Personal Stories

Stephanie Wells

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.

Jeremy

I have always known that i did not like alcohol. I didn’t like what it can do to people. I did try it once, but i did not like the taste. And everyone knew that I didn’t like alcohol, especially when it comes to drinking and driving. To think that it would happen to me still shocks me to this day.

The incident was about 4 years ago, on January 2, 2011, on a rainy night, I was the victim of a drunk driving accident. I was heading home from work around 7:30pm, when I was T-boned by a drunk driver. I do not remember what had happened because I was knocked unconscious when I was hit and I was in a Coma for 3 days, then when I woke, I was put into a medical-induced coma. The last memory I had before the accident was from Christmas of 2010. I suffered a major-head trauma and a punctured lung. While in the hospital, I had to relearn how to walk again, and my mental functions have been impaired.
I was a lucky one. I count my blessings because I could have fared a lot worst, as a victim of a drunk driving accident. I am lucky to have only spent 3 days in a coma, and to have only spent 20 days in the hospital. I am lucky that I suffered no lasting physical damage.
Its bothers me that this kind of thing could happen to anyone. I was doing everything right that night: I don’t drink, I had my seat-belt on, I had a green light, but the next moment i was unconscious in my car bleeding from my head.

After I was out of the hospital, I was given the photos of my car, and the police report from my accident. I had no memory of the accident, that maybe a good thing, but i wanted to know what happened that night. Looking at the photos of my crashed vehicle and to read my police report, I can not imagine what the other witnesses saw that night. The one line in the report that scared both me and my father, was one line that wrote “the accident could be fatal for the driver, Cheung.” Also in the accident report, it wrote the drunk driver stated that he had only 2 glasses of wine that night, but he blew a 0.085. It goes on to describe the DUI investigation the officers did on the driver.

After this accident, it made me more adamant against drinking and driving. As much as i can do, I only wish that my friends took this more seriously, because someone that they know (me) was a victim of drinking and driving.

Jim

My name is Jim, I am now 24 years old & I reside in St. Louis, MO. On the night of June 29, 2012, nearly a year before this tragedy occurred, I could have been Matthew Cordle. I only say this because what happened to Matthew, could happen to anyone.
In reading Matthew’s story & watching his video, I immediately thought back to my night, the decision that I had made, the outcome, & how it could have been much, much worse. Fortunately my outcome was different, fortunately my terrible & selfish decision didn’t result in the loss of life, but it very easily could have, and it almost did.
I only share this with the hope that it will spare someone from making the decision that Matthew & myself made, & the hope that people who do drink & drive will realize that the dangers are REAL, and the results can be TRAGIC!
That early Summer night for me was just like Matthew’s, & just like any other average 22 year old guy’s. It was a Friday night in early Summer & all my friends were home from College. I had just gotten an internship for a well known local company, & I was going out to celebrate. I was also, like Matthew, secretly suffering from depression. So when I drank, I drank heavily just to feel good.
I met my friends at our favorite local bar & drank heavily until it closed. There was nothing unusual about this night yet, just another night out on the town. In fact, it had become so normal for me that the thought of me getting behind the wheel in my condition was always an afterthought. Sure I had seen all the MADD advertisements & heard about the countless tragedies involving drunk driving, but as always I was sure that it would never happen to me.
When the bar closed I did what I had done several times before. I got into my car with the full intention of driving home, little did I know that I wouldn’t make it this time. At around 2:00 in the morning, less than a mile from my house, I was so drunk that I fell asleep at the wheel. Miraculously I somehow swerved avoiding a white SUV (I have no memory of it,) went off the road, & crashed into a fence & telephone pole.
I have no memory of the accident, and I don’t even remember anything about me driving. My next memory was of the fire department prying my door open to get me out. Fortunately I was not seriously injured, however as I would find out the next day I was lucky to be alive, and I was not the only one.
That white SUV that I almost struck head on was of course driven by someone. A woman with a husband & two children. That night I could have killed an innocent wife, & mother. That night, I could have been Matthew Cordle.
I thank God every day for the fact that he spared me that night, but I thank God even more for the fact that I didn’t kill her. The mistakes that Matthew & I made may have had different outcomes, but they almost turned out exactly the same.
The fact is that Matthew is in jail right now for a crime that countless people commit every day. He did the exact same thing that I did, the only thing that was different was the tragic outcome. Which is exactly the point that I am trying to make.
The point of me sharing this story is this. Life is sacred! Call it luck or a miracle, but the only reason I am not in jail right now is because I was fortunate enough to not have killed an innocent person. Sadly for everyone involved, Matthew was not as fortunate.
So for all those reading this who drink & drive, or may be tempted to drink & dive, please heed the warnings of those who have been through it & don’t do it! I am very fortunate that it did not take another senseless tragedy for me to learn my lesson, but it almost did!
I will NEVER drink & drive again because of it, and nobody else should learn this way or especially Matthew’s way either. If you need help, reach out & get it. Putting someone’s life in danger is the most selfish thing a person could ever do. I know because I did just that. When you get behind the wheel after drinking, then that is exactly what you are doing! Think before you act and please don’t ever drink & drive!

