Down Memory Lane

memory laneYou know you’re an old timer or bleeding deacon when someone contacts you asking about the history of AA in your area! Yes, it’s now happened to me and although I don’t feel that old, one truth is that I am. I’ve now been sober and clean over half my life! And yes, I remember when I first came to AA I thought anyone who had 90 days must have it all together – three months later I found out that wasn’t even close to true.

After I’d been sober not quite a year, my sponsor, Larry B., and the man who acted as spiritual advisor to both of us and who had upteen years of successful sobirety, Old Fred, decided to start a Central office or Intergroup as they are now mostly known, in the northern part of San Diego County. Up until then north county had been serviced by the office in San Diego which was a long way away and we had maybe a dozen or two groups in the northern part of our county. It seemed like it was time.

My recollection is we did most things right – we polled the groups and got a majority approval and enough contributions to rent a small office. We also let the main office in San Diego know. Shortly after we opened I learned the real meaning of the statement, “we do not wish to engage in controversy.”

We may not want to, but controversy happens all the time and our little office and the three of us became targets for all sorts of accusations. Why? I don’t really know and by now it hardly matters. A second group formed and we turned over our little central office to them. North county has been served by a Central Office ever since All along the way drunks got sober and 12 Step calls were made and literature got distributed. And even those of us who started it all stayed sober.

What brought this to mind is an email I got from someone who is putting together a history of AA in San Diego county and he ran into a vague reference to the original north county office and asked me if I knew anything about it. I strongly suspect he had no idea I’d been right in the middle of everything.He’s trying to find out the facts and tell the story the way it actually happened. Which can’t be done, not really. I remember the story the way I remember it, and I know in my soul if he’s able to contact any of the folks I suggested or dig them out on his own he’ll get exactly that many versions! Maybe more.

Memory is fallible and I think it starts falling apart right after the event we think we remember.

I first really came to understand this when my 2o year old son and I got into counseling together. He’d tell the story of how I did him wrong and I wouldn’t remember the incident at all even though it made a large impression on him. Then I’d tell the story of how he did me wrong and it was obvious he had no recollection of the event even though it had been important to me at the time. The few memories we shared, we shared in entirely different ways. As I recall (I haven’t asked him) we both ended up laughing and I took away the idea that memory isn’t dependable no matter how good intentioned we are, and that faulty memory only gets worse with time.

When doing a 4th or 10th Step the accuracy of your memory doesn’t matter – you remember what you remember, the way you remember it and you know how you feel about it when you’re doing an inventory – that’s what counts.

If, however, you make an amends (Step 9) and get a blank look or the person either doesn’t remember or remembers the incident quite differently, keep in mind that everyone’s memory, including yours is fallible. When we’re working the Steps or doing something therapeutic, the accuracy of the memory isn’t too important – it’s the feelings either we had or that came after that really matter.

Memories are valuable, no doubt about it; memories are also highly subjective and subject to our own interpretation. Go easy on the things you remember is my suggestion.

Oh, and if you were in San Diego County AA back when we started a north county central office, get in touch and I’ll pass your name and contact info to the historian whose trying to sort it all out.

What do you say? When have you found memory to be less than accurate? What other issues have you had with memory?

Love and blessings,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered



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