The road cuts through the cracked ground on a rainy day heading toward clear sky and light.

My Healing Journey From a Life Altering Car Accident

Written by Alexis De Santo

My entire life has been what you could describe as a healing journey. I had experienced trauma as a child, dealt with substance abuse, and complicated relationships with family.

My healing journey and spiritual awakening began in prison. I did my best to continue with my recovery and live a healthy life when I was released.

Moving forward from a past like mine was challenging, but I was trying to remain positive. I had moved into my own place and had a good job. However, this job required long hours and late nights.

As a result, my careful attempt to focus on healing would go awry on a dark Florida highway one night a few years ago.

That fateful night at 3:35 a.m., the familiar stretch of highway became the backdrop for a life-altering encounter. The darkness of the Veterans Suncoast Highway 589, usually a peaceful solace for my thoughts, was the scene of an inexplicable loss of control.

A Close Call in the Dark

It was particularly lonely that night, with not another car in sight. The lights that lined my entrance onto the highway always seemed welcoming and inviting. However, I had long left them behind as I was well into my just under an hour’s drive.

The drive to and from work has always been a highlight for me. It was a chance to reflect upon the important things happening in my daily life. One might say it is where I found peace and a sense of self. That night, I was thinking about a past roommate, old friends, and all my feelings regarding the future of my life.

A sudden swerve and a sequence of events overshadowed my affection for the solitary drive I had never before experienced. My attempt to correct the spin of my car was futile; the guardrail collision stripped away any illusion of control.

I can’t count the number of tired nights where I haven’t made it 20 minutes into the drive without having to stop and sleep an hour in my car. Exhaustion would just take over, be it from what some believe is undiagnosed sleep apnea or my blood disorder of beta-thalassemia (never enough iron in my blood). I can say “tired” is my middle name.

I’ve had nights where I’ve called anyone and everyone who could talk to me to help aid me in my quest to get home safely. I’ve even inconvenienced friends to get me because the thought of keeping my eyes open is just too much to bear.

That road and I shared countless moments of tires veering off the road until those ever-lovely bumps jarred me awake. I would do a quick once over around and think it’s okay; nobody saw.

The Crash Itself and The Ensuing Trauma

This was not a night like that. I had no idea it would be the start of a new healing journey. This was a good night, so understanding what happened is even harder.

Everyone asks me if I fell asleep. I don’t have an answer. All I know is I felt my car pull to the left and felt the bumps. Everything after that was something I’d never experienced before.

My overcorrection sent the car spinning, and I tried to focus on fixing it. Trying to turn into the spin and all the other most important things that years of driving taught me. Once my car smashed into the guardrail, I knew it didn’t matter what I did.

I remember feeling this pressure and pain. Closing my eyes, I thought, “This is it, this is how it ends… this is how I die.” I waited as the car spun to see what would happen next. However, there was nothing. The car stopped, and I wasn’t hurt more.

Stranded in the middle of the road with my wrecked vehicle, I tried to start it. Nothing happened. I hit my hazard lights, and nothing. I stepped out of the car to see the damage, wondering why I had no lights and couldn’t start it.

It wasn’t good. The front end was damaged badly. Yet, it was not as bad as it was going to get.

I only glimpsed my car before another car came rushing towards me. The car side-swiped my vehicle, missing me by just inches! I held my breath as I watched her car veer off the road.

Finding a light in the dark is part of the healing journey

This woman wrecked her car because of me. The thought she had suffered physical injury or trauma made me sick. Thinking about everything all at once sent me into an emotional spiral.

Would I go back to prison for this? What do I do? Do I run?

I had so many thoughts at once that I simply went off instinct. There was no light, and they couldn’t see the car. We needed light…

I raced back to the car, desperately trying to turn on a light. Yet again, there was nothing.
I imagine this psychological duress is similar to how a firefighter feels when they have learned there’s still someone inside.

I was dialing 911 when the other driver got out of the car and shouted for me to turn my flashlight on. While I was scrambling around with switches and ignitions, Einstein over there had all the answers.

The 911 operator kept asking me where I was like I was in a commercial for some fabulous new feature of the most recent cell phone:

The next time you’re asked where you are, your phone will automatically shout your Lat and Long coordinates or ‘you’re a mile from this block and 2/3 of a mile from this block’, giving the exact location to whoever is asking.

As is Often The Case When on a Healing Journey

It was going to get worse before it got better.

I just kept saying, “Lady, I have no idea where I’m at. Except to tell you, I’m in between highways 54 and 52.”

Then, a rock truck comes out of nowhere. There was no warning for me or the trucker. The wreckage of my car was feet from me. However, the sound of metal twisting from this collision was vastly different.

He smashed head-on into my car. The truck hit my vehicle with so much force it moved it from the middle of the road to somewhere off the shoulder. Thank God the truck did not flip.

I was frantic and yelling at the 911 operator because somebody needed to get there now. People were being hurt.

Shortly after that, the cavalry arrived: 16 ambulances, 12 cop cars, four tow trucks, and a couple of road rangers and servicemen from the road blocked off the 589.

