August 3, 2021, will mark 30 years since my last drink. I am not going to use this post as a way to qualify how bad it was for me—just trust me when I say that it was bad. Bad enough to drive me to homelessness with plans of suicide. 

But then, hours before I was going to throw myself in front of an express train, a miracle occurred. And, well, here I am—not only alive, but with all the gifts of a life that was merely a dream 30 years ago. 

Since the day the miracle occurred, I’ve felt that it’s my responsibility to share openly about it. Sort of like payment for this life. There has never been any motivation to share my story beyond the hope that somewhere out there, someone needs to hear it—and that hearing it might move them away from the prison of deceit and toward the bliss of truth. That’s it. That’s why I share.

It’s funny, but when someone hears that I’ve been sober a while, they almost always say something like, “Congratulations!” or “You should be so proud of yourself!” Which is fine, they’re just being nice. Only, sobriety is an intensely personal practice that anyone who hasn’t had to deal with simply can’t identify with. This isn’t about me. But thank you. 

Make no mistake, not drinking is the most important decision I make every day. But it’s not that difficult. I do it by giving up my will to a power greater than me. The power that saved my life. 

Over these past thirty years, all I’ve ever really done is open my heart and mind to the idea that there’s a power in the universe that is far greater than me, and when I let go of my will and allow that power take control—things work out. I realize this sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s tough to see what you can’t. 

Anyway, that’s it. That’s all I’ve ever had to do. Not exactly brain surgery, right? And yet, this “turning my will over to a power greater than myself” is a concept that absolutely contradicts everything we are raised to believe in America—where we are told that whatever we will should be done. Regardless of consequences. Regardless of sacrifice. Force your will in life and you will be happy. 

Yeah, so that didn’t exactly work for me. My will got me to the edge of my life at 27. 

If there’s anything I’ve actually accomplished these past thirty years it’s this—somehow mustering the vigilance to see beyond the restrictions of this so-called “real” world to live in a place where I let a power greater than myself guide me. Every day. Over and over. One day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time when the shit is hitting the fan—which, ironically, never has anything to do with drinking, but rather maintaining in a world that only believes what it sees. Not what is felt and understood. 

I’m lucky. And yet, I have no idea what will happen to me next week, much less five years from now. But what I do know is that as long as I am able to allow God to guide me, nothing can touch me. Nothing. Not even the worst case scenario. It’s like wearing armor, this kind of faith. Which does not mean I’m impervious to pain and fear. Lol. I’m exactly like everyone else when it comes to life (i.e. the ‘one minute at a time’ thing above)—the difference is that I truly believe that regardless of circumstances, things will work out when I let go and allow Him to guide me. I get sad, angry, and anxious just like everyone. The difference today is that rather than running to alcohol when these things come knocking, I acknowledge my feelings, why I feel them, then turn them over. Oh, and it’s important to note that none of this has anything to do with religion. I’m sure religion helps some people. Somehow. But for me, sobriety is about being humble enough to know that I am not the center of the universe and there are forces at work that I simply must accept instead of fight, or worse, not acknowledge at all. 

Thirty fucking years. Every day. And my gift is a remarkable life. I have my health (which is a miracle in itself), true love, a family, an education, a career, hell, I have a legit driver’s license—something I didn’t have for five years after a DUI in Gainesville when I was 23 and blew a .21 on a breathalyzer. Yes, you read that right … and remarkably, I nearly got away with it. For the next five years I took busses along I10 and up I95 ultimately landing in NYC where I learned to survive on the street until the day I decided that my life wasn’t worth living. 

And the universe stepped in. 

And I listened. 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that sobriety is more than not drinking. Anyone can not drink. Being dry is not sobriety. I’m sorry, but it’s not. Sobriety is living in every moment with a clear mind. To rise above the din of noise that wants the alcoholic dead. Sadly, too many people who are “sober” are merely “dry.” There’s a huge difference between being sober and achieving clear-minded sobriety. My father died of alcoholism. My wife’s father too. Both men had voices inside that told them they had a problem. Both acknowledged that voice, but then each ultimately allowed the noise of the “real” world to overwhelm them, dragging them down to their demise. Sobriety is about rising above that noise. And it’s so simple. You just let go. 

“Don’t drink. Trust God.” That’s my life formula. Every day. And it works. I mean just look at me. No, I may not be a captain of industry. I may not be a business guru. I may never have more money than I actually need. But I am almost 57 and I am alive. Like, really alive. And thirty years ago, I was at death’s doorstep. 

Words simply cannot express the gratitude I feel today. 

If you’re reading this and even *think* you might could have a better life without alcohol, then chances are you can. Because people who *don’t* have a disease that wants them dead don’t think that. Ever. I’m here if you need me. I get that it’s tough to let go. I really do. But it’s the only way I know. One day at a time. 

Fatherhood

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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