Past – Tense

Used 2012-12-01 Don't Beat Yourself Up alcoholism recovery sobriety

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

In Year 1 of recovery, i was so excited to be free of the disease that i did not care where i had come from. Now in Year 2, the sheer distance i’ve covered makes it impossible not to notice where i was.

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

That quote is from the AA Big Book, more specifically The Promises. That quote is testament to the fact that i am not fully recovered, because i still disagree with many of my readers and harbor regrets about my past actions.

Lately, memories come back to me at random moments, like stepping on shards of broken mirrors hidden in the carpet. Memories of how i mistreated friends, hurt those that love me, and even damaged my children cut me to my core.

The further i distance myself from the asshole i was, the more i realize what an asshole i was. It hurts to see how i behaved. That i did not know better does not lessen the pain.

That it means i am far enough removed from that guy to be shocked, however, does take away the sting, if only a little.

About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on December 1, 2012, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I think at some point if we have suppressed the harm we have caused ourselves and others, it is going to come back to us to be healed.

    I just went and re-read the post from March 2012, and I think that my answers and the answers of others still stand on this issue. In fact, when I read this post again after reading that one, I was all “Wait?! I just read this, didn’t I? Did I accidentally close the tab?” (lol)

    Regret Redux.

    My thoughts about this post are two-fold.

    First, the only way out is through.
    If we have been assholes (and we *all* have), then the only way is to go through the Steps 4-9:

    * Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    * Admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    * Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    * Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.
    * Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
    * Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

    I personally don’t think the need for this cycle ever stops! It’s a process that has to be worked through again and again. I think it’s name is “accountability and healing” and anyone who consciously wants to be a better person in life has to do this process, whether an alcoholic or not, whether in a twelve-step program or not. It’s just good sense and one valid way of coming into healing and forgiveness.

    To me, the brilliance of the steps is that if people just *did* this stuff as a matter of course, as a habit, as a practice in life, we’d see a lot fewer cyclical and generational problems due to dysfunction.

    Second, forgiveness towards the self is critical.

    There is an element of post traumatic stress disorder when it comes to recovery because one has, essentially, traumatized the self and traumatized others through the actions in active addiction. The “memory shards” are, essentially, PTSD flashbacks and need to be treated as such.

    It helps me often when I experience PTSD to calm myself and first acknowledge: “THIS happened.” Whatever it is, I name the trauma. In place of “THIS”, give a specific name or description to what happened.

    Then I move on to releasing the trauma. “THIS happened, but it is over now, and I am okay.”

    I recognize that the trauma is OVER, and that I am in a better, safer place, and release myself from the emotional hurt by this process.

    I think by going through the steps up there and releasing emotional trauma helps one move into forgiveness of the self and of other people.

    It’s basically a cycle everyone on the planet needs to go through at some point if they want to break out of dysfunction (which, IMO, pretty much describes everybody, lol).

    In my last comments on this (which I have to say I particularly liked — while reading, I was, like, “WOW. I wrote that. Huh! I’m smart.” lol), I notice that I mention “balance” a lot, coming into center between the two extremes of self-hatred and loathing, and self-aggrandizement and narcissism (basically the attitude that “it is everyone else’s problem but mine”).

    You’ve written a lot about that here on this blog, too: finding the middle ground when it comes to understanding the self.

    That will be 5 cents, please. 😉


    P.S. This was pretty timely to read for me. I have to face some very real-world consequences for my own actions in the past in a court hearing on Monday morning, by myself, no lawyer.

    I’m scared. But I also know I have been doing my healing work. I know that I am okay, and that I will be okay no matter what anyone says or does. I know my truth, I know I am trying, and I know that I am important.

    Because I am worth it.

    Thanks for this post.

    • What a great comment! i really appreciate all the work you put into it, and self forgiveness is really something i need to work on. Hopefully, as you said, going through the AA steps will help me put this to bed.

      i’ll also say here what i said in a comment on a post ITSB linked:

      Writing this post and reading comments like this one have helped me recognize that “regret” is a negative emotion like anger, loneliness and self pity. Those kinds of emotions are triggers and threats to my sobriety, so i need to learn with my regret in the same way i’m dealing with anger, loneliness and self pity.

      Keep coming back, babe,

      Al K Hall

    • This is brilliant Celeste, thank you.

      • Thank, Al, thanks, RoS.

        Al — Sounds like you really hit on something there with learning that regret is like anger, loneliness, self-pity.

        It made me realize that beating yourself up over the past was indeed a trigger when you were actively drinking, so for sure it would be a trigger when practicing sobriety, too. Stands to reason.