There were a series of questions from many people, although they all asked the same questions:

  • What happened?
  • Are you hurt?
  • Is that your car?

Honestly, everything else after that is pretty much a blur. However, the one thing I remember is that the response from everyone was, “You’re lucky to be alive!”

The author's wrecked car with the entire front end crumpled and the driver side door hanging off.

The Aftermath of the Crash

Is it still considered a near-death experience if your heart never stops and you haven’t fought your way back from the other side? After this experience, I’m going to say, “Yes.”

Thankfully, the accident did not claim my life, but it left deep scars on my soul. My mother’s support has strengthened me in these hard times. Yet, the path to healing remained uncertain.

This crash left me feeling depressed as several things unfolded over a short period of time. I had no car or job because the PTSD of driving late at night was too much, and I felt a lot of mental anguish and grief. I tried to lean into the support of those around me. However, finding positivity when your life seems in shambles again is difficult.

I initially wrote the first part of this story right after the accident. I shared it in a post that started off with:

I’m not on social media a ton. I’m not someone who reaches out to people who I love to tell them all about my daily life or even the bigger events. But, as I lay here and try to understand, to cope, and to feel better, I’m going to turn to an outlet that hopefully doesn’t bite me in the ass…

The New Healing Journey That Started After This Incident

I found out that I was pregnant shortly after this accident. I never thought I would have kids in this life. Already into my thirties, still trying to find healing, being a mom seemed impossible.

However, I was excited in my own way, even though I had no idea what to expect. I tried to focus on what I needed to do for this tiny human inside me.

I managed to keep it together until after he was born. However, he had a blood sugar problem and had to stay in the NICU. The doctor said he was fine and just needed a little help. However, the whole process was such a mental strain. Despite my family offering guidance, support, and love, I fell into old habits.

My drug abuse addiction would remind me that even though I had been clean for years, there is no cure. Suddenly, there was a social worker involved in my son’s life. And inpatient therapy and a support group for me.

Including a therapist, a drug counselor, and all my family members trying to set boundaries. My sisters and I were barely talking to each other.

The counselor and therapist would remind me that my feelings were valid. I realized I was the only one responsible for my psychological wellness. A person in this situation often wonders how to begin the healing process.

Therapy and forward-thinking are great places to start.

Where I am at Currently in My Healing Journey

Healing yourself quote from Yoko Ono

The physical response to the accident that was the catalyst to one of my biggest setbacks has long healed. It will take longer for the emotional pain to heal. I am once again living with a sense of normalcy.

My child is now two, and he is doing well. I have a good job and live in Montana in a house that is all mine. It is human nature to survive, and as I begin this next chapter of my life, I feel hopeful.

In its own way, the accident helped remind me of the most important things in life.

I try to be a positive force in my son’s life and in the lives of the people I love. My family and sisters remind me to keep my body and spirit healthy. Moving forward has not been easy, but it has been rewarding.

When I wrote the first piece of this story to express all the trauma associated with the accident, I had no idea how I would heal.

Now, I recognize that healing takes time. It is not a straight line from incident to feeling better. The healing process involves a lot of self-discovery and examining the past.

It is how we respond to what happens. We might not control the surrounding cars, but we can take the first step away from the wreckage. I was looking for light that night on a lonely highway full of danger.

Part of my spiritual awakening has been the realization that there is a reason I did not die that night. I wasn’t even injured, and the baby I didn’t know I was carrying was fine.

Everything That Happens is Part of Our Identity

I am still here, finding my new identity as a single mom. Finding the balance between parenting, working, and managing my recovery as an addict is hard.

But I know I am not the only person affected by my choices. I am determined to be a good example for my son and create wonderful childhood memories for him. I want to help others on their own healing journey.

There is a freedom that can be found in shedding one identity and embracing a new one.

The past is there to offer guidance and help us develop into who we can be as we heal. Take the first step today, and you might be shocked at the good things that arise from the process of moving forward.

Remember, feeling depressed after something happens that sets you on the path to a healing journey is normal. Our culture is just starting to embrace the symptoms and repercussions of mental illness. We are all human, and no one is perfect.

Some Final Thoughts on My Healing Journey Toward a Happier Self

A quote from Jerry Cantrell about the healing process.

I hope you find peace in a healthy interest that offers you some balance in this crazy world. For me, it is crafting. I can get lost in the creative process for a bit and focus on my inner self.

Thankfully, I am working with a physician to help diagnose the sleep problem now. That has been quite the process, but I hope I will not always be that person who is tired.

As I navigate whatever comes next while striving to mend both body and spirit, I’m reminded of the freedom that comes from losing everything. Now, as I begin to focus on the new challenges that arise, I look for balance, peace, and purpose.

I wish you some positivity and resiliency wherever you might be on your healing journey. Sharing this story with others has helped me, and I hope it does the same for you.

1 thought on “My Healing Journey From a Life Altering Car Accident

  1. Anika

    I’m so glad you have found joy and purpose after such challenging experiences. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂


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