His black eyes darted around the crowded room nervously as he paced behind the podium. He wiped his hands on his trousers as if they were wet. There was only two of us on the panel that night, he spoke first.
"My name's Harold." He began, his voice wobbled a bit as he told the crowd about himself.
"I sat where you are sitting, not 5 or 6 years ago." Harold said. "Nothing that was said here that night, affected me. I left here, just as I had come in. I liked to drink and when I would drink, I would drive." He said unapologetically.
I watched him intently, not knowing where he was going with his story. His black plaid fedora was cocked to the left on his head not revealing any hair underneath. I was thinking how he looked like a leprechaun with a scraggy black beard and short stature. Harold probably wasn't 5' tall and wore tattoos like jewelry on each finger. Taking long pauses between sentences to collect his thoughts, he plunged his hands into his baggy jean pockets and hunched his shoulders forward as if he were cold. I thought he looked a bit rough around the edges, but almost childlike in his demeanor.
He told us that he was and is a chronic alcoholic. He said he had been arrested four times for driving under the influence of alcohol and said he even did time for the last one.
"I was locked up for a year and a half." He confessed, but never took his eyes from the audience.
He told us all about the high cost of those D.U.I.'s, saying they cost him nearly $60,000 dollars, his house, his job and his family.
"Then one day, I stopped drinking." Harold bragged, "I attended A.A. and got sober."
His candor made him likable, I found myself drawn to his plight and reveling alongside him in his victory. He held everyone's attention, I noticed, as I took a quick look around at the attendees. My eyes drifted back to Harold's as he continued.
"After all the things I had done, I finally got my life on track, I was sober. Then my son was killed by a drunk driver. He was only 16."
His eyes flooded with tears. I could see that there was a great deal of anger and grief very near the surface as he gritted his teeth. Harold had escaped from killing anyone when he chose to drink and drive, but someone had stolen his boy while choosing the same path he did. The impact of which was almost more than he could bear, but that's why we were there; we were the victim's impact panel.
I don't know if Harold's story or mine made any difference to the people that attended that V.I.P. but as usual, I came away different; moved to act, to do more and to never forget the victims of D.U.I.