Gabby

I was heading to see my boyfriend at his military base to end summer on a high note before I started the new chapter of my life as a College Student. I was traveling up the highway at dinner time on what I thought would be just another quite Sunday. However I was very wrong. I was listening to the radio and admiring the view when all of a sudden I was spinning out of control. Everything turned into slow motion as I was spun across not one but two lanes of the highway. As I entered the second lane I was spun facing on coming traffic. My body went num and all I can remember was bracing myself for what I thought would be the end of my life. By the grace of some guarding force I was quickly spun one more time avoiding oncoming cars, a highway sign, a metal railing, and pushed to a stop into a tree. “Am I dead or am I alive” was all I could think about”. I quickly picked up the phone and dialed my mom but all I could get out was blood curling screams. That was when 4 out of about 50 people rushed over to my car to pull me out. I don’t remember much after that but my most vivid memory was a firefighter taking my hand while I was on the backboard and saying words to me that I will never forget. ” Darling you need to say your prayers tonight because you are amazingly lucky, not only did you survive your accident but your gas tank was more than close to exploding. Do something great with this, be the change”. I am sitting and writing this three months later alive and unharmed. I want to help be the change to this completely preventable crime. So remember next time you pick up a drink put down your keys.

Jillian

My older brother passed away from drunk driving accident. He was passenger and the driver lost control. My brother, Miles, and the other passenger, Jackie got killed instantly. The driver survived and only went to jail for 2 years. He spent his 21st birthday in jail. It’s been 5 years and at my school we remember him still. We give a scholarship away to the football program, which my brother played in. Everyone don’t drink and drive. Imagine getting your loved one rip from you. Rest in peace Miles

Shanna

On the night of December 6, 2007 we had celebrated my father’s birthday with a dinner and each of us had went our separate ways home. At approximately 9:00pm that night I received a phone call that would change so many lives forever. My mother called to tell me that someone had drove their vehicle through my aunt’s living room and they could not find her. My parents were on their way to her house. So many things went rushing through my head at that time but never once did I think she would be found dead. Shortly after I received a second phone call that her body was found pushed from her living room straight through to the other side of her house by the vehicle and in fact she was deceased. From that point on things would never be the same for our family. I drove to her house where I met the rest of my family. In disbelief there we stood in the freezing cold in several inches of snow looking at an SUV that had come to rest in her house. That night my aunt had gone home from work early she was not feeling well and was killed while she sat on her couch by a drunk driver. Never before had I seen my father cry and fall to his knees in such helpless pain before. This was his baby sister that was gone, killed in such a tragic way and his birthday would never be the same. We did not know the name of the driver and his passenger right away. Once we found out I was made aware it was a person who I had just came into contact with two months prior. I had signed the person up on probation for an OVI and I was in fact his probation officer! I was supposed to be the person who monitored him and who tried to keep him in line from committing new offenses. My guilt was overwhelming at times to say the least. Also after finding out who was driving the vehicle my family and his family knew each other and had grown up in the same area of town.

The man that killed my aunt had known he was not legally allowed to be driving and had prior OVI convictions. In fact I was the one who told him two months prior what rules he was to follow! In the months leading to his trial for Vehicular Homicide I was subpoenaed to testify against him. I met with the prosecutor and told him I was not sure how I could get through this in a professional manner. I was told I had no choice and they needed me to help prove that the man that killed my aunt knew he was not supposed to be driving. Thankfully a couple weeks before the jury trial was to be held we received a call that the man who killed my aunt wanted to change his plea. Our family went to the change of plea hearing where he was sentenced the same day to 9 years in prison with out the possibility of being paroled or released early. The story however does not end there…

Approximately 7 years into his sentence I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to write this man and tell him what pain he had caused my family and what a wonderful person we now have to live without. My immediate family and I had forgiven him long before I had the courage to send him a letter. I personally needed to hear from him if he was truly remorseful and find out what he has done while in prison to better himself. We began communicating via letters and in fact it helped me in a way to heal, hearing in his own words how this has impacted his life as well. Over time there has been a strange bond between us that has grown and finding out that he is not the horrible monster we believed he was initially has helped my family in the healing process. We have been in contact over the past two years and I have gone to visit him a couple times. The first time face to face with the person who took such an important person from me and my family was emotionally overwhelming for me. I have since learned about his family and children and what guilt he lives with. I truly want to believe this will change his life for the better and once he is released he can be productive member of society. He has a life to finish living and it still hurts my family everyday knowing my aunt’s life was cut short at the age of 47 by his selfish actions. This has been a lesson in forgiveness; one that I never imagined would end up this way. Him and I have talked about sharing our story together someday if it can stop just one person from making the decision to drink and drive then it would be worth it.

