Unmemories, Like the Corners of My Mind

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.

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10 thoughts on “Unmemories, Like the Corners of My Mind

  1. That was possibly the most potent and poignant of your entries to date that I’ve read. I don’t quite know what to say outside of that besides “Wow….”

    • Thank you, Fox. It’s weird like i had this overwhelming urge to write about what I didn’t remember. To capture what ultimately I cannot capture in truth and that itself kind of became the story. Like what we don’t know or forget or hide is as much of a story as things the legitimately remember experiencing. Does that make sense? Anyway, thanks again for reading and validating this blog’s purpose. You rock.

  2. Another amazing poignant blog! Reminds me…Hubby always asks new guys who said they didn’t have black outs the following… “Well,….how do you know?If you were alone….? And no body can tell you what you did…are you really sure?…” HA!

  3. Although I didn’t black out from substance abuse, I’ve spent my entire life “forgetting” and can really identify with the lack of accessible memories. It has been a source of derision and pity in others, mostly I think it developed as a survival and coping mechanism. Thanks for sharing. I especially appreciated the ending, “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.”

    • I agree. “rejection is God’s protection” my sponsor is fond of saying and it’s true when it comes to missing memories as well. Perhaps we’re not supposed to get tangle dup in what was in order for us to move on. Anyway, thanks for popping by again and I’m glad to see you’re doing well.

  4. Love it. That’s what I’ve been working on is my unmemoir. I am attempting to retrieve memories from a 2 year period where I had blackouts. There were a lot of blanks, one event not quite fitting into the logical sequence of events with another. I didn’t think that I would be able to retrieve anything, when finally one day, I did. I remembered something! Now there is some hope that there are things I can retrieve. They may not be good things, but I can’t stand having these holes in my memories and large pieces that are just this void of blank time.

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