My name is Stephanie Wells and I was a successful student experiencing functionality with my mental illness and substance abuse issues. The story following is one about a fall from grace that I hope no one has to experience in their life. I hope you consider the benefits of this story and can offer me help in sharing it to continue the legacy of Michael Rankin’s life so that no family has to feel as his has and will, or how mine has and does, as there are victims on both sides of MY decision to drink and drive. Please take the time out of your busy day to read, consider, and comprehend it. I think it is a great story for all with mental illness and who turn to self medication.
On July 19,2014 I was driving on market street away from downtown. I had been drinking hours earlier, eaten, and even hung out for a while at a friends house before deciding to leave. Knowing I had done this many times before, feeling “sober”, and being from Wilmington, I felt safe to drive. I typed another friend’s address in my GPS and started on my way. I was not speeding. I was paying attention to the road. But then my phone’s GPS spoke to me. Even though I knew I was far away from having to turn or anything, I looked down at the phone. Had I not looked down, I would have seen the car in front of me move to the other lane to avoid someone hunched in the street next to a moped. The next thing I remember is looking up and the crash. The sound terrified me, and at this point my first instinct was to get to my house (which was about 2 miles away) and figure out what happened and what to do. I did not know if I ran off the road and hit a tree, hit something, or hit someone.
Once arrived at home, I ran into the house screaming and my roommate and best friend(who works for the Sheriff Dept) woke up and ran to me asking what happened. For minutes I couldn’t speak I was crying and mumbling. Finally she went outside, saw the damage and saw blood (which she didn’t tell me about for months later). She came inside and asked me what happened. I told her the same story as above. She encouraged me to call 911 and at least turn myself in for having the accident at all. SO I dialed 911 and told them who I was and what happened and where I was. Before I got off the phone, police showed up at my house. The cab driver had taken my plates and they traced them back to my parents house, who then told them where I lived at the time. Many questions, and a field sobriety test later and I was riding in the car next to a detective on the way to the WPD.
After collecting basic information, my blood, and gathering my fingerprints and picture, they brought me in for questioning. I told them the same story as above. They eventually tell me that I hit and killed a man who died instantly on scene. I became hysterical as they left the room I was crying and yelling and literally beating myself up wishing I was dead.
Many months later, about a year and a half to be exact, the court date had arrived. I had chosen to plead guilty on all charges. This had gone on for too long waiting in limbo, and after a recent suicide attempt I became aware that facing this punishment was the right thing to do. By nothing short than a miracle the judge that day granted me 60 months supervised probation and 250 hours of community service. Along with that I had a curfew of 6pm-7am until further notice. To me this was amazing and I truly believe a miracle happened on that day.
Since that decision, I have feverishly been trying to set up talks with colleges, college programs, national level organizations, even recovery organizations/ Although being turned down time and time again, I will not give up, not only because of the judges’ sentence on me, but because i LITERALLY said I would NOT give up on this or on Michael ever again. I have been refused to speak at local schools in my county, and been lucky to be allowed to speak for 30 mins every week at the community college. I know that trusting in God, remaining strong in sobriety, and keeping Michael in my prayers that one day opportunity will open up for me in Wilmington North Carolina and beyond.
This long email has a point. After pleading guilty and beginning research to present my talks, I came accross Matthew’s video “I Killed a Man”. Like him, I made a mistake. A mistake I live with every day, and one that I know longer hide from or run from. I want more victim’s saved than video’s of remorse. Please.