I know better than to compare a fictional story to real life. But yet I found myself doing just that, trying to comprehend the experiences of a character that were so foreign to me, but unfortunately probably familiar to many others. In the book, the character is an alcoholic, often drinking so much to help her cope with life that she blacks out. Multiple times she wakes with a feeling of guilt, knowing that she did something wrong, something embarrassing, something out of character, but not being able to remember what she did.
“I wake with a crushing sensation of wrongness, of shame, and I know immediately that I’ve done something stupid,” she says.
I’m not going to get into the struggle and devastation that alcoholism can cause for the person and those around them. That is not what this post is at all about. What I do want to focus on is the fact that what troubled this character was the need to remember these missing memories so that she could take full ownership of them and their consequences. Without being able to remember what the character had done during those missing hours, she felt unable to take responsibility for her actions and to feel fully accountable.
As she says, ” I know what I’m responsible for, I know all the terrible things I’ve done, even if I don’t remember the details- but I feel distanced from those actions. I feel them at one remove.”
Why did this aspect of the book strike me so much? It’s not like I could relate to the character. In fact, I think it was exactly my inability to relate to the situation that stuck with me. It’s not that I haven’t made mistakes that I’ve felt guilty for. I’ve regretted or questioned decisions, but I’ve always been able to remember what led to them and fully take responsibility for them. And until I read this book, I’ve completely taken this simple fact for granted. While we do make mistakes and have regrets, we are still in control of our actions. When you take responsibility for what you’ve done, you can learn from it, put it behind you, and move forward.
A couple months ago, I made some changes to my lifestyle. I started following a nutrition and exercise plan. And for 2 months I stuck with it for the most part. I saw changes in the way my body looked, I lost a little weight, I became leaner and stronger, and my A1c dropped, I felt good. And then the holidays came. With the countless holiday parties, eating more meals out, going on a cruise, and being off my normal schedule, I started making less healthy decisions. I ordered dessert, I snacked into the evening, I ate the fries instead of switching to a healthier side, I grazed through parties eating even though I wasn’t hungry. I got off track.
About a week ago, I woke up in the morning full of regret. On my CGM was proof of the decisions I made the night before, my entire night dancing above the 180 line, dipping and rising. My stomach not quite itself, I knew I was still feeling the effects of my earlier choices. But unlike the character in the book, I remembered what led me to this point. I could recall the unhealthy decisions that I had made. But instead of feeling defeated, I felt empowered! Because by knowing what got me to this point, I also know what I can do differently next time. I can prevent this feeling. Your memories and emotions, as negative as they might be, don’t need to be what holds you back, they can be motivators to propel you forward.
This past week, I got back out my nutrition plan and started fresh. I know that I’ll slip up from time to time, but I’m on the right path. And the regret that I felt, while not desirable, was a catalyst to get me back on a healthy path, and for that, I can’t regret my regret.