I CHOOSE TO REMEMBER THE LESSONS
If it were somehow possible to “erase one’s mistakes,” as if the narrative of one’s life was scrawled on some cosmic chalkboard, my erasures would emit so much dust that I would choke to death before I completed a fraction of the task.
Alcoholism, a co-addiction, Bipolar Disorder, and a very damaged Attachment System (created by youthful indoctrination) left me emotionally and psychologically crippled for many years.
Despite these afflictions, I did what I had been trained to do -Pressed on and functioned in the world with jobs, marriage(s), parenting, paying bills, post-secondary education, and other aspects of adulting.
Problem was, I was deeply wounded psychologically, I had (and still have) a severe mental illness, and my coping skills were about as advanced as the tools fashioned by Homo Habilis.
My capacity to make responsible decisions was primitive. My self-centered, impulsive, myopic actions (and my negligence) harmed others and me. One of the good things I did was to soldier forward, regardless of how much pain and misery I felt, as a father to three sons and as a contributing member of society.
Now that I am at a point in my journey of one-day-at-a-time recovery, growth, and self-care to remain spiritually fit, stable, and sober at which I am blessed to have acquired a magnificent arsenal of healthy coping mechanisms, a spiritual fellowship of supportive people in AA, well-regulated medication for my Bipolar Disorder, an amazing wife, supportive friends, great therapy, and spiritual beliefs, I survey the wreckage of my past and true to the AA promises, I “do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door upon it.”
By God’s grace, I have cleaned up much of the wreckage of my past, though there is more to be done. I have made many amends, but still have some to make. Today I have made it a habit to take responsibility for my mistakes as I make them, attempt to rectify them, and learn from them.
Meanwhile, the experience, strength, and hope that I acquired from my grievous errors in my darker days is a tremendous asset. Some would call it wisdom. I prefer “experience, strength and hope.” And few things delight me more than sharing that “wisdom” with fellow sufferers.
One of my favorite lines in the AA Big Book speaks directly to this;
“Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them.” (page 124)
So yes, I choose to remember the lessons. Not the disappointments or the pain. I also choose to share the lessons with others.