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“Are you okay?”

That jogger’s question woke me up and probably saved my life.

My truck had rolled three times and I’d been thrown from the vehicle. I was five miles from the smallest town in Nebraska, face down in a ditch. 

Miraculously, at least to me, that jogger just happened to be running near the site of my accident. Had he not been there, who knows what my outcome may have been. 

As I lay there face down, I tried to lift my head, but it was so heavy I could only raise it off the dirt…and just high enough to see two white socks and a pair of well-used running shoes. My head was aching and bleeding into my eyes, making it hard to see. 

Just before passing out, a question ran through my head, “What the hell have I done?”

Hours passed before I woke in a hospital bed surrounded by many facesnone of which were familiar to me. 

The face that stuck out was the grumpy old cop. His skin was tan and reminded me of an elephant’s butt. This cop was immediately demanding information regarding the accident. I had been conscious less than a minute before the interrogation began. My memory slowly returned as he questioned me. 

He tried to get me to confess to being the driver of the pick-up that had been found upside down on a rural country road. I’d had enough encounters with the law to know it would not be in my best interest to admit to anything…especially to being the driver of that truck. The last thing I needed was a fourth DUI. He demanded my ID, which I didn’t have. It was taken a week earlier when I was arrested for my third DUI. 

As he continued to question me, my head would not stop spinning. I was a complete mess. Of course, I was still hung-over from the night before, but I was also still quite buzzed from doing meth just a few hours earlier. Before the accident, I was on my way to town to get more beer. As is common practice with many addicts, I was able to lie on the spot without thought. 

“I wasn’t driving. Someone else was driving. I’m new to town; I can’t remember his name. Wait! He’s the friend of the guy I’m living with…Jason.” As soon as I mentioned my roommate, my mental fog cleared enough to reveal that Jasonand his wifewere standing in the corner, just past the officer who was interrogating me. “Damn it!” I thought to myself. Jason looked at me quizzically and said, “Who are you talking about?” 

Did I tell you that addicts are great liars? At least, they think they are.

I began to describe a fictitious figure, knowing good and well that he would never be able to place a name with the description. As Jason and I volleyed back and forth about this mysterious man, the cop got more frustrated and threw a packet of paperwork on my bed and said, “Just fill this out,” as he left the room.

After the cop left, the nurse began to describe my injuries. I had a severe road rash on the back of my scalp—as if someone had run a cheese grater over it several times. All the ligaments in my right knee had been torn. There were various spots of road rash covering my body and my neck hurt terribly. They did a full body x-ray while I was unconscious, and miraculously, I didn’t have any broken bones. 

As I sobered up in that hospital bed, my mind cleared, and I began to remember the events that led up to my accident. I remembered the early morning drive to the liquor store after Jason let me know that he and his wife were leaving for the day. In my head, I was thinking about how drunk I was going to get with the house to myself. 

Jason had the most beautiful house I had ever seen to that point in my life. It had endless square feet, a basement with a game room, pool table and a theater room, all set on 50 acres in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. I could not wait to be alone in the house.

Jason’s friend Mike had borrowed my Pontiac Sunfire, so I concocted a plan to get into town to buy more liquor (I was not supposed to use Mike’s truck). As soon as Jason and his wife left, I jumped in the truck and headed to town. Mike’s truck was a thing of beauty, a grey S10 450 horsepower, rear-wheel drive with a blower that stuck out the hood. It was a beast and required some skill to drive. He warned me not to drive it. But I was hungover and wanted beer. “Town is only five miles away and I’ll be back before anyone notices,” I thought to myself.

Man, that truck was nice! When I turned the key in the ignition and the engine fired, it sounded like a car at the race track. I could feel the power of the motor in the seat as I slammed the gas pedal a couple of times just for fun. I imagined in my head I was a badass and could drive this bitch hard! I tested the truck as I crept out the long driveway that led out Jason’s property.  

I remember the steering wheel was super tight like a race car. And the rear-end just wanted to go, but it was too light to carry the horses of the motor. Once on the dirt road, I stayed in first gear and was nursing it. I was maybe going 30 mph, but it was time to see what this baby could do.

I punched the gas and the rear of the truck spun out sideways. I could not correct the steering fast enough and the right-side wheels dug in. The last memory of the actual accident was my own foot kicking me in the forehead as I flew through the air.

Addicts will tell you feelings of shame are typical after a bender. I felt shame many times. I had another rollover accident just a year earlier. In that accident, I hit an intersection going 101 mph. When the car hit the cross street, it took air and jumped 30 feet before hitting the ground and squatting all four wheels. The lack of wheels sent the car into the ditch where the front end dug in, causing it to flip six times end over end. My friend and I were tossed around in the car and then ejected out the back window. My friend was thrown first and sent through a barbed wire fence, cutting his ear nearly off. I was thrown later, hit by the rear of the car, and launched into a telephone pole. The car eventually stopped and landed on top of me, pushing me into the dirt a few inches. I had just enough room to breathe and pull my head out and yell for help. Thankfully a farmer’s kid was out there and heard the accident and was able to ram the car off of me using his truck’s bumper. So here was my first encounter face-down in a ditch.

After finding myself face-down in a ditch for the second time, I hit a new low. When you are that low, there’s no place to go but up. My friends were disgusted with me. I was disgusted with myself! I felt hopeless and alone. During those first few days in the hospital, I wanted to remain sober and I knew of only one person who could help me achieve that goalmy mom. She achieved sobriety and had been riding my butt since I was fifteen to stop drinking. 

I knew calling my mom wouldn’t be easy, as I had burned that bridge several times over with constant lies, deceit and manipulation. I broke down and called her from my hospital bed, asking my mom for help. “I don’t care if you live or die in that hospital, I am done helping you!” she yelled and then hung up. The one person I could depend on, my mom, just essentially told me to, “F*** off!” What now?

The next day Jason’s wife came to visit. I pleaded with her to get me out of the hospital… now! I couldn’t wait for the doctor to release me. She agreed, after much deliberation and grabbed all my stuff and pulled the truck around to the front. I waited for the nurse to go into another patient’s room and I hoisted my broken and beaten body up from the hospital bed. I was still in my hospital gown and my body was still riddled with pain, but I hopped down the hall, out the door, and into the “getaway vehicle.”

The fear of having to face that crotchety old cop again, plus another DUI, was worth the pain I faced escaping from that hospital. I wasn’t okay…and I realized I needed to make serious changes to my life, or I wasn’t going to live much longer.

I was a homeless addict, an alcoholic, and a drain on everyone I had contact with. I was dangerous to myself and others, plus I was estranged from my three kids who were living in another state. I had to change. I told Jason and his wife I was going to change. I promised myself I was going to change, but most of the time, change is easier said than done.

I spent the next three weeks in Jason’s house nursing my injuries. He put me to work writing bids for his business. I was making money, but I used what I made to buy alcohol. To me, being drunk was an all-day event. I justified it by convincing myself it was all I could do to avoid the shakes. I drank all day, and I even drank at night when I couldn’t sleep. I also stepped up my drug use. I have regularly used drugs since I was a child. My dad gave me marijuana when I was two years old and would regularly give it to me to help me fall asleep. In my last week in Nebraska, Jason, his wife, and I, spent three days using cocaine. So, if I had been more truthful earlier, I would have written, I was a homeless addict, an alcoholic, a druggie, and a drain on everyone with whom I had contact. After those three days, I knew I had worn out my welcome. Without any fanfare, I packed my car, stole $50 out of Jason’s change jar (for gas) and headed to my brother’s house in Greeley, Colorado.