Walk, Don’t Ride: A Sober Message From Prison

I didn’t have a problem. I did have a problem, but it wasn’t a bad one. Alright, it was bad. But…

Okay, no buts, I was sick.

I was unconditionally hooked on alcohol and drugs.

I was sleeping with Denial; we were lovers, her and I…ahh, the beauty of Denial. I was also intimate with Justification, knew her well, was familiar with all her angles.

You see, according to the “User’s Formula,” the “Addicts Adage,” and the “Dope Fiend’s Doctrine,” for each step forward one somehow manages to make, said person is entitled to two steps backward.

As soon as someone dares to be so rude and thoughtless as to bring up one of these minor setbacks, one is required, by our unwritten laws, to aggressively attack the insulting accuser with creative, ingenious forms of Justification.

“Justification,” that word alone makes everything sound better, doesn’t it? “Justification,” or “Just-A-Vacation.” Yeah, it’s all “Justified,” no problem here. (guzzle, guzzle, snort)

When attacked, we must first soften up the attacker with some hard jabs of guilt, a few powerful left hooks that outline their faults. If this is done well it will knock them off balance, if done excellently, it will make them angry- and once angry we got them right where we want them. With our years of experience we then, professionally, and in a lawyerly debate team fashion, unleash our big guns. We quickly, and ruthlessly, counter attack with a brutal offensive operation. And they are no match for the likes of us, no way, no sir. We are “Justified.

Those who “care” about us, they should know better.

I mean the gall, the audacity, the ignorant arrogance they have in thinking that they could make us see a light that we extinguished so thoroughly and so long ago that even it’s memory is lost. Don’t they get it? (Just-A-Vacation).

Most of us were excellent at dismissing, with a quick flick of attitude, the realities our loved ones so painstakingly tried to show us, reasonably. (Bless their hearts)

The problem is, we don’t listen to reason.

I mean come on, let’s be real here. We’ve been running from our inner voice for so long, why in the hell would we, all of a sudden, want to listen to the same crap from someone who isn’t even in our own heads? Damn it! We have enough problems with ourselves, the last thing we need is shit from someone else, right? Hell yeah, I’m right, “Justifiably” right! And one more thing, if “it” is –  “I”  am that bad, then why are you still around, huh, WHY?

You want the truth? I’ll give you the truth.

It’s their own damn nit-picking that makes us drink! DAMN IT! DAMN THEM!!! Now I need a drink! SEE – SEE WHAT THEY DID! WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!! (guzzle-snort-guzzle-guzzle-crash)

As many of us now know, they eventually do, leave us for good.

For most of us, it usually takes being arrested, divorced; hitting bottom more than once, before we finally come to the crossroads of reality, true reality, with open eyes. And when we do, boy are we in for a shock! If we thought we had a reason to drink and use drugs before – HA!

We used to run from shadows, or maybe even some ugly concrete past abuse or misfortune, but pretty much all of us were running from the evil bastard we’d see in the mirror every morning.

Once the fog clears and we’re treated to a shot glass full of who, and what we were, when we fully embrace the pain we tossed around to everyone on a regular basis as if it were bags of coke, as if we were some 1970’s nightclub owner in Beverly Hills; once we see us, naked, under a powerful microscope OUCH. “Where’s the bar?”  “I need a “Just- A-Vacation” now!”

Reading this you may assume that I finally hit bottom, had enough, and woke up to smell that special brand of A.A Coffee.

Well, even though I did manage to go to some meetings (usually just to satisfy a court order or a threatening spouse) I always watched with an air of superiority, musing, happily about all the weak bastards around me who couldn’t handle things as well as I could. Their drinking obviously wasn’t Justified. They had issues.

I did eventually sober up, yep, no drinks or drugs for almost three years now. I finally took that cross

I finally took that cross in the road, the one we all end up at. The one that can never be forced, it only comes by choice. The road one must look for. Willingly.

There I stood; one road was unpaved, uphill, and was in terrible condition with deep holes and numerous mounds of dirt almost as tall as I was. At the top of the hill were bright lights and smiling friends and family. They were calling my name, waiting for my arrival with open arms.

The other road was dark asphalt and shrouded by large creepy trees. It led downhill and disappeared in total darkness, an inky blank fog. Directly across its threshold was an old friend of mine who’d passed away from a heroin overdose. I couldn’t believe my eyes! My dear friend Billy, alive! He opened the door of a shiny black 64 Chevy Convertible, held up a bottle (a fifth) of Jim Beam and said, “Come on Jimmy, let’s ride!”

