What happened next was something I viewed as the worst moment in my life until fairly recently.
The crazy thing is, I now view it as one of the best things to ever happen to me. This is of course using my trusty hind sight.
One night I decided to drink a LOT more than I usually did.
I was in a state of angst, as I usually was. I was having some relationship issues, a guy I knew from back home was just killed in Afghanistan, and my Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer.
I had no idea how to express how I felt about any of that.
This Thursday night I drink a 40 of vodka.
For those who think of a 40 as a bottle of malt beer, in Canada we call the 40 oz. bottles of liquor ‘40’s’. This is referring to the big bottle.
A 26 oz. bottle usually got me beyond the ability to speak coherently, so this was a terrible idea.
Here’s the thing. I’m stalling right now. Until right now. This very moment I type this story…this story was reserved for maybe ten people. It was a story I kept a secret from people I met, employers….everyone but the inner circle.
It still turns my stomach to talk about it. Even with the people closest to me.
We’re going full transparency though, and we’re starting here.
I had a couple of friends over. By the time I got close to the bottom of that bottle, my memory was wiped clean. This next part is based on the accounts of my friends, because I have no recollection.
The alcohol combined with these unexpressed feelings of angst caused me to take a little bit of a tantrum. I got in my 6 speed Hyundai Tiburon and drove away.
(Note:Let me be clear here. I have always been dead against drinking and driving. The thought of it infuriates me. The fact that I did it really bothers me.)
I have no idea where I intended to go. I ended up on the highway, and I had the pedal pinned to the floor.
Let me explain my relationship with this car. I was 6'4, about 235 lbs at the time. My car had a sun roof, which was perfect, because I needed somewhere to put my head when I drove. The car was so small, the roof so low, that I always drove with my head directed into the small space where the sun roof is. This detail is important.
This is where my memory kicks back in.
Being drunk beyond recognition, I drove straight into a guardrail on highway 17 in Ottawa while driving at full speed.
I distinctly remember hitting the guardrail and the car quickly turning sideways.
This caused the car to roll over. And over. And over.
I have memory of this. I was scared, and I was very sure I was going to die.
The car ended up on the roof and slid for a little while. Once it stopped sliding, without hesitation I squirmed out of the window, which was squished down to about half it’s original height.
The roof collapsed to the point where all the windows blew out, the dash gauges were unrecognizable, and the side windows were reduced to a sliver.
Let’s backtrack. When I sat in this car, my head hit the roof. I had to dip my head into the sunroof in order to sit up straight.
And now the car is on the roof, the roof collapsed, and I’m upside down.
This is a puzzle that baffles me to this day.
I mentioned in Part I that I am not sure exactly what my conception of God is, but this situation has no other explanation. I honestly believe this was that moment. That slap in the face I needed to come out of my trance. I believe it was supposed to happen. I believe it had to happen.
I squirmed out of that window unscathed. The only injury I sustained was a deep cut on my wrist, which I received when crawling out of the car. I felt my head for blood. Not only was there no injury to my head, I couldn’t even find a sore spot. (This includes the days following the incident).
I don’t understand how. I can’t even come up with a far reaching but logical explanation. Somehow, I walked away unharmed aside from a scratch.
Here I am, the middle of the night on busy highway 17 in Ottawa. My car is upside down, and I’m standing beside it.
My plan is to flip it back on it’s tires so I can drive away without anyone finding out about this.
Clearly, I wasn’t thinking anywhere close to straight.
An 18-wheeler stopped about 100 meters from where my car laid on its roof, so I casually jogged up to the driver. I asked him if he could help me flip my car over.
He looked at me and said, “Buddy, you’re fucked.”
I looked at myself, covered in blood, running from my wrist and all over my clothes.
He then pointed back to my car and said, “I think they’re looking for you.”
I looked back to my car to see 2 ambulance attendants searching the ditch beside my car to find my ejected body. I jogged back and introduced myself.
They threw the neck brace on me, strapped me to the backboard, and loaded me up.
I remember this ambulance ride. I was half-way sober after the crash. I clearly remember feeling like an absolute piece of shit.
These paramedics were unbelievably nice to me. I felt lower than scum, but they went way above and beyond to make me feel human again. I don’t remember the conversation exactly. I believe that crash totally destroyed who I was at the time, and these medics planted the first seed which I would later use to rebuild. The seed which grew into a thought, and eventually a belief that maybe I wasn’t worthless. Maybe even though I made this mistake, it won’t define my worth as a human.
This belief would take almost a decade to materialize, but the seed was planted right away. I’ll never forget that conversation, even though I have forgotten every single detail.
I remember being brought from the ambulance to the hospital. As the medics passed me off to the nurses, the energy shifted. A lot.
The nurses treated me the same way I believed I should have been treated. Like an asshole who could have killed somebody. An asshole who is lucky he didn’t ruin someone else’s life, destroy a family, or kill himself.
I’m grateful that they treated me at all. They wrapped up my wrist, took my blood, and I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning to the news that I was discharged from the hospital. I could tell they wouldn’t miss me.
My girlfriend at the time picked me up and dropped me off at home. I felt like I had just made a life changing mistake. I felt lower than low.
When I got home, I received the news of just how much of an asshole I was before I decided to get in my car.
I broke down. I was done. I cracked, and I couldn’t contain it anymore.
My friend Shawn walked over and hugged me. I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing this.
It was touching. He’s a tough dude. MMA fighter, lumberjack beard, wildland firefighter. He really cut through the darkness with some light. While I had dug myself quite a hole, this gesture let me know that I had support while climbing out, no matter how terrible I was the night before.
During this time, my dad was to undergo surgery to remove his cancer. Our fingers were crossed and hoping for the best.
Looking back I realize that either one of us could have easily died during this time. I could have lived, and he could have died. His last memory would be of me, a failure and disappointment. I’d have to live with that.
On the flip side, I could have died, and he could have lived. He would be mourning the loss of his degenerate kid after killing himself while being foolish.
Worse yet, we could have left my mom and sister on their own.
As I lay in my bed trying to make sense out of everything that just happened, waiting to hear from the police, and wondering in what ways my life has just changed, I was certain I hit rock bottom.
How could this not be rock bottom? What else can be coming down the pipe?
When you need to be slapped out of your trance and be given a fresh start, that means everything needs to change.
When your life is being purged, it leaves no stone unturned.
I could hardly process everything that has happened. I couldn’t even imagine what I was facing in the coming days.
While I thought I came up with every possible scenario, I never imagined this one.
I thought I was laying on rock bottom.
I was wrong.
I still had one more drop to endure before the rebuilding process could begin.
Continued in Part 3
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