Today's interview comes from Nathan, an author on Your Money Geek. The title, how to overcome a DUI and depression, tells you everything you need to know.
I recently put out an appeal on social media inviting anyone interested in sharing their story of overcoming adversity to get in touch. Nathan quickly replied. I thought a lot of people would relate to his story.
How many of us at age 18 made good decisions? I know I didn't. Nathan made one really bad decision at age 18 that cost him. He called it his self-inflicted adversity. I like that term.
Lord knows I had many more than one. I too had a DUI. Fortunately, I was over age 21. Unlike Nathan, I didn't learn from my mistakes. I continued to do some really dumb things for the next several years.
That's what struck me about Nathan's story. He learned from it. He made the best of it. And he's still only 25 years old. I don't even know what to call that age group anymore. It's too young for Millennial, right?
Anyway, don't let the young age fool you. Nathan is an old soul who's working hard to make a better life for himself and his wife.
Now, let's hear from him.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m 25, married, have one cat and live in a small town in Georgia. According to the national average, my salary falls in the below average category. That hasn't stopped me from pursuing financial independence, and I'm constantly working on improving my earnings and savings rate.
I’m finishing up my associate's degree in computer networking and have 1 class left to take after this semester. I also train in martial arts each week and earned my second-degree black belt in taekwondo this year.
How about your career path? How are you currently employed? Is this where you want to be
I’m now in my first IT position as a systems engineer and about to hit my first year anniversary in a couple of weeks. I enjoy working on computers, but have found something I enjoy doing even more: finding junk and flipping it on eBay! I’m trying to build my eBay business to a point where I’m earning the same amount of money that I do at my IT job and will potentially make a move to become a full-time seller if I reach my goal. I write a monthly series on what I sell on eBay and share all of my numbers.
Being an entrepreneur is something that interests me, and I’d like to become one through eBay. I also wouldn’t mind making a few bucks from my blog, but that’s proved to be more challenging than eBay at this point.
When you offered to do the interview, you told me about a pretty significant incident that happened to you when you were 18. I think you called it self-imposed adversity. Tell us about that.
I was a pretty dumb kid when I was 18. I went to hang out with a friend one night, and we decided it would be fun to play beer pong. The problem was, we didn’t have the beer, we had vodka! Another problem was, I lost terribly to him. I ended up black-out drunk very quickly.
At some point that night, we got hungry and decided to go to Waffle House (the only place still open in the middle of the night). Somehow, I managed to drive us safely to the restaurant, but we didn’t have the same luck on the way back to his house.
As we left the parking lot, I pulled out in front of another car, and it slammed right into us. Thankfully, no one was injured. The cops showed up shortly after, and I was in handcuffs in no time.
That had to be pretty scary for you, especially at that age. What were the legal consequences? Did that affect your ability to get a job?
Yeah, I was pretty terrified and thought my life was ruined. They took me to the local police station and checked my blood alcohol level. It was .16 which is twice the legal amount for someone over 21 and eight times more than the legal limit for someone under 21. So I was pretty trashed.
After they checked my blood alcohol level, they threw me in a holding cell for a couple of hours and then transferred me to the county jail. On the way over to the jail, the cop that transferred me blasted Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine. Just what my hungover ears needed.
I spent the night in the county jail with a couple of cellmates, both twice my age. As I sat in the holding cell, I wondered how this was going to impact my life. I figured I’d lose my girlfriend at the time and probably my job at Chic-fil-A. I was only in custody for less than 24 hours, but that time felt like an eternity. They don’t make you feel very comfortable in jail, and I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t intend on ever going back!
I'm sure that's true. What happened at the court appearance for the DUI?
In Georgia, your license is suspended for one year when you get a DUI, and you’re under 21. I also had to take an alcohol class, do 40 hours of community service, pay a fine of about $1,000 and be on probation for a year.
Thankfully, my court date was a few months after the wreck, and I was able to keep my driver’s license until then. That meant I was able to work my job still. I’m not sure why my girlfriend stayed with me after the DUI, but we’re married now so that worked out.
A couple of weeks before my court date, I got fired from Chic-fil-A. It wasn’t because of the DUI though. A co-worker friend of mine decided he wanted to take home some of the leftover food after a shift and put the food in a box. Another co-worker found the box and told a manager about it and since I knew about it and didn’t rat on him, both of us got fired. Chic-fil-A has some pretty high standards.
So, it was guilt by association. What did you do?
My dad made paying for everything associated with the DUI my punishment, and since I’m a money nerd, that’s probably the best punishment he could’ve come up with. I decided to get a lawyer since I didn’t know what to do in this situation and that added another $1,500 onto what I had to pay.
The lawyer kinda strung me along and made me think that I might have a chance of not having my license suspended, but I think he knew good and well that that wasn’t going to happen.
So, up until my court date, I had a small glimmer of hope that I wouldn’t lose my license. My parents live in a very rural area, and my girlfriend and I lived 45 minutes away. It was going to be really hard on our relationship if I couldn’t drive anymore.
