PARK RAPIDS, Minn. — It was approaching midnight on July 4, 2000, when Jim Kimbllin was pulled over. He was heading back from his uncle’s place near Detroit Lake to his home near Hackensack, Minn., with his two young children in the back seat.
Kimbllin said he was about 10 miles over the speed limit when he was stopped by Scott Parks, a Park Rapids police officer at the time.
“I believe he saw signs in my driving that I was under the influence, too,” Kimbllin said. “If memory serves me right my blood alcohol level was .23, more than twice the legal limit.”
Although he already had one DUI on his record, Kimbllin said he hoped he could just sleep it off and go home in the morning. He asked Parks if he could take his kids to a motel across the highway and was told no, he was being arrested and his kids were going to foster care.
“People need to be at rock bottom to finally make a decision to quit drugs or alcohol,” Kimbllin said. “Deputy Parks created that low point by arresting me and allowing me to finally see what I was doing to myself and my children. Being handcuffed and looking back at my two children staring out the rear window of the car, I realized I needed to quit drinking. Then going to jail, being cuffed around my ankles and going in front of the judge ... it was a process I never want to go through again.
"Scott Parks not only saved my life and my children’s lives, but what could have been countless others. Police aren’t the good guys when people get arrested, but in my case it was exactly what I needed.”
It is something Kimbllin has never forgotten.
“I call Scott every July 4 because that arrest truly saved my life,” Kimbllin said. “My life was spiraling downward, not just because I was going through a divorce, but because alcohol and its addictive nature had taken hold of me.”
Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes said he hired Scott Parks 11 years ago for a reason.
“He was a great officer for the city of Park Rapids and I wanted him to help lead the sheriff's office,” Aukes said of Hubbard County Chief Deputy Parks. “He believed in not only traffic enforcement, but truly was exceptional when it came to getting drunk drivers off our roadways. It’s nice to hear that someone that was arrested for DUI has seen the light and realizes that it’s better to put that lifestyle behind him than trying to continue down that path.”
Getting help, giving help
Working with the court system, Kimbllin was able to keep his job at a coal-burning power plant in Minnesota while attending outpatient treatment. He also joined the Alcoholics Anonymous program for ongoing support in his sobriety.
“AA is a really good program because as people tell their stories you can take what they learned and apply it to your own life,” he said. “It really helps keep you focused and has been a great thing for me.”
The AA 12-step program includes making amends to people who were hurt by your drinking.
“It is difficult,” he said. “I sat down with my mom and my brothers and sisters. It’s very humbling to know that you’ve hurt them that much, but yet very good because you’ve quit. From headaches to heartaches to hangovers, that’s all behind me now. There are so many things I have to be thankful for. I’m remarried and my wife has been by my side since 2005 and a positive influence on my sobriety. I’m very blessed.”
Kimbllin now sponsors others through AA. “I’m giving back,” he said. “The four people I sponsor are all sober now, too.”
His kids are now 26 and 32. While they don’t talk about what happened that night, he said they know he kept his promise to stay sober.
“You have to want to stop drinking,” he said. “Sometimes that happens after a person gets in an accident, gets arrested or their life is turned upside down so bad that they have to do something. With drinking and drugs, sometimes a family member or friend asks for an intervention to get their loved one into treatment.”
When he’s out with friends and someone asks him what he wants to drink, Kimbllin openly shares that he doesn’t drink alcohol. “Most of the time people can appreciate why I don’t drink and some say they wish they didn’t drink,” he said. “Others continue drinking. It’s socially acceptable. But when you go over the limit that’s when help is needed.”
He said it’s important for parents to be open about the risks of drinking with their children, too. “Get them into sports and other activities helps give them other outlets,” he said. “Don’t let them run with the wrong group. Kids are kids and parents are busy. That’s all part of it.”
Warning signs of a drug or alcohol problem include going overboard with social drinking, drinking alone, drinking and driving and blackouts.
“I continued to drink and it got worse and worse,” he said. “Depression can play a big part in it too. Alcoholism can happen to anyone. When you quit drinking you have to change your friends, because the ones you were hanging with will keep drinking and that could pull you back in.”