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Tom Melin    

Alcohol (Drug) Abuse, Underage Drinking and Drunk Driving Prevention Speaker

My name is Tom Melin. I am 41 years old. On September 7, 1996, I chose to get behind the wheel of my car with a BAC of .26. I was five houses from my home when I lost control of my car. I ran into three trees, a telephone pole and a house before I was thrown out of my car. I landed on the roof of the house then fell to the ground where I was instantly paralyzed. Because I made the choice to drink and drive that night, I now live my life as a T-7 paraplegic. My life with alcohol began at the age of 12. I started experimenting with alcohol by drinking with friends but my Dad also allowed me to have sips of his beer. When I was 14, I was allowed to have my own beer. By the time, I was 16 years old, I was becoming an alcoholic. I would find any reason that I could to drink and I had no problem getting access to alcohol. My friends and I would go to the beach and binge drink. I never knew how to drink alcohol casually. I joined the military when I turned 18 years old. I was in 37th Engineer Battalion stationed at Fort Bragg, NC from Jan '88 to Feb '92. During my time in the ARMY, I served in many military operations including the invasion of Panama, the Honduran Nicaraguan Conflict and Desert Storm. I am very proud of my service in the military but I spent the majority of my free time drunk. My drinking continued to escalate when I left the military for civilian life. In all reality, my drinking was heightened because I was now dealing with the memories that I had from serving in Iraq during Desert Storm. The only way that I knew how to deal with my anguish was to abuse alcohol. That fateful night of September 7, 1996 wasnt enough to get me to face my alcohol addiction. I then turned to cocaine and crack to help ease the pain. I have traveled a long hard road with addiction. I am sober and enjoy every day of my sobriety. In August 2007, the documentary, Forever Changed: A True Story that May Save Your Life, was completed. This documentary features my early abuse with alcohol as well as the events that took place on the night of my accident. My time spent in the hospital and rehabilitation center are also highlighted in the documentary. In March 2008, I began traveling to middle schools, high schools and community agencies telling my story of alcohol abuse and the toll that it has played in my life. In March 2009, I began sharing my story with the men and women of the military.

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