        I think that the quote up there from the Promises is so brilliant because it hits on the very balance like others have written of *using* the negative outcomes as reasons to remember not to drink (not shutting the door on the past), but not *regretting* the past as all too often that turns into wallowing. The past can be a very useful tool when trying to inform the present of where to grow next and what issue is up at the plate for healing.

        I’m struggling with regrets big time today. I’m trying to remember the balance of where it is that I was/used to be, and where it is that I am now, and try to sink into the present moment of knowing that I am okay now, I am safe. And with all I have learned, everything will eventually be okay.

        I want things to be better, but then, the only way out is through.
        I’m just asking the Universe for a little mercy, though. 🙂 I could use it…

        • You’re so right. That sentence of the Promises does really ring of balance and i’m better at reaching for that now. i also found this to be very insightful

          The past can be a very useful tool when trying to inform the present of where to grow next and what issue is up at the plate for healing.

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

          PS i’m glad you kinda got some mercy!

          • PS i’m glad you kinda got some mercy!

            Me, too. It has been good to feel supported through this part of the journey. I should probably think about writing something on Now What? soon about this stuff… I’m still recovering from NaNo and then writing a several page legal response on the weekend, though. This whole month has felt like homework and final exams in college! UGH. And I still have some more tests to go, sounds like. Another few semesters until graduation??

            Yeah, about that part up there: the only reason we exist in the present is because of our cumulative past. So while it does not pay to take up residence there, it certainly can show us where we are probably headed, what the trajectory is.

            Somehow I got a visual of “Angry Birds” in my head as I typed that, lol.

  2. Oh, Mr AK, this post makes me sad. You have to forgive yourself sometime – and love yourself again! Ok, shit happened.. but lots of people do lots of shitty things, sometimes more subtle and underhand and hidden, and they get away with it or it goes on forever. You have made a huge huge turnaround and your kids for one aren’t going to hold grudges, that’s for sure. I don’t want you to keep isolating and beating yourself up. You gotta start looking in the mirror and saying to that guy looking back ‘you’re ok’. Because you are! xxx

    • Thanks for the kind words, Mrs D. Your support means a lot. And it’s like i said at the end of the post…it hurts looking back because i’ve moved so far past that guy. But looking back, i need to appreciate how far i’ve come rather than focusing on how bad i was at the starting point.

      Keep coming back!

      Al K Hall

  3. inthesameboatla

    You know what they say: learn from your past mistakes but don’t let them define you.

    Certainly, we all have scars and painful memories. I’ve only recently been able to deal with the worst ones. But what can you do? Wallow in them? Sure. But the better way is to learn from them, keeping them as a reminder of what not to do. And strive not to go back to those ways.

  4. Thanks for this post Al, I certainly feel the same feelings of regret. I think we all do. All you can do is make your amends though and live honestly and be fully present now. We are what we do- just as you spent good quality time with your daughter and her friend recently because you were there NOW. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and remember where we were. We never have to go back there again.

    Thank you again for this.

    • Never go back there again… And these memories are so harsh that i can’t imagine becoming that guy ever again.

      Thank you for your comment, my friend.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      PS Have you heard the new ZZ Top? La Futura? AWESOME!

      • NO! GET OUT! They have a new one out???

        Holy crap, that’s enough to pull me out of any cravings… Off to check it out on Amazon now- THANK YOU!!!

  5. The first thing that came to mind was something that happened in my 5th step. Basically the thing that I was most embarrassed to share, after I did, my sponsor came back at me with a similar situation, but way worse. I can’t tell you the relief I felt. I’d been harboring this “secret” for years, feeling like I had no one to talk to about it. When she shared her experience, it gave me relief to know I wasn’t alone and that someone understood. Her awful experience helped me so much. She’s 16 years sober, so you never know when something you went through might come back to benefit another.

    • That’s one of the things i love about our blogging community as well. Many bloggers share the down and dirty of their addiction days and that helps me to feel less alone. Like your comment!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  6. The pain and regret you feel speaks to how much you’ve grown, so it sounds like a positive sign at its core. I imagine the pain will lessen over time. Sometimes when I get hit with low feelings like this, it pulls me closer to the people I care about, which ultimately puts me even further away from that old life.

    p.s. I do not like that picture…yikes.

    • Lol about the picture. Freaky, right!?

      i really appreciate what you had to say about getting closer to loved ones in times like these! What a great idea! i get to soothe the feelings and, at the same time, feel secure that i’m no longer the guy i was. Excellent advice and much appreciated.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  7. ok this picture is awesome. says it all really. how ridiculous to beat ourselves up.

  1. Pingback: Don’t beat yourself up « What I see, what I feel, what I'd like to see…

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