Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Don't shut the Door on the Past

There's a spiritual promise in a book I studied that was a great part of saving my life.

"We will neither regret, nor wish to shut the door on the past."

This is referred to as a "promise".

There are a number of promises, all of which have come to fruition in my life over the past 12 or 13 years. All, that is,. except this one. Is it possible for me, sure, I believe so, it just hasn't happened yet.

I can stand on the "nor wish to shut the door on" portion of the promise. That much is true. I can honestly say there is not one single thing I have ever done, had done to me, or thought that I have not already shared with another human being, and of course, God, Who (I had a sneaking suspicion,) may have already known.

The purpose is not simply to share horror stories, or lowlights, but to share insight on a tragedy from the perspective of someone in whom the difficulty has now been solved.

Sometimes, the entriety of the problem has not been relieved, but I am compelled to share whatever perspective it si that I have.

The freedom to share my worst moments, humiliating defeats and darkest nights of the soul comes not from pride at having survived them, because let's face it, most people don't need to go where I've gone and experience what I've experienced to smarten up and do things differently. I never changed out of virtue, but rather out of necessity. And honestly, I never really changed me, I merely became unwilling to continue living the old way, and willing to let God do whatever the heck it is that He does with characters like me.

So it occasionally comes to me- my greatest regret of many regrets, the lone regret I can't seem to completely forgive myself for. I can share with depth the hows and whys, the ways God has changed me, and the things I need to continue to work on, but to say I no longer regret my greatest failing... well I just can't do that, not yet.

Humility is sometimes granted to the lucky in sublime moments when you know God is there, patting your head, whispering that it's all going to be okay. I often fluctuate from "I'm better than you" to "I'm worse than everyone", when in reality the truth is "as good as any, better than none", and God has a gentle way of showing this to me, taking my darkest moments, and using them to shine light into someone else's personal hell cave.

Today I met with a young man I am helping with his sobriety. We were talking about life, and we like to go to a certain place to get hot dogs when we have our chats. This week, they started deducting child support from his already meager check, leaving him with very little money left over. he said with not a little shame that he couldn't afford to go for hot dogs today, as he was broke. I good-naturedly and happily I might add ('cuz that's just the kind of guy I am!) offered to treat. he accepted, probably wishing he didn't have to.

As we sat and scarfed our dogs, he hung his head a bit, feeling bad about being broke while living in a half-way huse, which was bad enough. Without any effort, I thought myself somewhat magnanimous inmy generosity at helping out a down-on-his luck chap.

Before I completed the first pat on my own back, an awareness came to, sharply.

This kid was paying child support, that's why he was broke. I had money, perhaps because I had no child support to pay. Why is it that I don't have to pay child support?

Because my child was never born.

The opportunity was presented to me once to take on the responsibility of caring for another human being, but I was too scared, too sick to even dream of such an undertaking. It was many years ago when was in my mid 20's, a chronic alcoholic, daily drinker, bookie and degenerate gambler. What kind of father could I possibly be?

My own parents were marvels of parnethood. Dad had a truckload of kids. Mom (2nd marriage for both as her husband had died very young) waited until the wedding night, althought she was 39 when they married. I wasn't raised to be this selfish, this irresponsible, yet here I was. What happened to me? Where did everything go so far astray? How did I become this person I now loathed?

I couldn't face the responsibility, and was overwhelmed by the fear of how terrible a father I would be. I gave the poor woman zero emotional support, and pretty much, through lack of help, left her only one choice.

In the aftermath, I became more self-hating and ventually, suicidal, though no one close to me would know that. I pasted on the persona of a comedic chronic inebriate and tried to dull the pain as best I could. It would still be years before I would finally crumble and get sober.

As the kid sat there, feeling bad about how he had failed as a young father, as well as me having to pay for his hot dog, I realized I had to share this with him, though my ego would rather let me sit there and play the hero with a ten dollar bill to burn.

So I told him the reason I had money to pay for his dog might be because I lacked the courage he had displayed when he got his girlfriend pregnant to help her see it through. I instead thought only of self-preservation, and how poor a father I would make. I hadn't even dared to try, and because of that, there was one less person walking the earth.

"You might not be able to pay for your hot dog, but your son is alive."

I felt tears coming to my eyes, and fought them back. This kid, who had probably seen me as some sort of half-assed guru could now see the truth- I am just like him, he is just like me.

Either one of us trying to forge through life without God guiding us is going to leave a wake of wreckage.

I told him I was proud of him.

He countered with the admission that the money was deducted by the state, he had no choice, a truth he may not have been willing to pony up, but now was. God was showing him through me that it was okay to tell the truth, to fail and admit it, get up and keep plugging.

The only thing I have of value is the truth of my experience,nothing more. The truth is that when I am on the right Path, I am a pretty amazing guy, because that's how I was put together, and when I am off track, I am a wrecking ball, destroying everything in my path, because that's how I am put together. I was designed be with One with the Master, and when I stray, I pay as do those around me.

We talked for a long time about the inevitability of crashing and burning as the result of the alcoholic mind as marshalled by the will. I could see for this kid, it simply was not going to be any other way.

There was no great job,no winning streak, no new car, girlfriend or combination of them all that was going to change the fact the he was and is, a chronic alcoholic. As we talked about the mind of the alcoholic, his and mine, a small still voice whispered to me... if this is true for him, isn't it true for you?

"Yes," I thought, "Yes, it must be true for me as well."

This is how God shows me my own humanity, fallibility and ultimately, forgiveness, by teaching me through compassion for others andblessing me with forgiveness for others.

So today I was willing to open the door to the past so that someone in need may get relief from shame, guilt and remorse. That's a good step for me. Some day, I may look deep within myself, and notice that something is missing- regret and remorse with regard to this painful memory. As for now, it is still there in some degree, but lessening, and the pain has never stopped me from sharing the truth when I honestly believed it could help someone, so there's that. Right now, I'm pretty sure it's the very best I can do.

I still feel a little sad today, but I think that's a normal reaction. It's okay to be sad, sometimes "sad" is the exact right way to feel. The difference today is that I can be a little sad without trying to alter the way I feel with something outside of myself, but can go within, share the sadness with God, and move out into life, where I am supposed to be, as opposed to in my head full or regret for something I simply can not change.

Some things can't be undone.

You know, I generally like to write or talk from the perspective of a man who knows the solution, has the answers, is on top of things, but sometimes it is refreshing to simply write "I don't know", or "I have faith...but I don't have the answer yet."

I don't know.

I have faith, but I don't have the annswer yet.

There, I did it.


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