Man Says Addiction Was Harder Than 200-Foot Fall

By Kelly Burch 12/28/18

“I’m determined to stay sober and to help someone. Every bad experience in your life can turn into an opportunity, and this is, like, a golden opportunity,” the man said.

Man hiking after taking a 200 foot fall early in his hiking career.

Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Henderson was out enjoying a spring hike in Utah last March when he took an ill-fated step. 

“The trail just happened to be on the side of a cliff,” Henderson told “I wasn’t doing anything stupid. I just stepped on a rock and the ground gave out because it was thawing.”

Henderson went careening more than 200 feet down the cliff before landing unconscious in a stream. A helicopter rescue crew took him to the hospital where he was in critical condition. He spent the next two months in the hospital, including more than three weeks  in a medically-induced coma. He broke seven ribs, his wrist and his shoulder, fractured his spine, and had a traumatic brain injury. 

Still, he said that the nine-month recovery from the fall has not been as difficult as getting sober. 

“Addiction was honestly harder than falling 200 feet off a cliff,” Henderson said. “I’m determined to stay sober and to help someone. Every bad experience in your life can turn into an opportunity, and this is, like, a golden opportunity.”

This March, nearly a year after his accident, Henderson will celebrate four years of sobriety. Despite his challenges during this year, he has not had any relapse issues, he said. 

Henderson said that he was an alcoholic at 16 after taking his first drink at 13. 

“I had a really bad alcohol problem and I was homeless, sleeping under a bridge in Covington, which is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati,” he said. “I was in and out of psych units, jail. I was miserable. Nobody wanted anything to do with me, and I didn’t think there was a way to get out of it.”

However, a rehab in California helped him realize that recovery was possible. 

“That finally helped me get my life together,” he said. “They said that if you just put action into this and do what your therapist is saying and take our advice, things will get better.”

After treatment he began working in Utah at Wasatch Crest treatment center. He said that his employer supported him through mental health challenges that arose during his recovery. 

“They set me up for success by sending me out to Utah to treatment and, not only that, they stayed with me through it,” he said. “I could come down there and volunteer and run book studies or shovel snow and earn like $20 — stuff like that, and they were nothing but nice to me.”

Now, Henderson is learning from his sobriety to help inform his recovery from the fall. 

“I couldn’t change what happened, but I could change the outcome,” he said. “So I decided to change the outcome.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.