Tuesday, 13 October 2015


When I was drinking, I lived pretty much day by day. Not in a good 'mindfulness' sense, but in a rather toxic way. Either I was recovering from the last drinking session, or planning the next (or both simultaneously), and I didn't really get a great deal further than that.

Since I quit, my horizons have telescoped outwards - both forwards and back. I spend a lot more time and effort planning for the future (see yesterdays post on The Possibility List), but I also spend more time haunted by flashbacks from the past.

Some of these flashbacks are the inevitable bad things I did while drunk. But many of them are the sepia tinted memories of childhood, which often make me want to weep with nostalgia. Why is it that sorting out our present makes us spend so much time in the past?

I had one of these flashbacks recently. I was driving the car and a song came on the radio. It was the incomparable Edith Piaf singing Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (I have no regrets).

(Please, please click here and turn the volume up high).

This song reminded me of one of my father's favourite stories. It was 1962. He was a handsome, hugely talented, twenty four year old who'd just been posted to Brussels by the British Civil Service.

One evening, Dad was offered a theatre ticket by a colleague who was stuck in the office and couldn't go. It was a show at the Gaite (which was later turned into one of my favourite nightclubs. It's probably now a luxury apartment complex...).

Dad knew nothing about the show, but he did know that the theatre always served a carafe of wine and a cassoulet for every theatre goer to accompany the performance (there was a wooden ledge running in front of all the seats which served as a table). Given that he was a bachelor and unable to even boil an egg, a free meal was too good an opportunity to miss.

Dad tucked into his dinner, rather hoping for a Moulin Rouge type of spectacle with lots of long legs, perky bosoms and feathers. Instead a raddled old lady stepped onto the stage, alone, and walked up to the microphone. He started to regret his decision, and to plan an early exit.

Then she opened her mouth and started to sing. Only my father could end up seeing the legendary Edith Piaf by accident!

After I was reminded of this story I looked up Edith on Wikipedia. Yes, you guessed it: she was one of us....

She died less than a year after Dad saw her sing. And she wasn't the old lady he remembers. When he saw her she was forty-six years old. Exactly the same age as me.

Edith had a tragic life. She was named after the British nurse, Edith Cavell, who was executed exactly 100 years ago yesterday for helping allied soldiers escape from German occupied Belgium. Her mother abandoned her at birth, and she was bought up in a bordello by her grandmother and a bevvy of prostitutes.

Edith was blind for four years of her childhood. At seventeen she had her own daughter, Marcelle, who she also abandoned. Marcelle died of meningitis aged two. It is rumoured that Piaf slept with a man to pay for her funeral.

The love of Edith's life died in a plane crash in 1949, on his way to meet her.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Edith became addicted to alcohol and morphine. Despite three attempts at rehab she couldn't beat her demons. She died at the age of forty-seven from liver cancer.

In memory of Edith, I try to have no regrets. I cannot regret a decade, or more, of my life. A lot of it was a great deal of fun. I had three wonderful children, and managed, somehow, to do a half decent job of getting them through early childhood.  My past got me to where I am now, and that's a pretty good place to be.

Regrets can haunt you. They can paralyse you, and stop you moving forward. That's why 'making amends' is so fundamental to AA (see my post on Making Amends).

Don't be held back by regrets of the past. If you are, make amends and move forwards. The key thing is to make sure that you have a future that you won't regret.

Sadly, Edith's last words, as her liver killed her in a final act of revenge, were not non, je ne regrette rien. Her last words were "Every damn thing you do in this life, you have to pay for."

Don't let that happen to you.

Love SM x


  1. "Regrets... I've had a few but then again too few to mention".

    Making amends is what I am trying to focus on. I hope that I haven't done too much damage to my kids but my drinking has definitely affected them. I have been "decluttering" as you have advised and found some of my stocking presents from the past - an apron saying "Wine makes mummy clever", a little tin box saying "Mummy's wine fund" and a coaster saying "Don't let mummy's glass get empty". Oh how we chuckled!!

    I definitely need to make amends to them as these are anything but funny.

    Love your blog!

    1. I have many of those wine joke pressies too, RD! My kids adjusted very quickly to seeing me as a non drinker, and the 'old me' of 7 months ago they seem to barely remember! 7 months is a very long time in their eyes.... Xxx

  2. Al 'la vie en rose' - such a moving film about her life. But what a mess she was really! No regrets here x

  3. Because life is like this, i didn't know who Edith Piaf really was but on Sunday Madonna sang la vie en rose. It was one of the hilights of the concert.

    Anyway, When I fe regretful I often look at my lif and realize it is a good life. Drinking really was only a serious problem in the last couple of years, and most of that was internal. I like to think I stopped before I could ruin everything.

    And as we can't change the past, it's best to take the lesson and move forward. There's too much life left to enjoy!

  4. I've had too many drunken regrets. Which is quite easy when your drinking career spans 20 years. It is difficult coming to terms with everything I've done whilst under the influence. But since learning (on my sober journey) that acceptance does not mean trying to change those events and wishing it could be done differently, but more simply acknowledge their existence, taking on board they happened and moving forward, it's slowly getting easier. Does that make sense? Remembering the past actually helps to keep me sober. I never want to go back there again. I have been so lucky that I didn't end up dead in a ditch, or die of alcohol poisoning in my sleep. I've used my 9 lives and some. Stay sober people. It does get easier and it does become the norm, even if at times you can feel boring. I know I'd rather be boring and alive than the alternative. LNM x

  5. "Life's a one take movie, and I don't care what it means, I'm saving up my tears for the crying scene" - Aztec Camera song. Nice post SM, Perhaps EP was correct - you do have to pay for everything - but if you catch it in time and modify your behavior, you can have no regrets. Eeyore

  6. I love Edith Piaf. Lover her song, love her voice. She had a very sad life. But she was incredibly talented. I've read a few books about because there was a time when I was really interested in her life. Singing was a way of escaping for her. Drugs and alcohol was a way of coping. And we do have have to pay for everything we do. Regrets or no regrets.