Today is February 11th, 2018. My daughter, Harley, and myself, are driving home from Laurel. We had dropped my youngest daughter off with her mother. We were now heading home. We arrived in Wiggins around 5:30 pm. We stopped by Sonic to get a slush. As we left we went to the stop light in front of Wal- Mart that allows traffic to turn on or off of Highway 49. I was in the turn lane, preparing to turn south onto highway 49 from Wal Mart. I was in this exact same spot almost 2 years ago (10 days shy of 2 years, to the day).
Two years ago on Sunday February 21, 2016, the traffic light turned from red to green, I turned south onto Highway 49….and that’s the last thing i remember. I woke up in Garden Park Hospital on Thursday, February 25th. The time in between those two dates was just gone.
Those days happened. Every second of each one of those days happened. I just don’t remember them. You see, before i turned left onto highway 49, i had met my drug dealer and taken prescription pain medication laced with xanax and fentanyl (i was unaware of this). It caused me to black out, which was a problem because i was driving with two of my daughters in the car.
Over the last two years they have relayed what happened that night. But i have no memory of it. My oldest daughter, Harley, asks me questions from time to time about things that happened during the twenty minutes i drove completely unconscious. My body was awake but my mind had almost completely shut down. My answer to every question she’s ever asked is the same, ” i don’t know baby. I’m sorry but i don’t remember anything.”
I don’t remember driving 102 mph. I don’t remember my younger daughter, Olivia, crying in the back seat, scared out of her mind. I don’t remember Harley trying to figure out what’s going on, while trying to figure out some way to get me to stop the car. I don’t remember slowing down and pulling over (as my body was beginning to totally shut down). I don’t remember my two frightened little girls jumping out of the car while it was still rolling, trying to reach safety. I don’t remember putting the car into reverse and backing across two lanes of traffic. I don’t remember the car coming to rest in the median, stuck in a ditch. I don’t remember the man who stopped to check on me. I don’t remember my girls running to a nearby gas station to try and find help. I don’t remember the paramedics and police showing up and taking me to the hospital. I do not remember the 4 days that my wife and children worried frantically not knowing exactly what had happened, or what would come next. The only thing i remember is waking up in the hospital, having that entire story relayed to me by my children. But i don’t remember the incident, not even in bits and pieces. It’s almost like it never happened…but it did.
The curse of that night is that i cannot remember one single detail of, but my children remember every single detail vividly.
This night finds me again turning south onto Highway 49. This night is very different from the previous time. My daughter has asked if we can visit the scene again. Initially i try to tell her no, but she tells me that she really needs this. So off we go.
I do not remember the previous drive but somehow i know this ride is very different than that night. There is no swerving or speeding. There is no yelling, in fact there are no words spoken at all. There is simply a palpable heaviness in the air. There is a tension of what we will find and what we will feel when we get there.
As we pull into the parking lot of the gas station Harley assures me this is the place. She remembers the bars on the windows. We go inside and she makes her way around the store. It’s almost as if she is trying to retrace her exact steps from that horrible night. She rounds the corner and tells me how the police officer bought them drinks while they waited on my wife to arrive. She tells me they didn’t want drinks, but they took them out of a sense of obligation. Even in that moment they are more responsible that i had been that night.
She looks at me and whispers that she wants to say something to the cashier, but she doesn’t know what to say. I walk up to the counter and ask him if i can tell him a weird story. He hesitantly replies “ok, sure.” So i tell him, “i overdosed while driving two years ago and……” he interrupts me. He turns to look out of the window the window behind him. He points up the road, near a traffic light in the distance and says “the car ran off the road into the median back up there. Two little girls ran up here looking for help.” (the picture below is the stop light, in the distance, the cashier was pointing to when he looked out of his window).
He obviously remembers the night. How could he not remember a night like that? Two young girls appear out of the darkness, right at closing time, beating on the doors. They are screaming, frantic for help, but unable to really describe what exactly is wrong. This cashier watches as the rest of the scene unfolds. Yes, he remembers. But i don’t.
I tell him that i have almost two years sober now. I thank him for taking care of my girls that night, when i was unable, or unwilling to. I ask him if we can take a picture with him. And he agrees. His name is John. I had no idea how profoundly that night had continued to impact Harley until about 20 minutes after we left the store, she suddenly blurted out “he’s wearing the exact same shirt he had on that night.” A night that haunts me because i cannot remember one single detail, and two years later my beautiful little girl remembers the shirt John was wearing that night.
As we leave the store, my daughter bursts into tears, but she is smiling. She has processed a great deal of emotion during this visit. It has been very healing for her. I can’t help but laugh. She asks me why I’m laughing. I asked her if she saw what was in front of us when we pulled into the parking lot. She laughed and said, “yes. it was two collection boxes for the Home of Grace.”
You see, God does have a sense of humor, and a plan. God was moving me closer and closer to the place where He would meet me and break the chains that had kept me in bondage for so long. He would show me that He had not been silent, or refused to answer my constant pleas for deliverance. He was working that entire time. He was bringing me to the end of myself and my abilities. He was bringing me to a place where i would lift up my eyes to heaven, surrendering my will and my rights to the God who wanted to set me free all along. And for all my please for deliverance, i was unwilling to submit myself to the point where God could deliver me, so he continued to break me down until finally i said, “ok, Lord. do whatever it takes. I have no other choice.” And He did.
As i approach my two year sobriety mark I take stock of my life. God is restoring me day by day. I am part of a ministry my wife and I co-founded that ministers to the families of people in treatment for addiction. I am allowed to go and speak from time to time at various places about addiction. I am a volunteer leader in Celebrate Recovery at Mosaic Church in Ocean Springs. But more important that all of that, i am closer to God than I have ever been. I know Him more intimately than ever before. My family has forgiven me, and those relationships are being restored more with each passing day.
I know there are addicts, and families out there in similar circumstances to where i was two years ago. For those of you still in the midst of the storm I’d like to try to offer you some encouragement. God sees you. Our ministry is called El Roi Ministries. El Roi is a Hebrew name for God which means “The God who sees.” God sees. He too desires your deliverance from addiction, whether you are the addict or someone you love. Continue to seek His face and submit your lives to Him. Reach out for help from others who have walked this road before you. Follow their lead, and know that God is bringing you and your addict to the point where they will have no choice but to lift up their eyes to God and seek His face. You see, my life is not a testament to my strength and resiliency. My life does not speak anything positive about me, not in the least. My life does, however, demonstrate there is a God who sees. There is a God who loves us. And there is a God with an answer, if we will simply turn to Him, and allow Him to help us.
We at El Roi Ministries are walking with you. We are praying for you. We believe that God is moving, even now. Please let us know if we can help in any way. God Bless.