Yeah, that sounded familiar.
“One night I was at the bar with a couple of friends and it was getting late. I had what I thought was a couple of drinks. I didn’t think I was drunk, and no one stopped me. No one was like, ‘hey, drunk guy shouldn’t be driving.’ I left. I got in my car and I started to drive home. I didn’t make it. I wrecked, but right there is where our similarities ended.”
I couldn’t look away.
“I totaled my car, but I was basically uninjured. Sure, I was bruised a bit, but I walked away from the accident with nary a scratch.” The smile faded from his lips. “But I didn’t hit a barrier wall, Andrea. I hit another car.”
At that moment, I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.
“His name was Glenn Dixon. He was thirty-six years old and he was getting off from his shift at one of the warehouses in the city,” he continued quietly. “He was married and had two children. One was four and the other was seven.” Pausing, he drew in a deep breath. “I didn’t realize I’d crossed the center line until it was too late. I tried to swerve, but it was virtually a head-on collision. He died on the scene.”
I closed my eyes then. “Oh my God…”
“My actions took his life. One decision. One choice. I got behind the wheel of a car, and although I spent time in jail for it and I’ll spend the rest of my life making damn sure I try to stop another person from making that one choice, I will never fully pay for what I did.”
Horror filled me—horror for the deceased man’s family and even for Dave, because I couldn’t imagine living with something like that. But that horror—God, that horror—was also for how close I’d come to becoming Dave.
“So, let me ask you again, Andrea,” he said, and I opened my eyes. “Am I a terrible person?”
I never answered Dave’s question. I tried to give him an answer, but I never found the right words, and it wasn’t until later that I realized there was no right or wrong answer to that.
At first, I did look at him differently. I hated to admit that about myself, but I couldn’t help it. He’d killed someone. Accidentally, a dozen or so years ago, but he’d made a choice that had ended with someone losing his life.
And his story, what he confided, hit close to home. That could’ve been me, but it wasn’t. Not because I did anything different or better than Dave. I had luck on my side that night. Just damn luck.
Did I think Dave was a terrible person? That was a stone I wasn’t ready to cast, and there was a good chance I would never be able to, but something about his story not only hit home for me, but shook things up hardcore.
I wasn’t Dave. Whether it was due to luck or what, I wasn’t him. I, for the most part, could walk away from all of this and move forward without major baggage. I could get to that happily ever after, but I was going to have to work hard.
So I stayed in treatment longer than was required. Not because I was hiding, but because I knew, deep down, I knew that I still needed help. I needed to learn to recognize when I was feeling depressed and what those quiet moments signified. I needed to develop better coping mechanisms, and that’s what Dave and the staff helped with. When I started to become restless, it was time to pick up a book, go watch a movie or take a walk, call a friend or visit family. I learned that I needed to open myself up. I had an amazing support system right at my fingertips. I just needed to allow myself to use them.
But I was leaving, after all that.
My suitcase was packed up and my parents would be arriving soon to pick me up. I’d briefly considered moving back in with them, but right then, I was sure I could handle being on my own.
I would be attending therapy sessions once a week and Dave was hooking me up with local AA meetings. Even though my addiction to alcohol was not as severe, it was still an addiction. The outpatient therapist would determine if I needed medication to help keep balance or if I could continue without meds.
When I left my little room for the last time, I went and saw Dave. He was in his office, with that damn baseball in his hand. I didn’t say anything as I placed my suitcase down and walked to where he stood by his desk.
I stretched out, wrapped my arms around him, and gave him a quick, tight hug. Settling back, I exhaled softly. “Thank you. For everything.”
A quirky grin appeared. “You’re going to be okay.”
“I know,” I said, without hesitation. “And even if I’m not okay, I’m going to be okay.”
I nodded and then turned, heading back to my suitcase. “Goodbye, Dave.”
“Make yourself proud,” he called as I walked out. “Don’t forget, Andrea, make yourself proud.”
That was something I wouldn’t forget as I walked down the wide hall, toward the doors leading to the reception area. Make yourself proud. That’s what mattered, because I could still be a daughter, a sister, a friend, and maybe even a girlfriend one day. I could be a teacher or I could be whatever I wanted. I could be all these things.
This was the new normal—my new normal, and I was going to be brave. I was going to use that courage some had seen in me long before I ever had.
My legs burned and my heart thundered as my sneakers pounded on the treadmill. The whole damn thing was shaking, but I didn’t slow down. It was early, way too damn early to be up and running, but once I woke up, I couldn’t go back to sleep.