I went to a mates house on Sunday. She lives very near the place I used to, back when I was someone else.
I spent a few hours with her at her place. We did some work, drank some tea, had some laughs, just being the person I am now really.
I left to go home. But I didn’t go home. Instead I ventured down the road. Back to the place I hadn’t set foot in for well over a decade.
It hadn’t changed. But I knew it would be that way. It’s one of those rare parts of London that isn’t constantly under redevelopment. So it felt the same as soon as I got there. Even if I’m still not quite sure how to put into words what that feeling is.
I got out of the tube station and the first thing I see is this road I used to stagger down on my way home. The area is still fairly rough to be honest. And the first thing that hit me was fear. Because I used to stagger and crawl and fall up and down that road. Alone. In some god-awful states. Incapable of caring for or protecting myself. I’m so lucky the only harm I ever came to was self inflicted drinking injuries. Lucky beyond belief really.
Down from that road is a main road. A road I passed out and lay on in the early hours of the morning one time when a taxi driver found me and cried and took me home to my Flatmates.
What I didn’t remember until going back was that this road was right outside the drama school I was attending. And that to me was really sad. Because it was the biggest example I had of how badly I f*cked up the opportunities given to me back then. Here I am at one of the best drama schools in the world. And instead of going inside and learning, I’m getting off my face on drink and lying in the road.
Just so much waste.
I went into the pub I also mention in talks I give. It’s a fairly dark place where pretty bad things happened. It’s not somewhere I would go and revisit even when finally in the old neighbourhood. But at this stage I’ve just sat beside a main road and cried for half an hour, so I figure that nothing else can set me off.
I walked in and realised that some things do change. The place looked so nice inside now. Really bright and clean and welcoming. The same landlady was behind the bar. I liked her back then because she never barred me despite my behaviour. And she never judged me for the fairly terrible way I used to allow my boyfriend at the time to treat me, in her pub and right under her nose.
I bought some drinks and we chatted. She told me she’d always liked me and was glad I was alright. Again she didn’t pass comment on the soft drink I had. Or when I pointedly told her I was single and inferred there would be no man walking in to drag me across her tables of glasses anymore.
I think we were both quite relieved by that.
Then I asked if I could use her loo. And I sat in there for another half hour and cried for the girl who wasted her early twenties drinking in a dark bar, consumed by dark thoughts and accepting any dark behaviour thrown her way in that place.
Then I left. And I went home to my part of London where I make sure everything is covered in light. All day, every day.
I’m not one for looking back often. When I do it’s for a reason, I knew that I couldn’t keep speaking about these things in a bid to help others until I went back to that place as the person I am now.
I f*cked up a lot in my life. I wasted a lot of opportunities. Time I will never get back. But it wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t all bad by a long shot. I had friends. I was loved, I had a life. A body that actually worked without me having to prompt it. And I had forgotten that bit. And that’s what the tears were really about, I think. Because I had demonised the past so much that I had refused to acknowledge the good memories that became consumed by the ocean of darkness.
Is that why they call it Memory Lane do you think? Because we make the past so narrow by filtering for it what suits us to remember? My drinking days were not all bad. Even in my worst of times. It’s wrong of me to pretend otherwise.
It’s also a source of massive confusion to people in early recovery when they hear seasoned former drinkers paint their past as All Pain. As All Loss. Because it’s not true. It’s huge slices of darkness and wasted opportunity and despair, but it’s sprinkled with love, and laughter, happy days. People who still like us despite our appalling behaviour.
If we can widen our trips down Memory Lane a bit. I think we could help those still struggling in darkness to make their way into the light so much easier.
It’s a destination worth the journey. I promise x