The Night He Died

April 20, 2023

I totaled my parents’ car while driving drunk. I was 19 years old. The party ended at 1:00 AM and I didn’t want it to end, so I talked two girls into going with me to New York from Framingham, MA. “The bars are open all night there”, I told them. They both fell asleep, and I imagine I did as well. I smashed into a stone wall, totaling the car. We were surprisingly unharmed.

The police brought me back to the station and told me to call someone for a ride home. 

That’s what happened in 1981 when you drove drunk. No breathalyzer, no questions, just a call to a friend. 

That wasn’t the case for this beautiful young man, Brian Hoeflinger. I just finished reading this book, “The Night He Died,” written by his dad, who I recently met. Brian died two months before I got sober. 

A photo of the book "The Night He Died; The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking" by Brian F. Hoeflinger, MD.

A Neurosurgeon and Father's Personal Journey of Turning Tragedy into Hope.

The cover of the book has a picture of a black car with the front hood smashed in, along with a picture of the author's son who died.

With me recently reaching my 10-year sober anniversary, all I can think about is drunk driving and how much worse it’s gotten.

I knew it was wrong to drive drunk, and yet I kept doing it. 

Brian knew drunk driving was bad. Brian was smart. Brian was kind. Brian had everything going for him and a loving family. 

In this book, Brian’s father shares about a time that Brian heard a speaker talk about drunk driving and Brian wrote in his journal that he’d never do that. 

No one ever thinks it will happen to them. 

Drinking alcohol impairs thinking. We know this. So why do we keep thinking that telling drunk people not to drive is the answer?

Drunk people are never, ever going to make good choices.

In my humble opinion, the only way out of this deadly problem is the sober people taking away the keys, or cars not being able to be driven with an impaired driver. 

Alcohol is a massive problem among teens. With brains that haven’t yet developed in decision making, adding alcohol is just asking for poor decisions. 

Brian was at an unsupervised party and had been sold alcohol without being carded. He told himself he would never drive drunk, yet he did, and he died.

I told myself that too, yet I did it over and over and over.

If you’re not having the important conversations in your family, if you’re not modeling the “who will drive when I drink” conversation, I’d be happy to help you start. 

Email me: or schedule a time to chat.

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  1. Julie Higgins

    I, too, lost my cousin to drunk driving. My aunt called my mom to complain about Carl’s drinking and driving. Mom told my aunt to take away the keys, but she felt she couldn’t do that ( most likely because she was an alcoholic, too, as I think back on it). Carl died a week later in a drunk driving accident, and his best friend suffered severe head trauma, which he survived only because my aunt took care of him for the rest of her life. His parents were too angry at him for driving under the influence. My aunt could have benefitted from Tipping Point Recovery, but back then, there was not much in place for guidance except for a very loving sister. But family relationships are so challenged by alcoholism that without guidance like that of Kate’s, Mike’s, and Corey’s, the understanding and ability to set boundaries don’t occur.

    • Kate Duffy

      Julie, thank you for sharing your personal story here. This is all too common and this is why we are building the workshop ‘how to take the keys’ and continuing to educate families. Thanks for joining us on this mission.


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