My aunt was more than just my aunt she was a friend to me my entire life whom I could tell anything to and receive advice from. She had no children and we had a deal that once she was old and could no longer take care of herself I would make sure she was taken care of. She was loved in her community and was known for the love and compassion she showed to those she loved and strangers as well. She is missed everyday.

Anonymous

I would like to keep this anonymous please. I have an ex-friend, who I noticed a problem with drinking, smoking and other stuff. Being friends with this person made my life difficult.

We parted ways after a falling out. I received word (from other friends) that this person has had two recent DUIs. My wish is for this person to seek help ASAP!

P.S. please let this be a message to others—to stop drinking. Or to become a designated driver. Thank you.

Anonymus

2 years ago on August 31, 2012 my ex husband and the father of my 3 kids, went out to celebrate his 30th birthday. He ran a stop sign at 65mph and t-boned a SUV. Both him and his passenger were thrown from the car. He had a BAC of .08. Because of the lack of oxygen to his brain, he is not the same happy, go lucky, father of 3. His body can move, but his feet will never carry his 6’5 body across a threshold. His eyes are open, but there is no life in them. His ears can hear, but his lips will never speak. He is simply a body on a bed.

The kids love their dad, and ache to just hear one word from him. He will never be at their graduation, he will never be at their wedding, he will never give them a hug or kiss. He is simply a body on a bed.

And the hardest part is hearing my kids cry at night knowing I, as their mother, can not fix their pain, hearing my kids ask “why?” knowing there is no answer, hearing my kids say “I love you, dad” knowing their dad will never say it back.
This is my reality because he is simply a body on a bed.

He made the choice that night to drink and drive. He took his life into his own hands, while endangering everyone else on the road. Some say he got what he deserved because he was the “dumbass” who choose to do something so pointless, but I ask you did my kids deserve it? Do my kids deserve to live their life without him? Tell me would you be able to look my kid in the eye and tell them to “get over it?” What would you tell your kids, if you were wearing my shoes?

Think about who you would be hurting, if you choose to drink and drive. Drinking and Driving affects all of the people involved not just the family of the person you could kill, it affects the drunk driver’s family, friends, and loved ones too.
The choice to drink and drive is never a smart one, please think about who your choice is going to hurt when things go horribly wrong. Think about who is going to tell your family, you aren’t coming home.

Please remember to never drink and drive, the life you save just might be your own.

Mia

On my birthday on July 6, 2014 my uncle and a close family friend died because of a drunk driving accident. My uncle, my cousin and his friend were on the highway driving back from a July Fourth trip. A large truck going 50 mph more than my uncle hit his truck. The two people in the truck were drunk. It took more than three hours to free my uncle, but he was already dead as was our close family friend. My cousin is the only survivor of the two vehicles. I am sharing this story with you as a way to cope and to ask you to never ever drive drunk.

Yasmin

On February 9th, 2013, my life changed. Through a series of unfortunate events, a bunch of friends and I ended up in a ditch on the side of the road in front of a strangers yard. It was 1am and we were in the middle of a snow storm. We were careful for cars zooming on the slick snowy roads, and made sure to not stand too close to the roads. But all of our precaution wasn’t enough. After about half an hour to 45 minutes of being stranded, I remember hearing my friend scream. I don’t remember what I was doing or where exactly I was standing at that moment, but the only thing I remember was seeing a white sedan coming straight at me. The way the driver swerved off the road almost seeming like it was intentional. She wasn’t driving recklessly until she was  close to us. There was nothing i could do. The car and my body collided. Nothing was in slow motion. It was fast and dark. I almost felt like or at least my perception was that I was run over, because of how dark it all seemed. Next thing I knew, I was laying in the snow behind everyone. I was the first person to get hit and I was thrown the farthest away from my initial impact. What pursued was the normal screaming, crying, and dialing of 911. I wasn’t in noticeable pain initially, but i couldn’t move. I wiggled my toes and my fingers to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed. That night was terrifying. I was carried inside to wait for the ambulance to come. I have never been in so much pain. I knew there was something wrong with my shoulder. I was told not to go to sleep in the ambulance out of fear of not waking up. My arm was so swollen, my coat had to be cut off. I wasn’t given any painkillers because they thought I was still 17 years old and needed my parents permission apparently, but even though they thought I was still 17, they never even tried to get in contact with my family. I was alone. I tried having my friends mother contact my family. No one answered. The first person that answered the phone was my stepmother, who lives in florida. The accident was in Pennsylvania. I had completely fractured my upper humerus, shattered the head of my humerus and dislocated my shoulder. I had surgery and have a metal plate in a arm as well as this huge scar since I didn’t heal very well. Even though it is still a year and a half later I am still dealing with the whole legal process. It was her second DUI, and all I want is an apology.