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Knowing Is Not Enough

February 9, 2024
An image that reads: Drinking impacts your brain, shutting off rational thinking.

Last week was the 11th anniversary of the death of a very special young man who lost his life at the young age of 18.

His name was Brian Hoeflinger. He was a star student, a great friend, and an all around kind-hearted person who was driving his car when he died.

He was drunk.

A year later, his dad wrote a book called, “The Night He Died,” and I want to share a passage from it. It’s a section that came straight from Brian’s journal:

Last year during the positive direction week in high school, a man came into our school with Dr. Brickman. He came to talk about the dangers of alcohol. He had been in a car crash because he drove a car after drinking alcohol. He was in a coma for a while and he almost died. He had to admit his mistakes in front of all of us.

He talked about a horrible thing in his past. Since driving while drunk is illegal, he had to do various community services as a consequence. I think it would be humiliating to talk about a bad experience in your life. In his case, I think he had turned this bad experience into a positive inspiration to influence others. He definitely had an impact on me.

I believe many others were also impacted by his words. This man is one reason I will never drive drunk. His past experience shows me how dangerous alcohol can be and has influenced me and others not to drive after having alcohol.

I think he had to be brave to go in front of an audience and talk about something he did wrong years ago. He’s used this experience to educate others about the dangers of alcohol, he’s making a positive change in some people teaching them not to drive after drinking alcohol.

I can use qualities like his to change my world. If I see something I don’t like in my world, all I have to do is try to change it. Once I put forth an effort to change it, I have already started to make a positive change. So when I see something that is wrong, all I have to do is try to change it positively, and I’m already making the world just a little bit better.”

Months after writing this, Brian drove drunk and died.

He knew it was dangerous. 

He knew it was illegal. 

He knew what the consequences could be. 

And yet he drove drunk.

Because knowing is not enough.

I can promise you Brian did not choose to drive that night. I know this because when he was driving drunk, so was I. 

I got sober a few months after he died.

And what I learned is that once I put a drink in me, I am not at choice. The ability to make the choice to stop and not drive vanished. It was like my brain was offline and unable to make the decision to not do it once I had started.

It was the same for Brian, otherwise why would he write this in his journal only months before? Why would he insist he would never drive drunk and then turn around and do just that?

It’s because once he was drunk, he wasn’t able to make the choice not to. Drinking impacts your brain in a way that it shuts off your rational thinking. There are those banners on the highway that say things like, “Think twice before you get behind the wheel,” but we’re not thinking when we’re drinking. Our thinker has been shut off.

At the end of my drinking, the amount I drove drunk scared me. Because I didn’t know I shouldn’t be driving. 

I thought I was OK. I thought “I’m so close to home.” 

The next day when I woke up I was certainly aware of what I had done. 

It terrified me…yet, I did it again. And again. I could not stop, and I was far too afraid and too ashamed to talk about it.

What I want for the world and especially for families to understand is this:

It doesn’t work to tell people who are drinking to stop driving drunk. 

It doesn’t work to tell a drunk person to not do it. 

People who are drunk aren’t able to just stop. 

It is not a choice.

We have to find a better way. 

And the way to do that is to take this knowledge and put it into action.

If you want to learn how to take this knowledge and integrate it into how you respond to your loved one, how you speak to someone who’s struggling, how to offer them real help (even if they say they don’t want it), the first thing to do is to join our training. 

It’s called Stop the Chaos, and it’s a 6-part video training that gives you the knowledge and a bunch of tools to start making changes in your and your loved one’s lives. And if you join in the next few weeks, you can participate in our upcoming live study group, starting March 7, 2024.  

We added the study group (kind of like a support group), and we meet on Zoom once a week to help integrate the training materials into our lives.

One participant from the last study group said:

  • “I loved the study group. I miss it already!”
  • “I got wisdom from everyone.” 
  • “Things stick with me more when I can talk it out and hear others’ shares.” 
  • “I had some accountability to actually watch the training because of the study group.” 

I know it’s not easy. I’m asking you to create change because they can’t

But when you change, they will. And with this study group, you don’t have to make that change alone.

Finally, if you want to read “The Night He Died,” you can get the book and learn more about Brian at https://www.brianmatters.com/.

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