Book airs compelling tale of addiction

By Ted Ayers | January 5, 2022

“Courtesy Boy: A True Story of Addiction” by Mike Matson (Flint Hills Publishing, 2021, 348 pages)

Mike Matson has decades of professional communication experience as a deejay, radio and TV newsman, press secretary to a governor and newspaper columnist. 

Thus, it is no surprise that he has written an entertaining and engaging book in “Courtesy Boy: A True Story of Addiction.” Matson possesses a rich vocabulary, a gift for phrasing and a remarkable memory — particularly in view of the years of alcohol addiction that he candidly writes about in this book.

Matson’s drinking is a principal theme of the book. As Matson’s sister writes in the foreword: “This is a story of ruin and redemption, of falling down hard and fumbling one’s way to the life one desperately wants.”

The book is divided into five parts, beginning in 1975 as Matson prepares for his graduation from Wichita Heights High School and moves into the brand-new Woodgate Apartments on 21st Street with two high school classmates. The book ends on August 3, 1991, with Matson noting: “He was 33 years old. He had been drinking every day since he was 16 years old. More than half of his entire life. He had been trying to stop for three years. Three rehabs in three years. Divorced, DUI. He had quit paying his bills and maxed out a pair of credit cards.”

In between, Matson journeys to Minnesota, Hays, back to Wichita and then to Topeka while pursuing a career and the success he so desperately wants — perhaps to send a message to his demanding father. (The book’s title stems from an early part-time job is as a “courtesy boy” at Mr. D’s grocery store.) Matson writes about his friendships, romantic relationships and automobiles, including the fire engine red Camaro in which he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Some of my enjoyment of Matson’s book probably stems from our similarities: I shared his youthful appreciation for “cars, girls and beer,” worked at a grocery store and love baseball as does he.

I also appreciate his descriptions of Wichita, its people and institutions over the years: “The Wichita Club was lodged in the top two floors of the Vickers/Kansas State Bank & Trust Building on Market Street, a sky blue and beige-paneled structure with a massive time and temperature lighted display perched on the roof … Prior to the recent construction of the nearby Holiday Inn Plaza, the Vickers/KSB&T was the tallest building in Kansas.”

Matson’s stated purpose in writing the book is to “help those suffering and their loved ones connect the dots between the destructive traits and behaviors and the potential for addiction.” Over the years, I worked with Mike on a professional basis in a number of different capacities. I always respected his abilities and enjoyed his company. I would have never guessed his history of addiction. He is to be commended for trying to help others by sharing his personal experiences so vividly and honestly.

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