Ohio State alumnus Adam Helbling just published his first book. However, four years ago Helbling’s waterskiing would have taken vast priority over writing.
His ability to waterski, though, was hindered after a major car accident in 2011, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. His experience is detailed in his memoir “Well…I Guess I’m Not Jesus,” which was published in February.
In 2005, Helbling entered OSU as a Mount Leadership Society scholar with a full scholarship.
“I did a lot of volunteer work and leadership training and immediately got involved in the waterskiing team,” he said. “One of the reasons I came to Ohio State was the waterskiing team.”
Helbling said he did well his freshman year. He lived in a fraternity his second year, which proved detrimental to his college experience.
“I lived with people who hazed me the whole week, I was just absolutely miserable,” Helbling said.
The next quarter he found a townhouse and moved out. It was then that Helbling began to smoke marijuana.
In the summer of 2008, Helbling said his only two passions were smoking marijuana and waterskiing, according to his blog.
He competed in an OSU waterskiing championship that summer, where he met his now-friend Ben Van Treese.
When Helbling showed up at the competition, nobody knew who he was, Van Treese said.
“(Helbling) was talking about how good he was at slalom skiing and everything. I was skeptical (because) it was a pretty small community and you heard of most the good people, but I hadn’t heard from him,” Van Treese said.
When Helbling returned to school in the fall, Helbling began to grow marijuana in his closet and through a series of expenditures, became $15,000 in debt.
He ended up in the psychiatric ward believing he was “the second coming of Jesus Christ” in October 2008, spending 2 1/2 there. He then spent 3 1/2 weeks in a partial rehabilitation program to learn how to handle stress. Afterward, he spent three weeks in drug rehab.
When he returned to OSU in 2009, Helbling said he felt like he was a new person. However, he relapsed and began smoking marijuana again.
“As you get farther away from hitting rock bottom, you start to forget about all that you have been through,” Helbling said.
Smoking marijuana did not affect his passion for waterskiing, and he helped OSU’s waterskiing team win the national championship in October 2010.
“It was kind of like I had accomplished everything in college that I could ever dream about,” Helbling said.
Three months later was when the car accident happened, which left him paralyzed from the chest down.
For a period of time following the accident, Helbling didn’t think his injuries were real because he said he believed he was Jesus Christ.
“I thought that I was going to walk again on Easter just like how Jesus resurrected from dead,” he said. “But when that day came, all I could do was I can move my toes, that was it.”
He said this was the moment where he realized he was not “the second coming Jesus Christ” and he could be in his wheelchair for the rest of his life.
When he went back to his home, Helbling became depressed and contemplated suicide.
“I thought my life was over, (and) I thought I will never return to Ohio State,” he said.
Helbling clearly remembers his mother’s 60th birthday when they went to Lake Erie to celebrate.
He was sitting in his wheelchair and seeing all of the other people playing in the water.
“I was just thinking about ending it (my life) right then,” Helbling said. “I could just push my joist forward and go off the dock, and kill myself.”
But he didn’t.
The first year following the car accident was for him, he said, and then Dragon came to his life.
Dragon is a voice recognition software program, and it provided Helbling a chance to write on the computer using his voice.
Using this program, Helbling started to write his personal experience on Facebook and found out his life story could change peoples’ perspectives regarding their own lives.
“So I realized that I still had a purpose and the most important thing I still had was my mind,” he said.
While writing on Facebook, he thought about going back to OSU, where he only had five classes left to complete to graduate with a civil engineering degree.
He found a program at OSU called locomotor training, a rehabilitation program which allows therapists to move patients’ legs to simulate walking on the treadmill when patients are suspended above it. Through the training, patients might be able to walk someday.
Helbling was admitted back into Ohio State in Winter Quarter 2012. He moved back to campus and lived in a space called Creative Living, an independent living space for individuals with severe disabilities.
“This is like a new norm to me that I can’t get myself out of the bed, I need help for a lot of different things, and I lose my independence, which is probably the thing I missed the most, but you learn to adapt to your situation and I can definitely say now that I am happier than I have ever than been,” Helbling said.
When he graduated from OSU in June 2012, Helbling launched a blog, gave about 40 to 50 speeches and began to write his book. In April 2012, he gave his TEDx speech at OSU.
“It was just like a new passion replaced water-skiing,” he said.