Twenty years ago, I strolled into your life. You didn’t see me coming. I was just this young, white guy with enough charm to get you to trust me. And you did. So I placed a matchbook in the corner and waited for the right moment to strike.

The right moment for me was always when I had you exactly where I wanted you based on my own needs, appetites and grand life schemes. Sometimes it was shortly after meeting. Sometimes it was a month. But, if we knew each other, there was a reason for it. And when I left, I left you wondering why you ever trusted me. No doubt scarring you for future encounters with charming strangers.

Before stylized visions of Hollywood plots start running through your mind, my affairs were far less ambitious. And my environments darker. Most of the people I encountered and engaged twenty years ago were just a tick or two away from my own plight of roaming the earth looking for truth in a reflection. Alcoholics. Drug addicts. People on the verge of nervous meltdowns, or worse. Insignificant souls who saw something good in me that wasn’t there. Or else it was buried so deep that I didn’t acknowledge it.

I was a runner. A liar. A thief. A manipulator. I went from job to job and town to town until I was fired or run out. I loved no one. I had no place to call home. I was also an alcoholic and did whatever I needed to do to ensure that I had access to it. I was literally without hope – and was willing to drag you down with me. Nothing good came from those 6 years of my life – except for hitting a bottom.

Tomorrow, August 3, 2011, I recognize 20 years without a drink. The events that led me to that point were dark and terrible. But the epiphany was brilliant and powerful. For the last few months I’ve been writing a book about my life, and am currently in the process of recounting the period when things were pretty bad. It’s not easy going back there. I definitely don’t want to glorify my mistakes, but I know how this story has worked out and so I have to get through the bad stuff, to get to the good. I can’t believe how my life has changed over twenty years. It makes me feel both grateful, and unworthy.

Twenty years ago, if you told me I’d live until at least my late 40s, have a wife and children, a college education, a house, a car and friends who were like family – I’d figure out a way to take advantage of you, because you were obviously delusional, and then I’d laugh as I burned the bridge that connected us.

The relationships I have with people today are so real, I sometimes can’t stand it. No, I never think about drinking any more, but the reality of love that is in my life today sometimes takes me by surprise and overwhelms me. I’ve been with my wife for 18 years. She has no reference point to me as a monster. No one does. Of all the connections I’ve gained as the result of digital media these last few years, there’s not one person from my past that is part of my present. Even though I tried reaching out to make amends to the people I used and hurt, most of them were unreachable. I can only imagine that they faded into the fringe. I sometimes wish I could thank them.


Jim Mitchem

Boehner's Win Win
Birthdays Here

Jim Mitchem

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