Yep, I was only 17

At about 12:10 a.m. on April 21, 1985, I got in the car with my main mate TS.  We’d been drinking and I was a passenger in his 1985 Accord Coupe.  When I woke-up in the hospital 9 days later, I learned we’d wrapped around a telephone pole and I’d had three seizures and been in a coma.  Thanks to the incredible skill of paramedics and crisis workers, I’d been rushed to the UCLA Medical Center, where they definitely saved my life.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but at some point I was told that one of the paramedics had nightmares about our accident.

I figured it was all just bad luck.  After all, my main friend group and larger friend group all did the same stuff.  Or at least that’s what I figured; I didn’t look too closely. Regardless, I was like many 17-year-olds with no impulse control, and I was in pretty deep with some bad stuff.

I hid it pretty well.  After all, I was a good (enough) student and athlete, and I had plenty of friends.  I didn’t get into my top choice, but I was admitted to a pretty damn good college.  My friends’ parents thought I was top-notch; one even nicknamed me with their last name.  I was a nice kid.  I washed my grandmother’s kitchen floor for spare cash and had a summer job at the GAP when I was 15.  I got along pretty well with my parents.  Not too long ago, my mom told me that I really never went through the obnoxious adolescent phase.  But like I said, I hid it pretty well.

I think it’s easy to pass the blame around.  With a magnifying glass, my parents might have noticed the subtle signs and supervised me more.  My friends’ parents should have supervised us more and made sure we didn’t have such easy access to alcohol.  Blah-blah-blah.  Bottom line, we were very skilled at misdirection.  Pretty much every weekend, we told our parents we were at the movies.  And we did see a few movies, but bottom line is that “movies” were a euphemism for other activities.  And these poor choices were all on us.

Over the years, I’ve developed a positive spin on all this mess.  Because I was mentally fuzzy and my memory was shot, my parents made the decision to keep me at home rather than sending me away college.  And this was a fabulous choice.  Despite some cognitive challenges, I somehow got really good grades at the local community college and reapplied and was admitted to my top choice school.

I definitely had a big bump in the road.  Not long before I left for college, I was taken off medication, and thought I was in the clear.  Once there, I rushed a fraternity and participated fully in the social options I was provided.  I had a seizure and went back on medication.  I didn’t call it epilepsy back then, but I knew I got seizures sometimes and needed to take better care of myself.

Back on track, I applied and was accepted to be a Resident Assistant in the dorms.  About halfway through the year, my boss told me he thought I’d really, really enjoy being a camp counselor at this really special place, and I gave it a try.  I fully embraced the experience and met this really pretty and nice woman, who somehow figured I’d be a pretty good dude to marry (about 10 years after we met).  There’s way more, but bottom line, I had a ton of personal growth, and a lot of really good stuff came directly and indirectly from my incredibly poor choices.

When I started writing, my intention was to focus on how grateful I should be.  But if I’m being 100% honest, I’m having a really difficult time embracing these positives today.  Instead, I’m focusing on how I should have had the confidence not to get in the car with my friend.  And this makes me mad.  And the fear of another seizure is always in the back of mind and guides all of my choices.  And this stinks.  I’m also not sure I’ll ever have a driver’s license again.  This also stinks!  I realize I’m having a temper tantrum and I should be grateful that I’m not the kid in the Dear Abby article who died after similar choices.  But for now, I’m just feeling kind of angry.  Tomorrow, I’ll feel better and more grateful.  Because I definitely should.

For now, this parent, spouse, and therapist goes through life walking and riding public transportation, instead of driving, doing the best I can.

Until next time…

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