Horror crash: wakeup call

Former alcoholic imprisoned for manslaughter gains strength to live differently

James Caldemeyer
Professional fishing guide James Caldemeyer

The terrifying consequences of a one-time lapse in judgement came crashing down on young newlywed James Caldemeyer as he lay semi-conscious on the side of the highway.

The professional fishing guide and angler says his nightmare began when a hard day's work lead to him succumbing to his alcohol addiction at the bar and driving home one too many drinks later.

The result was a seven-year prison sentence for drunk-driving that killed the driver of an oncoming car when he drifted into the centre line of the highway.

"The guilt and the anguish and the hurt that came upon my shoulders was overwhelming," James recalls.

"I had never felt anything like it in my life and I knew that I had really done it. I had really let myself become so far out of control that even I couldn't fix it now."

Released from hospital into custody, James remembers feeling suicidal and got down on his knees in tears and desperation asking God for help.

"When I cried out to God He came to me in my time of need," he explains. "I think for some people God reaches through subtly and I think He is able to touch the lives of people in different ways. In my instance it was an iron fist and hard love."

James had grown up in a loving Christian family where he was taught about the sacrifice Jesus had made to bring forgiveness and life to those who seek it but instead he chose to go his own way and quickly became dependent on alcohol instead.

“Through all that happened I lost my business, I lost my family and I lost a wife that I was newlywed to”Making excuses for why he did not want to live for God, he says, "God knew that I had to reach my bottom before I would open my eyes".

"I was so hard headed that I didn't want to accept Him (as Lord and Saviour) and when I cried out to Him with a plea of just 'come help me and Lord if You'll help me through this I will surrender'."

When his selfish lifestyle finally caught up with him, James says it was this act of surrendering to God that turned his whole situation around.

"Through all that happened I lost my business, I lost my family and I lost a wife that I was newlywed to," he says.

"I lost everything that this life had given me and I had earned in this life on my own will but Jesus had also given me freedom from sin and freedom from the life that I was living through His forgiveness and His love and His grace (undeserved love). If it hadn't of been for His mercy and grace in my life I'd either be dead right now or in prison somewhere rotting away."

After turning away from his sin and turning to Jesus the rest of James' prison sentence only served to strengthen his relationship with God and, now a free man, he tells of how his life was mercifully restored.

"Alcohol is not even a part of my life anymore," he explains. "In fact I encountered a struggle with this situation shortly after I accepted Jesus Christ. I knew that Christ was real to me when I was confronted with the single thing I was most weak to in my life.

"Jesus gave me new power over that, it was not in the strength that I had. I just knew it was God and I knew He was real. I knew He had power over sin and it was evident in my life."

Today James is also grateful for a beautiful wife and daughter and an enjoyable career as a bass fishing guide on the world famous Lake Fork in Texas.

With new purpose he also takes every opportunity to share his life-changing story of recovery and redemption with others wherever the opportunity presents itself.

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