An Arkansas man received a rude awakening when he almost died in a horrific crash while driving drunk in 2015. Miraculously, he walked away from that tragic accident, became sober and started a relationship with Christ.
Now the National Guard veteran shares his story to show teens that drinking and driving is never worth it.
If you met Justin Craven when he was in high school, you would have met a young teenager who was drinking frequently, experimenting with drugs and was often the life of the party.
Because of the influence of his abusive, alcoholic stepfather and his apologetic mother, he was living a 21-year-old lifestyle when he was only 16.
“It started early in life and just was a downhill spiral from there until my wreck,” Craven told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal.
“Leading up to (the wreck), I was always a people person, a party person,” he said. “We went on all these trips and I was the guy that everybody had to have there to party, so in my head I had built up this reputation for myself and made myself believe I was higher above everything and as long as I partied hard everything was good and everyone liked me.”
He continued to live this lifestyle until he was in his mid-20s.
On Feb. 21, 2015, Craven was in Nashville, Tennessee, to watch an MMA fight. At this point in his life, Craven was drinking alcohol and doing drugs socially, and would sometimes even use cocaine to boost his performance at work.
He had been awake for three days straight and desperately wanted to sleep, so he returned to his hotel room around midnight and quickly realized that his roommates were only interested in continuing to party.
After debating with his roommates, Craven decided to join the party instead of continuing to resist it. Around 2 a.m., however, he decided that he really did need to go to sleep. He somehow obtained the keys to his best friend’s grandpa’s car and left Nashville to head toward Memphis, about a three-hour drive.
“I don’t know where I went, what I did. I don’t really remember much of the night,” he said.
When he checked his bank statements later, they showed that he stopped at a gas station and bought energy drinks. His friends also told him that his Snapchat stories showed him driving on Nashville back roads.
After getting on westbound Interstate 40, Craven’s car drifted across the median at mile marker 123 around 6 a.m. In the four hours he had been driving since leaving the party, he’d only traveled an hour and a half away from Nashville.
“I guess I fell asleep, but I hit an 18-wheeler pretty much head on doing about 60-70 miles per hour,” Craven recalled. He was pronounced dead by first responders and the car was mangled beyond recognition.
He was rushed to the hospital in nearby Jackson, Tennessee, and was later transported to Regional One in Memphis. He flatlined four times before he was placed into a medically-induced coma.
Craven fought for his life in the hospital for months after the crash and later went to a rehabilitation center to help him regain basic functions.
Family and friends in his life rallied around him and celebrated his wins and encouraged him to keep pushing through the hard times, but one nurse’s quiet acts of faith had an even larger impact on him.
“She would pray for me every night when I was in the Trauma ICU when I couldn’t talk or anything,” Craven said. “She would write bible verses and hang them up in my room. That’s when it all started to click — that I’m still here for a reason, there’s a higher power.”
Before the accident, Craven described his relationship with God as passive, but the accident served as a serious wake-up call.
“I would always pray that if anything bad were to happen, that it would happen to me because I felt like I could handle it and I didn’t want to see any my friends suffer. So after years and years of that being in my prayers, God was like, ‘Alright, here ya go. Something bad’s gonna happen and it’s gonna happen to you.'”
“I feel like He’s used me ever since then to be a light and to be a beacon. I’m sober now. I’m living a healthy life,” he continued.
Now he shares his story with high school teenagers in hopes of discouraging them from falling into the same lifestyle that almost killed him four years ago.
“I try my best to reach out to the struggled youth,” he said. “Because it all starts 14, 15, 16. By time you hit 18, you have a choice. You can keep going that way or straighten up and go the other way and sometimes by the time we get to that choice we’re too far in and just go down that road.”
“I owe it all to God,” he told Liftable. “One hundred percent. The prayer warriors I had were awesome. The doctors and nurses, they were amazing. The first responders were great, but every doctor thought I was going to die. Everybody thought I was going to be paralyzed.”
“I think God just had more plans for me and I can tell by what he’s doing with me now that I’m living out his plan.”
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