Written by David Means on August 18th, 2013.
This is the miraculous story of how I came to see the true light of life despite living in a world of total darkness.
As a child in a small rural community, I seemingly had it all. My family camped every weekend, putting hundreds of miles on our motorcycles as we road on mountain trails. I was a standout on my Junior High track team and a star on my championship church basketball team. I was an honor roll student every quarter of Junior High and was voted “Most likely to succeed” by my 8th grade class, yet something was missing. I never felt accepted or that I measured up to anyone else. Was it because I was occasionally picked on or was it just my shy introverted nature that prevented me from seeking the help I needed to sort out my adolescent feelings? In any event, when I started Junior High, I wanted to be like my older brother and his friends. I began smoking cigarettes anytime I had the chance. I found acceptance in a friend whose family was our closest friends. He introduced me to drugs and alcohol. Throughout high school, my drug and alcohol use began to control my life. My grades began to drop and I was no longer an honor roll student and no longer participated with the track team. Drug and alcohol use increased after I graduated from high school. My relationships struggled, and my desire was to get higher each year than the previous. My life was on a downhill spiral to nowhere. I could not stop. Thoughts of suicide became strong. My roommate had a 22-caliber handgun, which I took with me several times, as I drove around thinking about ending my life and where I might do it. Finally, I could take it no more. I was depressed about a recent break-up with my girlfriend. My cousin invited me to her New Year’s Eve party. I was having a good time but just before midnight, something clicked. The time was now. My addiction to drugs and alcohol left me no way out of the misery my life had become. I felt so helpless. The fifth of Jack Daniels clouded my judgment. I was compelled to leave the party. I drove home to my empty house, located my roommate’s handgun and went into one of the empty bedrooms and pulled the trigger, attempting to end it all with just one shot.
My older brother came home later that night and found me in the bathtub. He rushed me to the hospital where I received immediate attention. I recall going in and out of consciousness as the medical team prepared to transport me to another hospital equipped to handle my trauma. After surgery, I awoke to a completely new world. It was a world of darkness. The bullet had penetrated the frontal lobe of my brain and severed both optic nerves. My sense of smell and sight were both gone, yet I was alive! Miraculously, I was given another chance. I could either focus on self-pity or choose to right the wrongs of my former life.
I spent three weeks recovering in the hospital. The third week was spent in the psychiatric ward where I felt I did not belong. While there, I met a rehabilitation counselor who was also blind. She felt it was important to get me out of the hospital and into rehabilitation as soon as possible. She showed me how to use a white cane. I learned quickly. My drive and determination to show my family and friends that I was not crazy was extremely strong. Once I was released from the hospital, she introduced me to braille and enrolled me in a rehab program.
Rehabilitation was expected to take anywhere from nine to 13 months. My determination to prove myself meant I completed the program in 9 months. Transitioning to my new world of darkness seemed easy under the controlled setting of the rehabilitation center. Fortunately, the only damage I sustained in my suicide attempt was the loss of my sense of smell and sight. My mental faculties were still intact.
Equipped with independent living skills, I enrolled in community college which posed a new set of challenges and frustrations. I could no longer read a book the way I used to or move about without bumping into things. There are many obstacles on a college campus. The textbooks on cassette tapes were always outdated; I either had to take notes in braille or record them using a cassette recorder. The college provided reader service, which I used extensively for lab work and research. My motivation to succeed and prove myself to family and friends propelled me to make the Dean or President’s list every quarter of community college. I graduated with honors and was proud to be the student speaker at the commencement ceremony. I then transferred to a university where I completed my bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Degree in hand, it was now time to seek employment. Months passed and interview after interview only reinforced my fears that no matter how positive my attitude was or how confident I was, blindness seemed to be an insurmountable barrier to employment. Nobody seemed to understand what it took me to get that degree. I often wondered if I would ever lead a normal life again. Fortunately, a government agency opened a new call center and I was offered a job as a teleservice representative. I have experienced a great deal of success during the past 24 years of employment. I have received several promotions and honorary citations and believe my life to be as normal as it can ever be.
Every day I am reminded of the sheer reality that barring a miracle, I will undoubtedly live the remainder of my life as a person who is blind. Tragic as this may seem, it is a true testimony to the “Amazing Grace” I have experienced through my faith in Jesus and the ability we all have to overcome adversity.
Adjusting to my new life has been a daily process through which I now see the value of life better than I had before.
In 1990, I married a woman with whom I now have six children who now range in age from three to seventeen. Although life for us is different than for most families, we live life to the fullest. Despite living in total darkness, I try to do those things I would have done with my sight. I fix things around the house, including repairing shingles on the roof. I take family vacations, camp, and waterski. I am involved in every aspect of my children’s lives, and I live each day in thankfulness for my second chance.
I pray this story will inspire people to never give up, no matter how impossible life may seem. It goes to show that everyone's life has meaning and a plan that is beyond what can be imagined if they just hang on through the difficult times and never give up!