I took one last look uphill, at my family and friends…and quickly joined my partner. Jumping in the Chevy, I gave him a hug and took a long swig of liquid love. Fuckin’ Billy, what a friend to show up at just the right time. I loved that guy. (R.I.P 08-03-2000)

A few months later I woke up in a car that was smashed into the side of a restaurant and riddled with bullet holes. I was shot through the shoulder. The 19-year-old girl who was in the car with me was knocked unconscious and had a broken cheekbone.

I was ultimately given 230 years- to life prison sentence, for a 10-minute police chase.

My wife, whom I was separated from, had a nervous breakdown and has yet to recover. My two sons, Bobby and Kevin, who are now 6 and 4 respectively, will grow up fatherless. Melissa, the girl in the car with me, was also given a life sentence, for being with me, for my actions.

In hindsight, I see all for what it was. I see who I was, what I did, and to whom it was done. I am now fully aware; the phantoms I once hid from have matured and are now full grown monsters with ugly realities that embrace my soul.

I started this story off the cuff, attempting to use wit and humor, “just one of those things, etc.”, and I am ending it with a hard kick in the stomach because that is exactly how it is.

You can go for awhile, years bumping along in that 64, swigging whiskey with a friend. And then, “BAM” it’s gone. Everything.

I ruined more than my life.

My family has been tortured for years because of my actions and my addictions. They lost a son, a brother, an uncle, father, and a husband. The girl who was with me and her entire family lost.

There were no winners here, none at all.

These words were written for YOU.

If you’re not already there, once you do come to that fork in the road (you’ll know when you do) once the choice must be made, you may not even care anymore. But if you do care, even one iota, if you have any humanity left in you at all, choose the uphill walk, not the downhill ride.

Trust me. You do not want to see what’s at the bottom.

James Allen Gamache. Lifer.

Photo Credit: CJS*64 Flickr via Compfight cc

  1. This life lesson of theirs has been something that has touched everyone’s life in one way or another. I do feel horrible for this girl, I really do. When I think about it i sit there and wonder why was this poor little 18 year old girl running around with a 33 year old man? I wonder where were her parents? Where was her good example? She got her second chance hopefully she makes better choices this time around, and realizes you are who you surround yourself with. You are what you choose to participate it. I have a hard time believing she had zero clues as to what was going on. Is it horrible that the LAW went so hard on her back then? Yes it is. Look at the bright side Victoria your daughter is not the only one that has a second chance. You also have a second chance as well to mother your daughter and hopefully teach her right from wrong and how to take responsibility for your own actions. Especially when your participate in something you know is not right. My uncle took responsibilty for the world to see. It looks to me as this girl had to spend all this time in prison because the court system believed she was deserving of it. Everyone needs someone to blame.

  2. Victoria…I am James Gamache’s sister and boy do you have your facts WRONG! First off, my brother wrote this article stating and admitting to the mistakes he made in his life, and he did this in hopes of helping others. “This so called Man” as you refer to him as, covered up what your daughter did and took full blame of it all. Your daughter was looking at prison time for behavior and acts of crimes she committed before she even knew my brother. She chose to continue to break the law and commit even more crimes and she was fully aware of what she was doing. Your daughter is not innocent like you portray in your comment. You are very ignorant to the facts and the behavior of your daugher. I will not go into all of it here but how dare you reply and say the things you said regarding my brother and especially replying to this article that he wrote admitting to his wrongdoings. He owned his behavior and mistakes he made in his life unlike your daughter. Maybe you and your daughter should own up to her responsibilities of making the wrong choices instead of playing the blame game. Shake my head…You are special kind of stupid!

  3. My daughter is Melissa and so far she has served 17 years for a 7 to life sentence because of this man. She was just 18 years old at the time. This so called man would not testify on her behalf, instead he sat silent. This so called man would not take responsibility and wanted $200.00 in his canteen account to write the truth to the parole board. This so called man still refuses to acknowledge that my daughter did not shoot at the police as he did. that my daughter did not rob a family friend of his gun collection, and that my daughter had no knowledge of what he intended to do. Instead this so called man still sits silent while my daughter and I endure a life in prison.

    If this so called man has faced reality and has chosen the right road, then he knows what he should do. Take responsibility and help this family that you destroyed and the little girl you threw to the wolves to protect yourself.

    Your so called humanity is nothing but words. As always your actions speak so much louder.

  4. James,
    This is one of the best essays I have read in a long time. Real, honest, and raw. I visit an inmate in a max unit of a prison. I’ve met some of the other inmates…who still live in the land of justification. I wonder sometimes if it’s now justification for why they will be in prison for their natural lives. They wear it like a badge. My friend that I visit is different. She knows exactly why she’s there and has chosen to live a life of purpose, the best she can, within the walls. You have a writer’s voice. I hope that you continue to write–on any topic! ~D.

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