"I felt like I was okay to drive," James Caldemeyer says in a video testimony for I Am Second, reminiscing a night of heavy drinking.
His memory is vague. He has recollections of someone saying the paramedics were coming, a woman crying out, rolling down the window to get some fresh air blowing in on him. He was in a sleepy state, he says, moving in and out of consciousness. He felt like he was in a dream. He caught a glimpse of his family. Other than that, nothing but cold, chaos, and confusion.
James sighs, a painful, heavy sigh. "The guilt, the anguish, and the hurt that came upon my shoulders was overwhelming," he says. "I've never felt anything like it in my life."
"I'd really done it. I'd really let myself become so far out of control even I couldn't fix it now. And I remember after getting out of the hospital and being taken into custody, falling to my knees and crying out to God: 'Please help me, please help me, please help me'."
"What have I done?"
James was 21 years old when he crossed the center line of the highway and hit an oncoming vehicle head on. The driver of the other car did not survive.
James was driving drunk. He spent seven years in prison as a result of the accident and lost everything he had— his job, his family, and his wife of mere months.
He says he felt so bad about the situation, and so bad for being responsible for the woman's death, that he "just really didn't want to live anymore".
James grew up in a loving home where his parents taught him about Christ at an early age. As he became older he sought excuses for why not to live for God, and quickly became dependent on alcohol.
James' time in prison after the accident helped him build his relationship with God.
"When I cried out to God, He came to me in my time of need," he says.
"I think for some people God reaches through subtlety and I think He is able to touch the lives of people in different ways. In my instance it was an iron fist of love.
"And when I surrendered my life to Him..." James pauses and shakes his head at the recollection. "It just changed. Everything changed."
Free of disabling guilt and shame, James rebuilt his life, complete with a beautiful wife and family, and is a bass fishing guide on the world famous Lake Fork in Texas.
He shares his story of recovery and redemption with others, and has shared his testimony at various church events, outdoor ministries, revivals, youth groups and schools.
"If it hadn't been for His mercy and undeserved love in my life, I'd either be dead right now or in prison," he says.
"Alcohol is not even a part of my life anymore."
"In fact I encountered a situation shortly after my accident," he recalls, "and that's when I knew Christ was real to me— when I was confronted with alcohol, the thing I was most weak to in my life, and He gave me power over that, not in a strength I had ever known but a strength that was new to me."
"I knew it was God. I knew He was real." •