam headlight with water-bottle-cage-mounted, rechargable battery (bright as hell!) and rear blinker light that hooks right onto the bag. (Legal Eagle;) Got a pump with pressure gauge and a patch-kit and spare inner-tube. A wireless computer with heart-rate monitor rounds out the accessories. Oh, and a cable lock. Then there was the Shimano clip-in/walking shoes that are amazingly comfortable for walking and riding, along with the all-weather clothing for those rainy days. All this hit my wallet hard to the tune of over $2,000.00, but it turns out that it was well worth the hit.

So there I was, ready to practice riding into a new life with no license and only a bike to get me literally everywhere.

So I started to ride. Everywhere. To and from work (6 miles each way). To the store for groceries. To friends houses, some of whom lived over 10 miles away. To the book store and the drug store and the convenience store and the clothes store and, well, everywhere, any weather. The depression lifted like a beam of light shining through a great cloud that had been hovering over my head for over 4 months. The weight continued to come off as I rode and rode. The thighs and triceps started to show actual definition! The top 2 abs were showing! I was sleeping like a baby. My wind improved and the hills were easier. In short, everything was better.

Which brings me to today... (Finally!)

As it stands I now weigh 182, 2 lbs. heavier than I was at 29, and 50 lbs. lighter than I was on 11/04/04, the day of the nightmare. My waist went from a 38 to a 32, obviating the need for a whole new wardrobe. My face has taken on a transformation to the point where people who haven't seen me in a while do a double-take. That's one chin, not 2. Veins are starting to show, for the first time in 15 years, in my quadriceps and biceps. I don't need a bra anymore. ;) Oh, and I'm an insulin-dependant diabetic who took blood pressure medication, cholesterol lowering medication, had horrible blood-sugar readings and the beginning signs of liver and eye damage. I was on the slow rode to death. I am now off the medications and my latest blood pressure reading was 118 over 77. My latest blood test showed a complete reversal in liver proteins as well as normal blood sugar readings for the first time in over 10 years. My insulin requirements have been chopped in half.

All that physical stuff aside, the most profound change of all has happened in my head. The depression is gone and the endorphin highs are a near-constant. No more Zoloft and no more shrink. Also, I've fallen completely in love with this new, modern machine. (If you have an older bike I implore you to try a new one. They are so damned smooth and comfortable! They shift on a dime and are so strong and light that all effort is transferred into forward motion with nothing waisted. In short, they are a dream to ride and are totally addictive) Today I actually want to ride. Everywhere. For the rest of my life. When I get my license back (on June 18) I see very little need to use my car again. It's that addictive. The only negative that comes to mind is the realization that I could've been doing this all my life and saved a ton of money on car expenses and doctors and medications and everything else that comes with being overweight and out of shape.

So there you have it. The worst experience of a life turned out to be the best. A complete 180 and it took a DWI to make it happen. Coming full circle, there you have it: The "Plus-Side" of DWI.

Patrick Martin

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