Steamboat Springs Lance Pohlman hopes no one he speaks to at Steamboat Springs High School on Friday will ever fully understand what he's been through.
"I didn't go to college and get a communications degree," the 22-year-old from Craig said. "I killed someone. That was my schooling. I want to paint for you a picture of what it's like to be in my shoes, then and now. But the truth of it is that I don't want you to fully understand. Because you can't. It's too tough. There's not a whole lot of people who can handle this sort of thing without completely breaking down."
As part of Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide campaign designed to establish a network of people in each community making substance-abuse-free choices, Pohlman will be sharing his personal story of a fatal drunken driving accident in which he was involved three years ago in Grand County.
Pohlman was 19 when he was illegally served alcohol at several bars in Winter Park and attended a party. While driving home, a mere two miles, Pohlman collided with another car in which three young women were riding. One of them was killed.
"I certainly never thought anything like that would happen," Pohlman said. "The worst I could imagine was that I would get a DUI. That was my biggest scare, and most kids' scare: you get pulled over, get a DUI, then what do your parents say?"
"It's not easy," Pohlman continued, "but if you put yourself in my shoes, if this were to happen to you, you have to justify in your mind why it happened. I can't fix it, I can't take it back. I'm not ever going to forget thinking about it. I sleep with it every night. I have a full-time job but I can hardly concentrate on work. When it's that drastic, you have to do something with it. There's not much good that can come of it but I'm doing what I can."
Doing what he cans means talking to peers and "warning them as a friend."
Pohlman said he's the right one to talk to young people about drinking and driving because, as opposed to law officers "telling kids the stories, facts and statistics," Pohlman can talk about real life.
"I can tell you what can happen to you, and what you have to live with for the rest of your life," he said. "When I was in high school, I listened to the same lectures. They didn't teach me anything. Here's your opportunity. I'm telling you that. You can listen to me and come out smarter, or you can keep going along and living a life not in the right direction."
Pohlman, whose supportive family lives in Michigan, does indeed paint a vivid picture of the tragedies that can befall a person or many persons during the course of a short, five-minute drive under the influence of alcohol.
"I believe with all my heart that I'm the one to (talk to students). The Lord gave me a gift to do this. I've made a lot of people miserable, I've hurt a lot of people and I've destroyed some lives. I'm grateful to be alive, but I shouldn't be. If I am, this must be why."
Pohlman's talk on Friday at the high school is just one of several activities in Routt County this week in recognition of Red Ribbon Week. The mission of the Red Ribbon campaign is to present unified and visible commitment toward the creation of a drug-free America. The campaign is designed to establish a network of people in every community who support drug-free choices.
Earlier this month, three of 10 local liquor stores sold alcohol to minors during one of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition's educational "compliance checks" of the establishments in Steamboat.
"That's a 30 percent failure," director Susan Phillips said.
The reason for some of Grand Futures' educational projects, like the aforementioned compliance checks, is to attempt to change environmental norms surrounding substance use in the Steamboat Springs community.
"People might think every place in the country is like this," Phillips said. "But that's not true. It isn't necessarily normal to see the high-risk behavior and high-risk factors that are a direct result of the "partyer" mindset in a resort town like this one."
In 1998, The American Drug and Alcohol Survey of Routt County, a survey administered to students in grades 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12, found that local residents' experience with and usage of controlled substances is above the national average, Phillips said.
To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org