Our memories are much less accurate than we believe them to be.
Rather than a frame-by-frame photographic reflection of our past they are riddled with holes, like a swiss cheese. Whole chapters are re-written as we, unwittingly, cast different lights on what actually took place.
Two recent events have bought this home to me. The first was, last weekend, a thirty year reunion of my old boarding school friends. THIRTY YEARS! Where did all that time go?
Now, I lived with these women for seven years, through all those turbulent teenage days, and yet there were a few of them who I swear I had never, ever, seen before.
Even when I heard their names and looked up photos of how they looked back then.... nada. They'd been swallowed up by one of those many memory black holes.
But even much more recent memories are playing tricks on me.
I've been editing the book I've written about my first twelve months sober - the year when I also found and, hopefully, dispatched with breast cancer.
Reading back over that year is like reading a novel written about a character who has nothing whatsoever to do with me.
Whilst I know I had cancer - I have the scars to prove it, and I have to take tablets every day for the next decade at least - the detail of it all is a blur. It feels like it happened to a different person in a different age.
Even more so, the drinking days. When I look back on those I can remember drinking more than I should have, but the implications of that, the details of how it affected my life, my moods, my family... all burred.
There's good reason for this. Our subconscious minds have a built in protection mechanism. It's not good for us to remember all the bad stuff vividly, for there lies post traumatic stress syndrome, depression and anxiety. So they, helpfully, allow us to forget the detail.
Who would give birth more than once if this were not the case?
It's only because of this blog that I am able to remind myself, in all it's gory detail, what that time was really like. And reading back over it, then writing about it, is painful. I had to do it in small chunks. It made me cry, quite a lot.
But the reason for telling you all of this, if you're still reading, is that writing it all down at the time is really important. Because that's what stops us doing it all over again.
I can honestly tell you that if I did not have this record of those dark days I would be drinking again now. Because when I search through my memories I see only the good drinks. The rose on a hot day. the champagne at weddings. The single glass of fine red with a meal in a restaurant.
I don't see the bottle of wine drunk every evening by myself.
I imagine that if you don't quit drinking until you hit a spectacular rock bottom, then it is less easy to forget. You have drink driving offences, broken relationships and a lost life to remind you.
But, if you - wisely - quit before that point, you only have your unreliable memories to rely on. The memory bank that it all easy to rob of its treasures.
So please, write it all down. Before you forget. Start a blog. A diary. Tell someone.
If you'd like to read my story from the start, then click here (or wait for the book!)
Love SM x