32 years ago today a miracle happened to me. I wasn’t looking for it. I was looking for the opposite – an end to my agony. 

I was alone in Manhattan. Just me, a duffle bag, and the blistering asphalt. After years of wandering the east coast trying to find purpose in life, I had finally decided that mine had none. So I made a plan and started to execute it when a voice entered my mind that said, “My son, you have another chance.” And in that moment, my heart flipped. 

It was divine. 

I was not. Far from it. Abandoning religion decades earlier, I gravitated to the dark things of the world. My upbringing wasn’t very religious. My mom was Christian and so we went to Sunday school as kids, but mostly the idea of God was lost on me. Jesus was a stoic figure who spoke in confusing red words. 

But on August 3, 1991, I was driven to my knees in Hell’s Kitchen (of all places) by a voice in my head that I’d never heard before – or since. It was God. Possibly Jesus – I didn’t know. 

What I did know is that I didn’t deserve this grace. I still don’t believe I deserved it. I had no redeeming qualities. I was a liar, thief, and an alcoholic who didn’t care about being part of society. I didn’t love myself, much less anyone else. 

And yet, I was one person one minute – and a completely different person the next. I was lost, then found. 

32 years have come and gone since this miracle occurred, but I think about it every day. I lost my desire to drink in the weeks that followed by asking the power that saved me to remove it. Another miracle. Looking back, I can see that everything that’s happened to me since I heard the voice has been a miracle. The good. The bad. The crazy shit we never see coming. Everything that has occurred to me, every relationship I’ve had, every decision I’ve made – have all been the residual effects of a miracle in Hell’s Kitchen. Which make them miracles themselves. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned over these past 32 years is that I am not in control. Not really. Sure, I make daily decisions like everyone else that I seemingly do control – but I know in my heart today that even those are divinely appointed. I wouldn’t have any decisions to make if my will had been done that August day long ago. 

I am not perfect. I am not sharing this to draw attention. I’m a flawed human being just like everyone else. Everyone. Even people who you think have it made. Acknowledging and overcoming our flaws is what ultimately defines us. And for me, that means being sincere in giving up my will every day to a higher power that saved my life. 

As you can imagine, over the years I’ve often thought about why. I used to think it was because I was going to become a famous person who made a lot of money and had a beautiful and opulent life. That’s what living in America was all about, after all. Perhaps I’d write a book about my journey. Go on a speaking tour. Maybe even get on Oprah. But that wasn’t it. I thought about our daughters and how they might one day change the world – and in order for that to happen, I needed to be spared from my own hand to spread this seed. But that wasn’t it either.

It was during my cancer diagnosis and recovery last year that I began to see things differently. My role today is not to draw attention to myself. But to God. By simply continuing to live my life as honestly as possible, I am a living, breathing testament of God’s love, compassion, and truth. My charge in life is simple – to keep going until I don’t. In faith. With gratitude.

32 years ago I was as hopeless as a person can be. And then I wasn’t. All because God stepped in. I’m more grateful than words can express. Not just for this anniversary. Not just to be alive. But because I see my life for what it really is – a miracle. 

During the days I wandered in darkness, I secretly dreamed of the life I have now. Man. 

Love, Jim.

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Jim Mitchem

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