Lying on my bunk in Allegan County Jail, I think back to the night of February 6, 2009, a night which has forever changed my life. It was getting late. I finished up my beer, left the party, and started my drive home. That was the last thing I could clearly remember when I regained consciousness in the intensive care ward of Spectrum hospital, completely disorientated. I immediately started asking what, where, how? My parents, who were by my bedside, told me with tear-streamed faces that, while I was driving drunk back home, I had run a stop sign and T-boned an SUV. I had killed the passenger and seriously injured the driver. They were an innocent, elderly couple on their way home from a friend’s house. As the words registered in my head, my chest heaved as I began to sob like a baby. I buried my head in my pillow, filled with untold grief, guilt and shame. What had I done?
Like many teenagers today, I was partying on a Friday night and decided to drive home drunk. That choice cost an elderly woman her life, robbed a husband of his lifetime partner, robbed a family of their mother and grandmother, and left me with lifelong guilt and shame.
My story starts back when I was 14 years old. That was the age I was when I went to my first party and drank alcohol. Being raised by strict Christian parents you would think I would have made the right choice and refused that first beer. Just like every other sin we commit, I made an excuse as to why I could drink. I was just having a few drinks and I wouldn’t get drunk.
This was the beginning of years of excuses to justify my ever growing drinking habit. Drunkenness, just like every other sin, will slowly take over your life if you continue to allow it in your life, until it completely takes over. That is exactly what happened to me during my four years of drinking. For the first nine months I held true to my promise and never got drunk at the parties. That came to an end fast as soon as I started my sophomore year at CCHS. I made new friends who drank and within a month I got trashed for the first time. I quickly justified getting drunk because I didn’t do it every weekend like other people I knew. This too quickly changed. Within a couple of months, I was getting drunk at least once a week, sometimes two or three days a week. I was a known partier at school now.
My final excuse to justify my drunkenness was that as long as I never did drugs, I was okay, at least in my mind. I actually managed to abide by this guideline; however, I let alcohol completely take over my life. That’s when all the problems came. I got busted by my parents and ended up getting kicked off the soccer team my Junior year. Sadly enough, rather than deter my drinking, it led me to drink all the more. Every one now knew I drank. I had been kicked off the team. What else could they do to me now?
Halfway through my Senior year, drinking had become a normal part of my everyday life. I didn’t look forward to the parties; they were just where I went whenever there was one. If I wasn’t at a party on Friday night, I felt completely lost. It was so ingrained in my lifestyle, that I felt the need to drink at least a few times every week.
It was then that my spiritual life reached a critical point. So far God had allowed me to live my drunken lifestyle without serious consequence. God had let me wander far enough from him. My life started crumbling beneath me and falling apart. It was then that I faced an ultimatum. It was either forsaking my drunken life and turning to God, or forsaking God and giving myself completely over to the bottle. It was no longer the simple choice of drinking or not. It’s hard to explain, but it was like God gave me the option of choosing him or my alcohol. It couldn’t be both or anything in between. It was a terrifying decision.
To this day I shudder when I think of how I consciously chose to forsake God and give myself over to my drunkenness. I vividly remember thinking of how I would quit going to church as soon as I moved out of my parent’s house. I knew God would not allow me to both worship him and continue to live in drunkenness. I had made my choice.
That next weekend found me with a case of beer trying to drown all my problems. Unknown to me, my problems were about to reach heights I could never have dreamed of. It was that Friday night that God directed my “accident” as I was driving drunk just like hundreds of times before.
I have been locked up in jail for eight months now as a part of the legal consequences of my actions. Only doing a year in a county jail is paltry compared to the normal sentencing for someone with my charges. A normal sentence would be anywhere from 5 to 20 years in a state prison! God had other plans for me.
The victims’ family was extremely forgiving and gracious, only requesting a year in county jail. Not a day passes when I don’t think of that elderly woman and man. I never will forget what I did and the consequences of my actions. It’s a lifelong emotional scar I can never rid myself of.
I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since the night of my accident. I know that if I allow alcohol back into my life, it will take over just like it did years ago. When you abuse alcohol, it slowly replaces God in your life till you eventually push God out all together. Alcohol becomes your “god.” I learned firsthand that “You cannot serve two masters, ye cannot serve both God and mammon.” God might allow you to wallow in your sin for a time, but eventually it comes down to forsaking your sin or forsaking God. God will not allow us to worship our sinful desires and him, and he will deliver his children from their sin.
My dad always told me, “Dan, if you continue to live in sin, God will deliver you and turn you away from that sin, but it will cause great pain and hurt.” I always got mad at my Dad when he told me that. I thought he was threatening me, when in reality, he was only warning me. I refused to turn from my drunken lifestyle and so God planned my “accident” to deliver me from my sin, and it has caused untold pain and grief.
If you find yourself getting drunk on weekends, stop before it gets worse. No one in high school plans on becoming an alcoholic and no one in high school believes he can become an alcoholic. I know I thought I could never be an alcoholic. If God allowed me to drink for just one more year, I have no doubt I would have become a raging alcoholic. I’ve met countless alcoholics in their early 20s since I’ve been in jail. None of them thought they would turn into alcoholics when they first started drinking. They all have the same story. They’ve left behind them a trail of ruined relationships, broken marriages and broken homes in their years of drunkenness. Just like me, they started drinking, thinking they could keep it under control. You can never control sin. If not for God’s grace to us, we would all be given over to our sins.
I’m just your every day, normal teenager trying to warn you to learn from my mistakes and experiences. I wish to God I could have learned a different way. However, this was God’s path for me. I hope and pray you learn from my life, so that nothing like this happens to you.
God loves his children. “For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6). His chastisement may be excruciatingly painful. If you are caught up in drinking or drugs, forsake it and turn to God, or God will turn you from them through whatever means.
If you are telling yourself that drunkenness or drugs has too strong a hold on you so you can’t quit, you are just making excuses for yourself just like I did. God himself says in Scripture, that “for every temptation, he offers an escape.” Pray to God to deliver you from your lifestyle and lean on him for your every need. He will not fail you. He cannot fail you. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
We must seek to glorify and serve God in all that we do, say and think. Alcohol and drug abuse have no part in that calling. Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us plainly: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Let my life be an example to you. Do not allow alcohol, or drug abuse, into your life.