I used to be a raging alcoholic. If you were to tell me twenty-five years ago that one day I’d have everything I ever dreamed of in life, I’d have laughed at you. This is not to say that my life today is perfect. Far from it. But that’s ok. Compared with my life before I stopped drinking, however, it’s like walking from a dark room into light. My life before was miserable. I was literally at the bottom. Suicidal. Then I heard the voice, listened, and believed. I know it might look like I’m trying to draw attention to myself–but I assure you, I’m not. I only share this stuff because somewhere out there someone else is hopeless. This is a post for them. Beyond surrendering, I had nothing to do with my life changing the way it has. I got lucky. This isn’t a personal accomplishment. It’s a testament that when you are willing to show faith, amazing things happen. I am so blessed today and yes, I’ve received everything I ever dreamed of. All because I haven’t had a drink since the day I was given a second chance. Twenty-five years ago.

Note: I originally published this in 2009, and each year on August 3rd I change the number of years it’s been in the post. 

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Sober

On August 3, 1991, I heard the voice of God. I was hung over from the night before and was about to load up on more booze, but for some reason on this day a package store that I frequented often decided to ask me for an ID. For a six-pack of beer. Three days before my 27th birthday. I didn’t have a valid ID however, as I’d succumbed to a nomadic lifestyle at that point – living in Northern NJ with no family, no friends, no money and no proper ID to buy beer. I stormed out cursing the manager, and when I stepped into the sunlight – I was blinded. Literally. I shut my eyes, fell to my knees and heard the voice. It said, “My son you have another chance.”

I don’t know how long I was on my knees out in front of that package store, but I was crying when I stood. The ultimate surrender, as it turned out. It was early afternoon, and I went back to my bed at the rooming house and slept till the middle of the next day.

I’ll spare you the gory details of my life before that point, but let me sum it up this way–from the time I was 17 until three days before my 27th birthday, I drank alcoholically and suffered the consequences. I honestly believed I’d be dead by the time I was 30, and had even explored early check out once. It was an enlightening disaster that continues to shape the man I am today. The fact that I turn 51 next week is a miracle.

I know I’m probably losing some of you here because, frankly, everyone drinks. Especially in advertising. Especially writers. But I assure you, I’m fine with abstinence. I drank enough over ten years to satisfy most anyone for their lifetime.  If you’re out there thinking “He can’t hold his liquor,” that’s just silly. I could hold my liquor. A lot of it. More than you. And that was the problem. As for anyone who thinks I fear alcohol, wrong again. My wife drinks. Hell, I buy her wine. You see, not everyone has DNA that turns them into a self-absorbed monsters when they drink. I don’t fear alcohol, I respect it. And as for anyone who thinks I’m a religious nut because I heard the voice of God in my head, I’m anti-religion. Not in a belligerent way, but rather that I think that by its nature, religion is more exclusive than inclusive. Yes, I spend time on my knees every day giving thanks for a new chance in life and I try to live my life by acknowledging my conscience, but I don’t push agendas. I’m just a guy who was extremely lucky. By the grace of God, I have been delivered from the bondage of alcoholism. My father and grandfather weren’t so lucky.

Twenty-five years ago God said to me, “My son, you have another chance.” Boy, was He right. I’ve since learned that God’s no dummy. As much as I try to control how things should be in my life, my knowledge about what’s best for me amounts to something like a pimple on God’s ass. Before my epiphany, I couldn’t stop drinking. Once I surrendered, the desire to drink was lifted. I trust God today. And by His grace, I don’t drink. That’s it. I’m no angel. And my reward for showing faith is living a life that’s more beautiful than I ever imagined.

I started this day off the way I’ve started every day for the past twenty-five years–by rolling from my bed onto my knees to say a simple prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I lost my desire to drink a long time ago. But I think about not drinking every day. Sober.

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Jim Mitchem

The Deep Down
Two Trains

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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