You told me in our initial discussion your lost your license. What happened after that?
The court date came, and I got my sentence. 1-year probation and 1-year license suspension. The judge was kind and accepted the 40 hours of community service I had completed before the court date when I was still able to drive. I was devastated though. My ability to drive was a significant source of freedom and that had just been taken away for a year.
I definitely fought depression during the year that I spent sitting at home. After all, I had lost my job, my car, my drivers license and all of my money. I even had to sell my ATV to pay for some of the fines. My girlfriend and family were the only things that made the experience less painful.
How long did the depression last?
I spent most of the year sulking and playing video games. I saw my girlfriend probably once a week, and since my dad owns his own business, I was able to work with him when he needed me to. It was hard to stay positive, and I kinda lost any source of direction in my life at that point.
Time passed, and I finally made it through the year. I started applying to as many job openings as I could and actually ended up getting a job at Kroger about a week before I got my license back. My dad didn’t need me to help him full time, so I needed to find a job on my own. I figured it would be harder for me to find a job with a DUI on my record, but since Kroger only paid minimum wage at the time, all they cared about was if you had committed a felony, which I hadn’t. Obviously, I wasn’t able to get any job that required me to drive, but there are plenty of jobs that you can get if you’ve got a DUI on your record.
That had to be hard. What kind of job did you end up getting?
I worked at Kroger for a few months and then got a second job at QuickTrip. After working both jobs for a few months, I quickly decided I didn’t want to work in retail anymore and started taking IT classes at the local community college.
After a while of being in college, I got my first office job at a playground company as an administrative assistant. I worked really hard and showed the company I was a valuable employee, and they eventually placed me into a CAD position designing the playgrounds. I’m really glad I started working at the playground company, and I feel like that was a major turning point in my career.
I might not have been in IT, but CAD is a great skill to have, and I could probably have five job offers this month if I were to lose my job right now.
After designing playgrounds for a few months, I got a better job offer at a truss manufacturing plant, and that’s the position I was working in when my wife and I got married.
Since the time I started working at the playground company, I started applying for any IT positions that were close to where I lived. It took a couple of years, but I finally got the position I’m in now, and I should have a great career in IT if I decide not to continue my pursuit of becoming an entrepreneur.
That’s a tough way to start your adult life. What have you learned from this? How did it change you?
It definitely matured me very quickly. I regret not trying to start college during the year that I spent sitting at my parents' house, but I wasn’t thinking very hopefully at the time.
I’d say with the help of my dad’s punishment, I became an adult quicker and learned how to handle money. I made enough money working with my dad to buy a cheap car, but I literally had no money when I got my license back. It was tough to save money driving 30 minutes to a minimum wage job, but that only helped me develop frugal habits.
It also took away any desire I might have had for the party lifestyle. Once I got my license back, I only focused on developing my career and future with my girlfriend.
What was the hardest thing to overcome from this? The job loss? Depression? The combination?
The depression was probably the hardest part, and the job loss only added to the depression. I felt like a major failure at the time and still get a bit down on myself to this day. I’ve made some decent progress, but the thought of all the progress I could’ve made during that year still gets to me sometimes.
How would you encourage others who’ve created their own “self-imposed” adversity? What advice would you offer?
Don’t dwell on the past. Everyone makes mistakes and fails at life. The difference in successful people and failures is the successful ones continue to move forward after they’ve been knocked down.
The good thing about self-imposed adversity is, you can change yourself. Whatever it is you did, you don’t have to do it again. It’s hard to stay positive, but your life is determined by how you think. If you can keep a positive mindset and stay persistent, you can climb out of the pit of despair and eventually have an excellent life. Just don’t give up.
Thanks, Nathan for sharing your story.
Every time I do one of these interviews, I come away inspired and more hopeful. I've written about my change of heart toward Millennials. Whether Nathan fits into that category or not, it's young people like him that give me hope in the future.
After his DUI, he could have gone in a completely different direction with his life. He could have turned to anger. He could have become a victim and blamer. But he didn't. He owned his mistake. He knew how lucky he was that no one got hurt. Too many of these stories turn out differently. He used his isolation and journey through depression to become a better person.
Kudos to his dad for not bailing him out of the mess he caused himself. Again, he didn't get angry. He didn't blame. He used the time to get better and move forward.
Well done, my friend. Well done.
Now it's your turn. What mistakes did you make when you were younger? What did you learn from them? Are you a better person for having gone through it?
Fred started the blog Money with a Purpose in October 2017. The blog focused on three primary areas: Personal Finance, Overcoming Adversity, and Lifestyle. During his time at Money with a Purpose, he was quoted in Forbes, USA Today and appeared in Money Magazine, MarketWatch, The Good Men Project, Thrive Global and many other publications.
In April 2019, Fred, along with two other partners, acquired The Money Mix website. To focus his time and energy where he could be the most productive, Fred recently merged Money with a Purpose with The Money Mix. You can now find all of his great content right here on The Money Mix, along with content from some of the brightest minds in personal finance.