…one direction… forward.

October 29, 2009

don draper

My favourite Don Draper quote from TV Series, ‘Mad Men’….

  “My life moves in only one direction…  forward”.

Don Draper is a man with a past he is leaving behind.  The character has a past secret life that he would just as soon forget.  He has entered a world he finds more befitting of his tastes, preferences, and capabilities.  A far cry from being an orphaned farm kid from who knows where.

My motives for adopting this motto are different from Don’s.  I have discovered that once reasonably dealt with, the past belongs right where it is… in the past.

There is an important difference between running from one’s past and leaving one’s past behind.  Running tends to be fear or shame motivated.  Leaving tends to be acceptance motivated.

I will never forget the period of my recovery where I began to gain a healthy acceptance of the past.  The regrets, the shame, the costs, the pain, the resentments, the humiliation.  I used to hide from it.  I used to flinch over it.  Until I heard enough fellow journeyers on the pathway of recovery share how they made the same mistakes.  Felt the same regrets.  Hurt others the same way I did.  Wasted time and money.

Then, as my ears and eyes began to open, I came to realize that it wasn’t just us alcoholics and addicts who made huge mistakes and felt pain and regret about the past.   I came to observe and conclude that this is pretty much ‘just life’.  And having done dumb shit is pretty universal.  Not the exclusive domain of alcoholics and addicts.

In fact, I eventually turned a corner and began to see that much of my dumb shit was done after having surrendered myself to mood-altering substances and practiced to perfection self-centred alcohilic thinking habits. 

So if we were to compare regrets, who would have the bigger regret?  The person who did dumb and hurtful stuff while intoxicated?  Or the person who did similar things without impaired judgement of intoxicants?

Don’t get me wrong… dumb is dumb, harm is harm, and pain is pain.  I am not trying to rank anyone’s behaviour.  I am simply saying that my perspective flip-flopped from being one of deep regret and pain, to one of relief and acceptance that I really wasn’t any worse than many “normal” people.

I rarely flinch anymore when I recall the past.  In fact, much of the past, I don’t actively recall anymore.  Why would I if it has been dealt with, amends made, and issues closed?  Time is precious and yields a better return when it is focused on today.  And good todays give the best chance of good tomorrows.

I have stopped wasting my time and energy ruminating over closed issues.  Instead, I invest my time in today.

I’m with Don.  My life moves in only one direction… forward.





  1. Chaz, it’s been a long time since I’ve left a comment here. As I’ve said a million times, your posts are awesome! I read this on my Blackberry when I first woke up this morning. Thanks to your words, it’s going to be a great day! Now if I could only figure out a way to make sure ALL of my days move forward. But that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

    Hope you’re doing well.

  2. Teev! Great to hear from you. Will have to cruise by your blog and catch up a bit.

    Glad the accounts of my journey mean something on yours.

    The accusations our own minds make against us over and over for stuff that we did can be agonizing. Fortunately, we can move past it. My experience is that this happens slowly and progressively. But the freedom it brings is amazing.

    On other thing that comes to mind… you mentioned your wife is church-going? Now I dont mean to single her out here… nor any Christian. I simply wish to demonstrate that there is support for the notion of moving on from past wrongs.

    You know tha account of the woman about to be stoned to death for being caught in adultery? And Jesus shows up just before it is all about to start? And what does he say? “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone”. And they all put their stones down and walked away, right?

    Often overlooked is what he said next. (Paraphrased)…”Woman, where are your accusers”? To which she replies “they are gone”. And then the key to this whole thing…. Jesus replies, “Neither do I accuse you, go and sin no more”.

    So help me out here… is this not saying, “Change and leave the past behind”? And that even God doesnt accuse us of our past? Moving forward is nothing new. The above quote is from thousands of years ago.

    So why do we let accusing voices in our heads beat us up? To me, it is just a bad habit of flawed thinking. We can change ths habit over time on our journey of growth and recovery…. from whatever past we have had.



  3. Your post just lite a light bulb for me. How you described the difference from accepting your past and moving forward and than running away from your past. Is it flawed thinking or just a mind or matter situation? Great post. I’ve been reading your blog for sometime now and really enjoy it. =0)

  4. Hi Anon-Mom…. amazing how lights come on at some of the most unlikely times and from some of the most unexpected sources eh?

    Some of the most impacting pieces of wisdom I have picked up over the years have shown up this way. Which is why I do my best not to out-think circumstances or jump to conclusions too fast about what I will or wont learn in any given situation. We just never know.

    To me, getting unduly caught up in the past is flawed thinking. Likewise is ignoring it or running from it. These are opposite ends of the “flawed thinking about the past” spectrum. Denial at one end, fixation at the other.

    The past does have an impact on where and who we are today. It simply should not be the only determining factor on where we are going.

    Which is why, I believe, the 12 steps suggest we deal with our part in our past by doing inventory, admitting wrongs and rights, and making amends to the best of our ability.

    This way, we are closing out the past with honour and as much justice as possible. We are doing our best to rebalance the imbalances we created so we are free to move forward healthier than what we were yesterday.

    So once given our best effort, we move forward. If there is something that we have not addressed, we simply hope that as “we continue to take personal inventory”, and “improve our conscious contact with God as we understand him”, any unresolved issues will eventually come to light at the right time and we deal with them at that time.

    But until that time comes, today is our priority. And todays stack up and build a tomorrow for us. Thus the observation by Don Draper that life is moving forward if we close out the past.

    (Yet the Don Draper character is not a glowing example of having closed out his past. He seems mainly to hide from it, ignore it, and run from it).

    I like to think most of us are striving for a healthier version of this principle.



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