I want to write my unmemoir. You know, a whole book about the things I don’t remember. An entire volume of the shoulda, woulda coulda adventures that may or may not have happened in a blackout. And by “a blackout” I mean the years 1992- 2008.
Now I am not suggesting I spent the entire 16-year span of 1992 and 2008 entirely in a blackout. I’m not Nick Nolte for crying out loud. But I did start having blackouts around the age of 21 and didn’t stop experiencing them until I got sober in 2009. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can’t remember lately because of Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg wrote the essential writing classic Writing Down the Bones and I’m currently working my way through her book on writing memoirs entitled Old Friend from Far Away. Goldberg is fond of the exercise of writing pieces that begin with “I remember” or “I don’t remember”. These are great little prompts to get the brain warmed up and working. I have been doing the exercises as suggested and soon started to think more about “I don’t remember.” Enter the unmemoir idea. Mainly, the unmemoir would have to consist of delusions and lies, which is my favorite combination right after “grilled cheese and tomato soup” and just before “smoking and talking shit.” My unmemoir would have lots of half stories. Beginnings or just endings. Rarely would the middle of the story show up. Mainly because in the middle of the action is where I would totally blackout. It became normal, for years at a time, for people to say to me matter of fact, “You probably don’t remember. You were really drunk.” Like it was some kind of acceptable handicap. Like being a blackout drunk excused me from acting like a human being. But really being a blackout drunk doesn’t get you a special parking space and doesn’t entitle you to a telethon. The only perk is that people will let you off the hook for not remembering things and quietly pity you.
I might sound like I’m waxing poetic about blackouts but I’m not. It’s a horrible way to exist. It’s like living in Memento everyday. Wondering who you called or what fucked up texts you sent or how you got home. Ugh. And I spent YEARS like this. My blackouts usually took me on dangerous quests for more alcohol, drugs or sex with strangers– or all three if I was really in the dark. Or I would just yell at someone I allegedly loved and then pass out. Charming. Today, like it or not, I get to remember everything. And none of my behavior can be written off because I was too fucked up. And so, many of the pages of my unmemoir have to remain empty. The story is that there is no story. That not remembering must be a protection or a blessing or just part of the deal. And that anything I did or didn’t do during a blackout were just the actions of a guy suffering from a disease. Tragic acts not worth writing down. Acts that don’t make for good reading but make for excellent reminders.