George Jones had to nearly lose his life to finally get sober after years of battling a crippling addiction.
It was 1999 and the country music singer was driving while talking to his stepdaughter on his phone in Nashville. He lost control of his vehicle and slammed head-on into a concrete bridge. The front of his car looked like “a scrunched accordion.”
Jones, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, flung forward under the steering wheel and the dashboard. It took more than two hours for a rescue crew to extract his battered body, which looked like “a grotesque caricature of himself.”
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“They had to get him out with the jaws of life,” Jones’ fourth wife Nancy Jones told Fox News Digital. “He died twice in the helicopter on the way to the hospital. Oh, that was awful. I remember the doctor sat me down and said, ‘He’s not going to make it.’”
“But it was still not his time,” she added.
Jones survived and lived for another 14 years. He passed away in 2013 at age 81. Ten years after his passing, the star’s widow is looking back at their marriage in a new memoir, “Playin’ Possum,” which details his struggles before finding salvation in faith and sobriety.
“I just wanted the truth out there,” she said. “It’s the truth of George Jones and my life with him… And I didn’t sugarcoat anything. He had a lot of demons and he fought them so hard, but they were winning… And God blessed him with another chance.”
Jones had a punctured lung, blood in his chest, a ruptured liver and his legs were badly mangled. According to Nancy’s book, police later confirmed that an open container of vodka was found under the front seat. Nancy remained hopeful that her husband would live – it wasn’t the first time he tempted fate.
“What made me stay? I saw a good man,” Nancy reflected about her decades-long union with Jones. “And George was not crazy. He was the most lovable, enjoyable, funny man – and then he was a whole different person. And I worked so hard to get that good man out of there, not this evil person that was in there. And if I would’ve left, George would’ve died many years ago.”
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A lengthy recovery awaited Jones. According to Nancy, he vowed to God, “If you let me get over this, I’ll never drink again. I’ll never smoke again, and I will be the perfect husband.”
Nancy said that this time, she believed him. And Jones kept his promise.
“That was the last time George ever had a cigarette or a drink,” she boasted. “And he was a perfect husband. He was changed.”
The road to sobriety was far from smooth for Jones. In his lifetime, he struggled with a debilitating addiction to alcohol and cocaine. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, he earned the nickname “No Show Jones” for regularly getting so wasted that he would fail to show up for his concerts or just refuse to perform. At one point, Jones had 200 lawsuits pending against him due to missed shows, Forbes reported.
“I didn’t even know what cocaine was,” Nancy admitted. “I’ll never forget the first time he pulled cocaine out. I just thought, ‘Why is he putting that up his nose?’ And I wasn’t acting dumb, I was that innocent. He got upset and slapped me, thinking I was making fun of him… that was my first introduction to cocaine.”
In the book, Nancy alleged that Jones’ addiction was so bad that he was physically abusive at times.
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“George was not a friendly drunk,” said Nancy. “He was a mean drunk… It just changed him. But those were demons, not George Jones. Even when George would be so bad, he had a different voice. It was a very scary, deep voice. It was not like him talking. I had to learn really fast… And it hurt. Lord knows I cried a lot writing this book. I was not sitting back and eating chocolates. When he started drinking and doing the drugs together, things turned south in a hurry.”
Nancy said she didn’t stay for the money. There wasn’t any.
“The only income would’ve been if George was out there performing, but half the time he wasn’t even doing shows,” she explained. “He was a no-show… And the lawsuits just flooded in. I remember I would call the promoters trying to get him booked for a gig, and they would tell me, ‘No, we don’t trust George.’… I had to get friendly with the promoters and make sure he showed up for his shows. That’s how we got rid of all those lawsuits.”
“I used to sit there and say, ‘How are we going to turn the electricity on? How are we going to pay the water bill?’” she recalled. “No one would ever believe the great George Jones wasn’t able to pay his bills.”
In her book, Nancy wrote there were times when she would have to chase drug dealers off her property, yelling at them to stay away from her husband.
“I was afraid every day,” said Nancy. “I was afraid for my life, my daughter’s life and afraid for George’s life.”
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Jones tried many times to turn his life around. Nancy recalled how he would beg, “I can’t go on this way.”
“There were several times the media picked up that George had quit drinking,” she said. “Well, that was true to a certain extent. He’d quit drinking Jack Daniel’s. But that didn’t mean he’d quit drinking at all. He continued to drink after that.”
“He would have those little itty-bitty bottles of vodka everywhere – his boots, his coat pocket, all over the closet, in his car,” she continued. “It was a journey just to find them all. And there were times when I thought he had stopped drinking. But he still was. And when fans visited him, they would bring more alcohol to him.”
Nancy has been credited for helping Jones get sober. She said not giving up was essential.
“Could I have walked away? Sure, many times,” she said. “But I knew he wanted to get well, and he couldn’t do it alone. You’ve got to have somebody who believes in you no matter how hard it is, and still stand beside him. And that’s what I did. You can’t give up.”
Sobriety was “a blessing,” one that the couple always remained thankful for.
“He became a bit of a preacher,” she chuckled. “He would talk to people about how he turned his life around and encouraged them to quit drinking and smoking. He would say, ‘If I could do it, you can too.’… That spiritual side of George is my favorite memory of him… People gave him the nickname Velcro because he was always stuck with me. He never went anywhere without me. We were always together.”
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Nancy insisted she never found herself in the shadow of Tammy Wynette, Jones’ ex-wife and fellow country music star.
“I was never jealous of Tammy,” she said. “I thought she was a wonderful lady. I got along with her great.”
Today, Nancy is determined to keep her late husband’s legacy alive. On Oct. 17, there will be a screening of “Still Playin’ Possum,” an all-star tribute concert featuring Brad Paisley, Tanya Tucker, Dierks Bentley and Travis Tritt, among others.
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Nancy hopes his struggles will continue to give people hope that it’s never too late to change.
“I want people to remember who George was, what he went through and how he overcame it all,” she said. “I’m trying my best, even though it hurts at times to tell the truth. But it was time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.