Local recovering alcoholic hopes his book of poems, ‘Surrender,’ will help others

A stallion stands alone on a hilltop, with a new moon in the sky

I was just as alone as that stallion, when I was drunk or high


by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

James Rivers of Elk River has penned a book of poetry called “Surrender” about his old life of alcohol and drugs and his new life of recovery, hope and faith.

Rivers, 45, wrote his first poem 23 years ago when he first entered treatment, but most were written the last two years, coinciding with his return to regular meetings for recovering alcoholics, and strengthening his Christian faith.

“I have not had a drink in 17 years. I dabbled with drugs after my most recent divorce but have been clean since 2003,” said Rivers. “But I had gotten away from attending the meetings, and from God.”

Elk River resident James Rivers penned 56 poems for his self-published soft-cover book "Surrender," available on lulu.com. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The soft-cover book with a total of 56 peoms was self-published through the the web site lulu.com, which is where the book can be purchased.

Rivers dedicated the book to his father, James Robert Rivers, who “never gave up on me.” The elder Rivers died Feb. 1.

Sharing his story through these deeply personal verses is an attempt to help others fighting the same demons, he said.

“My goal is to get one in every treatment center in America,” said Rivers. “I want to share with addicts and alcoholics that there is a fellowship of men and women who have found a new way to live without the use of drugs of any kind.”

He noted that practically every family knows someone affected by addition and that only about five percent of those attending treatment recover.

“That’s why I chose God as my higher power,” he said.

Rivers, who is divorced and has a son and daughter in their 20’s, has worked as a x-ray technician and is currently attending Minnesota School of Business and working part-time at a machine shop.

Rivers said he’ll have a book-signing on Oct. 29 at the Caribou’s near Coborn’s.


I found twelve steps, and a group accepted me

So now like that stallion, I am able to run free




I Was Once a Weed


In life’s garden, I was once a weed

Sucking the life out of the other plants, with my selfish greed

Trying to overshadow and soak up all the sun

Once I was discovered, I knew that I was done


Uprooted from the others, I was soon discarded

I tried to blend in, just to keep myself guarded

With an illness that made me ugly, I was different than the rest

Always being uprooted, it was hard to find a nest


In so many gardens I took root and tried to rise

Being bound by addiction, the same results were no longer a surprise

Needing to make personal changes from deep within

So that when I am planted, a new form can begin


One that shares the sunshine, with no chemical high

That way when I am rooted, I can reach for the sky

Sharing life in a garden, with love the most beautiful flower

Loving my new self and others, giving thanks to my higher power

For in life’s garden, I was once a weed

I hope the changes I have made, will one day plant a seed



Open Mind


Impossible schemes, distant dreams/Within my mind do flow/If only a few were to come true/As a person would I grow

Seeking real love, sent from above/Is something we all are yearning/Love that’s free, with no hidden fee/Is what we should be learning

When we give, so others can live/Do we not yet still receive/A joyous reward, we could never afford/Or manually retrieve

I give my time, that is finally mine/For others who choose to see/True confession, without regression/Honestly flowing from me

Courage that’s true, from only a few/May be all that others need/With an open mind, you may find/From active addiction you may be freed