In my mind there is a closet. It has one shelf and I must stand on my tip-toes to reach the little brown boxes on it.
I only pull one of those boxes down and unwrap it when I know I need to. One box hold the memory of a car accident I had while drinking more than 30 years ago. I wrapped a 1972 Gran Torino – a massive vehicle – around a telephone pole.
I loathe this memory. I am so ashamed of what I did and so blessed that I hit a telephone pole and not another car. I could easily have killed someone. For some reason, the cops believed my lies or simply didn’t want to fill out the paperwork necessary to charge me. My driving record is clean.
When I unwrap that memory, I smell blood – that horrific iron smell. I remember the shirt I was wearing and the blood on it. I remember wanting to kill myself.
This is the box I open when the thought of taking another drink after 16 years of sobriety enters my brain. I need to wrap it up right now and put it back on the shelf.
There are boxes that contain memories of suicide attempts and the utter hopelessness of my last major depression. I take those down when I get cocky and think I don’t need my medications anymore.
I cannot dwell on memories like this for long because I know that remorse and shame are very dangerous to my mental health. I am so sorry for those things I have done and have made amends as best as I could.
But every now and then I need them – to scare me and fill me with gratitude. Even now, just writing about them has trigged deep humility and profound gratitude.
It’s time to wrap that box back up, put it back on the shelf and close the closet door. It’s time to start this wonderful, blessed, sober day I have been given.
Brown box available from Shutterstock.