From the Desk of Jim Bevell – Schuler Tragedy and Accountability

Anyone who isn’t familiar with Diane Schuler at this point is either trying to avoid current events or is as oblivious as her husband. To bring everyone up to speed, Diane Schuler is the 36 year-old business executive who at 1:30 PM on July 26th 2009,  drove 1.7 miles in the wrong direction on a curvy highway before slamming into an S.U.V., killing its three passengers, as well as herself, her 2-year-old daughter and her three young nieces. She had a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit and tested overwhelmingly positive for Marijuana. Her husband, Daniel Schuler, is a security guard paid to be a professional observer, however, he is publicly stating that he has never seen his wife drunk.

While this situation is beyond horrific, it has all the elements that makeup a perfect alcoholic tragedy. It has been said on the record that Diane Schuler had over 15 ounces of undigested vodka in her system, a vodka bottle in the car, a head full of marijuana and behavioral issues, and a minivan filled with kids…that alone is a recipe for disaster. Throw in a husband who is either one of the most profound enablers of all time or the denial world champion and early death is no longer a recipe, it is a certainty.

Mr. Schuler is being skewered by the media as practically an accessory to murder – that won’t ever change. He was charged with a DUI in 1995 so the thought that one alcoholic could live with another alcoholic capable of consuming the volume of Vodka Diane Schuler did before she drove with innocent children, is pretty far-fetched. Regardless, if Mr. Schuler was aware of her consumption and let her get behind the wheel of a car that would destroy countless lives, then he is indeed an accomplice. I know there are people who will read this and say: how can you say Mr. Schuler was an alcoholic based on one DUI? Let me explain something to anyone still deluding themselves with the notion that he might not be, if you are an adult who has consumed enough alcohol to impair your judgment to the point where you think driving is ok…you better hit a meeting.

The point of sharing this story with all of you is not what you might think. Sure, it is a cautionary tale about the dangers of alcoholism and the enablers that help it incubate, but this is something far more eye-opening, this is one of the purest examples of how poorly equipped people are with the knowledge necessary to recognize and alter a potentially disastrous situation. This is a story about accountability and I’m afraid that number of people that allowed this tragedy to unfold is pretty far reaching. Is her husband still fostering his own disease and chose to look the other way? Did her employer or coworkers know she had a problem and not intervene? Is there nobody in this woman’s life that who saw what she was and where she was heading? The fact is, people have a responsibility to report and they need to be educated and empowered with the tools to do so properly. This isn’t snitching, this is saving lives and more often than not, they are the lives of the innocent.

If a fraction of the money spent on imprisoning non-violent, drug and alcohol related convicts, we could establish a system of checks and balances that arms citizens with the tools necessary to report questionable behavior and prevent tragedy. Reward them for their insight and save lives. Beyond employer involvement, which is getting better, let’s introduce an anonymous reporting system that is well defined and implemented at the student level. Preemptive measures need to be taken, and quickly. If one person had stepped up and reported Mrs. Schuler’s behavior, there would be 8 fewer caskets in the ground today.

It’s time to stop thinking after the fact. I think the saying goes…”an ounce of prevention is better than fifteen ounces of undigested alcohol in a dead woman’s stomach”.

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