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Memory and the Lack Thereof.

5 September 2014

This past week, back in St. Louis, I attended two of my old meetings, my Sunday mixed and my Wednesday men’s. It was an interesting experience. I had a good time in St. Louis. I was able to see many old friends and show BB around my old haunts, and the home I still own there that I’m renting out. It was especially nice to talk to a friend with whom I’d had a bit of a falling out and set things right. I saw my old marriage counselor. And I found myself confronting memory in a strange way.

My Sunday mixed group had changed a lot. There were some familiar faces, but the room had largely turned over. I recognized about five people. After the meeting, several of my friends and BB and I went to lunch. We had an excellent and wide-ranging conversation. It felt like old times. My Wednesday group was the same as it’s ever been. Of the roughly 20 men in the room, I knew all but two.

I love that men’s meeting. Glen spoke, about how to get out of funks. When it was my turn to share, I talked about how I try to manage them by staying ahead. When something big is going on in my life, I up my meeting schedule preemptively. And when I do get in a funk, I try to focus on how my decisions are my decisions. I am responsible for my emotional state, my spiritual state. I have to take authority over my own aspect. Learning acceptance and surrender helps me ascend from deep troughs.

And I was reminded of my drunken past in another way. When I bought my home, I originally bought it with my then-partner. When we split, she signed a quit claim. I kept it, so that when I go to sell the home, I will have clear title. But I never had it recorded. And now it’s been years. Or so I thought. I went to the City Hall, and to my surprise, it had been recorded only days after it was signed. I have no memory of this.

I was a drunk. I doubt I actually went to City Hall and had a quit claim recorded while I was intoxicated, but I might have been badly hungover. I might have gone drinking immediately thereafter. Or maybe she did it. Or a lawyer. I simply don’t remember. You’d think I would. You’d think I’d remember something as important as changing the deed of a home I own. But I don’t. Because I’m an alcoholic. I sat in my rented car and I cried.

I talk about losing a decade to alcohol. In many ways it’s literally true. I don’t remember many things that happened while I drank. I rarely had blackouts. But as time has gone on, I simply don’t have access to a full complement of recall from those times. In some ways, this allows me to silence the railing hailstorm of humiliation. I am mortified by what I was, who I was, who I am inside. The things I did. The things I said. The injury and insult I incurred. I remain ashamed of my past.

But being ashamed is not the same as regret. I do not really regret my past. Sure, I wish I hadn’t poured whiskey over a decade of my life and career. I wish I hadn’t made terrible romantic decisions. I wish I hadn’t squandered a young fortune. But I did. And I don’t really regret it. That’s what it took to make a man of me. To grow into an effective adult in the world. And I got here. I am a man now. I am finally beginning to feel like a man, rather than a boy. I grew into my life older than most.

But I am not ashamed of who I am. I am not ashamed that it took me harder lessons than many to achieve what I’ve achieved. That I’ve had to hurdle obstacles many haven’t. We all have our own paths. And others have must negotiate blockages worse than I’ve had to face, and overcome more than I’ve overcome. It’s not a contest. It’s not a race. I have my journey. I’ve been buoyed by privilege, and beset by disease and self-sabotage. I am the protagonist in the story of my life, and I am also the villain.

I am the me in my life. I am the one who must live with me. I continue to make bad choices from time to time. I continue to err and falter. Sometimes, I do wrong on purpose. But it’s less now. Punctuation among the long sentences of my attempts at decency. I may never be well. But I can work at kindness.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Syd permalink
    22 September 2014 11:57

    Every day matters now. No regrets for the past but living for the present. I can feel your kindness.

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