THE BLOG
06/12/2013 11:31 am ET Updated Aug 12, 2013

Why Everyone Should 'Get' MADD

You are out drinking with friends and think your witty repertoire or karaoke singing is amazing, but alcohol has you pegged. While you are haphazardly fumbling for your car keys, it is dimming the lights on your common sense.

Many people have this crazy notion that alcohol makes them "drive better" too. It doesn't -- and the cop who just stopped you isn't amused either.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who often drink and get behind the wheel do so, on average, 80 times before getting their first DWI. This means more drivers assume they are "sober enough" to start their vehicles while intoxicated.

A well-known group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), was instrumental in healing those close to me. On May 29, 2011, my husband's nephew, Tommy Justin Ford, fell victim to such an unfortunate, careless act. The driver, who was also Tommy's friend, decided to drink and drive that night. He lost control of the truck, slamming it into a tree. Tommy died instantly as the driver and another passenger fled the scene. Apparently they understood the consequences of what had just happened but lacked the hindsight to prevent it in the first place.

Many parents get nervous when their children are late coming home from a night out with friends. Nothing could prepare Tommy's mother and father for the news they were about to hear. It's a scenario we all dread, one so easily preventable. Not only did they lose their 20-year-old son, but the family lost pieces of each other throughout the grieving process.

Backtrack to 1998, to another story. Sean Christopher Burlew, 27, was killed not long after he left his mother's home after spending time with her for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for those like Tommy's father and Sean's mother, the images of police tapping on their door in the middle of the night became a frightening reality.

"My first reaction was disbelief, then I vomited... then I fainted," recalls Sean's mother, Linda Burlew Blosser, when police gave her the news.

A man, who thought he was in the right state of mind, drove his car while inebriated. Something court documents state, he had done many times before. Sean's motorcycle was struck, killing him.

Deaths caused by drunk drivers have a long-lasting ripple effect -- it spreads to all family members, friends and even acquaintances.

Burlew Blosser's husband, Monty, also loved Sean as his own. "They had a great deal of respect for one another. Monty was heartbroken but became my rock. Without his support I think I may have crumbled and never returned to the living," she says.

MADD's conception has a similar story, too. The founder, Rebecca (Beckie) Brown, lost her son, Marcus Daniel Brown, on December 9, 1979 after a 19-year-old decided to drink while intoxicated. Brown's son was only 18 when his life was cut short. Her loss became a mission, which quickly evolved into the first MADD chapter in Northern Florida in 1980. Brown passed away in 2012, but not without leaving a legacy for all victims.

"Breathe and keep breathing, you have to survive. It's often a struggle to get out of bed each morning but make yourself." Burlew Blosser advises. "Accept the feelings that will flow into your life at the most unexpected times. If you feel like you want to cry, then do so. If you want to scream -- do it and take as long as you need to grieve. There isn't a dedicated time table, nor are there any rules on how to grieve."

Tommy's parents lost their beloved son, Tommy's baby daughter lost her father. Sean left behind a grieving mother and sister, Shani. These are real people who were swept up grief and loss due someone else's carelessness. Once you make the decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, you hold lives like these, and others, in your hands.

"I pray you never kill someone. I pray you don't cause the heartache that I have had to endure and will have to live with the rest of my life." Burlew Blosser warns those who drink and drive. "I miss my son, my beautiful brown eyed boy. I miss the joy he brought to me. I miss his smiles, his voice. I miss my Sean..."

Alcohol is a notorious thief. If you don't believe it, consider this -- it strips away your savings, makes you think your life is greater or lesser than it really is and it has the ability to destroy families on a multitude of levels. Alcohol is also a murderer. It kills the drinker and has the ability to kill anyone its path.

Like Tommy, Sean is still missed by many. He was my husband's best friend. His name and memory will now forever be carried on through our daughter, Sian.

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