Something I’ve noticed over the years is that memories fade. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s an evolutionary trait, and it helps us in the long run. If we remain forever lost, depressed and not functional after the death of a loved one, it would probably do us harm. So we don’t forget, but the memories fade, and only come to us again if we think about them.
I was reminded of this yesterday, by some comments on a post I wrote in September 2015, on some lesser known side effects of meth. That post was written to be informative but also light-hearted, looking at the humorous side of tweaking out so hard for a whole day that you forget to pee, having severe pain in your fingertips that makes it difficult to unzip your fly or tie your shoelaces, and other effects.
But it occurred to me, that those and other aspects of my life, day to day things that I lived with for years… faded from memory quite quickly. In fact I was just over two years clean when I wrote that, and those things had already faded. I only remembered them because something at the time (and ironically I’ve since forgotten what it was) reminded me of those times. Likewise, I hadn’t thought about that at all again, until I saw those comments yesterday.
Funny how it works… But it can also be dangerous. My son was taken away from me, albeit with my cooperation, though not that of his mother, when he was about 18 months old. It was for the best, for his safety at the time. It ws supposed to be temporary, a private arrangement while I went to rehab, but then something happened that I didn’t expect… Those who fostered him, and they were a family member of mine with his wife – they found reasons not to return our son. The foster care became formalized through child welfare, and then dragged on for far longer than it should have, and even in some respects contributed to my reasons for relapse in 2011. And something else happened… I got used to not being a parent, except when I thought about it, of course. Thinking about it just dragged me into a deep pit of depression and took me even further from getting him back. One social worker who was supposed to help us even sided against us, simply because my ex was honest about her feelings. (Never assume that anybody is competent to do their job, just because they do it. Never.) One would expect that a child welfare social worker, who regularly deals with addicts and their removed children, would understand the psychology of loss, and how it affects the parents. And one would be wrong. Granted, it’s important to act in the best interests of the child, but without understanding how removal of a child affects the parents makes you an accomplice to abuse against them. And removing a child initially because you insist that the mother is on meth and “is unable to make decisions on her own”, even when she isn’t? That’s not right.
That story did end well and I’ve had my son back since December 2015, but my point today is that it might not have. We need to be cognizant of the way memory works, and sometimes doesn’t work. (And although it is not relevant to the subject today, in recovery you also have to be careful what you say. Since you may find yourself in a program where belief and acceptance of bullshit is something that you are judged against, you have to say the right things, and fit in. That’s what I did, and I could not be completely honest about my thoughts on 12 step programs until it would no longer be used against me. And as mentioned, Megan was assumed to be an unfit parent just for saying “I feel like I don’t have a son”. She was telling the truth; I felt the same and simply didn’t say it.)
It would also be easy for me to have an unhealthy attitude about my former drug usage, forgetting the day to day suffering, as mentioned in that post, while longing for the good times, the years of pleasure and fun from before that. And in fact that’s what I used to do. When I lived through those bad times, I didn’t live in the moment… Instead, I looked forward to the next hit, hoping it would bring back those good times. Of course it never did, but it took most of three years to figure that out.
I guess that’s my message today… be careful of your fading memory. We probably evolved that way as a coping mechanism for loss, but it also comes with a dark side. It’s important to make a conscious effort not to forget, not to lose touch with our pasts, both the good and bad times; otherwise we could live to repeat our mistakes.
Aside: This post was also partially inspired by a line from one of my favourite songs (“One by one her senses die, the memories fade and leave her eyes.”). The Drowning Man, by The Cure. There’s a great analysis of the song here. And in the old days, on meth, that’s how I felt… Like I was drowning, where meth and madness were a watery grave.