The following was performed as a monologue on The Naked Man Podcast.
Today, I want to talk about making mistakes. Well, I don’t want to, but I have to.
I was 21 years old when I made my worst mistake.
I got a DUI. And it wasn’t a flimsy one. I earned my crime and subsequent punishment, blowing over a .20 into the breathalyzer and I don’t even remember doing it. Granny picked me up from jail the next morning and we were both in tears. I was never the same after that.
Because this was an unforgivable mistake. Sure, I could have killed myself, but that wasn’t what I was concerned with. No, I could have killed another person. A child. A parent. A grandma.
Sometimes relinquishing control is not only okay, but necessary, but not if you’re forgetting your truest responsibility: don’t hurt others. Hurting yourself is one thing and I’m super good at it, but hating yourself enough to be willing to hurt others or to be willing to take that risk, to ignore that risk and continue to look at yourself in the mirror…
It’d be one thing if this had been an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. That I drank and drove on many more occasions than just the one time I got caught was even worse. There were warning signs. I saw them and I ignored them.
I was sad, I was depressed and I didn’t quite see that. I didn’t quite understand that. I didn’t quite understand myself. I didn’t hear when friends or family expressed concern about me and I wish I had been able to listen when they had.
But I didn’t. Instead, I nearly lost control over my life. A life that I had forgotten was pretty damn wonderful. I didn’t think about how lucky I was not to have hurt someone, I didn’t think about how this was an opportunity to learn about myself, to help myself and in so doing, help others.
I had forgotten that because for so long I had dwelled on the negative, I had dwelled on my mistakes. Those mistakes were all I remembered at night when I couldn’t sleep. Thanks to a powerful imagination, many of these mistakes were fabricated or becoming far worse as they played out in my head on repeat. Enough of the details were real to paint an ugly portrait of myself.
So I lived in fear, in shame and in guilt.
I discovered drinking in college, and found that initially, it unlocked a part of me that had been hidden for so long. A gregarious kid who can find the fun better than anyone, who likes and believes in everyone and who wants to be friends with all he meets. Someone game for anything. Someone who can host and crash a party in equal measure.
But it was never enough — and for a while, when I started a night of drinking, I didn’t know how to stop.
During my junior year of college, my first year off-campus, the Kendall house held an apartment meeting concerning the house’s drunken reputation and our out of control parties. It felt like an intervention.
It was held the morning after a party where I undoubtedly blacked out and pissed myself, a morning where I woke up with regret, shame and embarrassment.
On this particular morning, I had a friend, the friend who held the meeting, say the following to me: “You wouldn’t even remember if you had killed someone last night, Andy.”
In a literal sense, he was right and it felt like a stab wound. Now I was bleeding from what was a mortal wound.
Yes, he was literally right. I could’ve killed someone and I wouldn’t have known because I couldn’t remember all of last night.
But I know I’m not that kind of person. I know I could never dream about killing someone. Or worse, that so many of my dreams are about hurting someone. And never on purpose.
I make a mistake and someone else I love suffers because of it. I hurt someone else. There’s nothing scarier.
So when my friend pointed out that I could’ve done this, I was furious. At him, at myself, at everything and everyone.
Now, I believe I hurt this friend when I was drunk and that’s why he said what he said. But I also think he was trying to be a good friend, albeit a stern one who had had enough of our house.
But at the time, I hated that he felt like he needed to say that and it terrified me. That it terrified me so much seemed to tell myself that in some small way I believed myself capable of harming another living soul.
That tiny act of belief, that immense capacity for self-doubt cast a shadow on the worst of myself, and I almost proceeded to make it come true. It became a prison sentence of my own design, one that proceeded to land me in a very real jail for a night.
I prosecuted myself. I punished myself. I deserved to hurt and that act led me on a path that made it more likely to hurt someone else, that made it more likely for my friend’s ugly proclamation, my perfect nightmare, to come true.
And it still could have… if I didn’t learn forgiveness.
We make mistakes. That’s what humans do, and I have made so goddamn many.
And I’m going to make so many more and that’s terrifying. For so long, that made me hide who I am, that made me shirk my responsibility. I didn’t trust myself to do hard things because the DUI was proof that I had breached that trust with myself.
I needed to learn to trust myself again. To do that, it was time to help myself and be willing to ask for help. I was tired of waiting for someone to live my life for me. I had served my sentence.
I moved to LA. I ate better. I exercised more. I wrote. I tried new things. I entered therapy. I traveled. I fell in love. I made a lot of mistakes and have many more on the horizon. This isn’t linear; this is eight years of my life and I’ve questioned myself every step of the way, I’ve questioned every single word.
But the questions are changing and the mistakes have been becoming a bit more fun.
I also drank less. And when I did drink, I thought about my intentions, my purpose for doing so. I transformed alcohol from a vice to a passionate hobby. I keep track of every beer I drink on an app, I keep score, I rate them, I review them, I chronicle my journey with beer, as I’ve always done with the things that I love.
For so long, I had this fear that I was an alcoholic, and it nearly turned me into one. But I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t need to drink. I identified what I needed: self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love, self-care. Trust in myself.
I don’t order another beer because I want to get drunk but because I love beer. I’m searching for the best beer, for my favorite beer, and when I inevitably order a mediocre one, it’s merely a fun mistake. Cars are no longer in the equation.
I know I will never find the best beer or my favorite beer because that’s who I am. I’m an adventurer, an explorer without a tangible destination and I’m learning with every sip.
I don’t drink because I’m sad or I want to put on a mask anymore. I drink a beer not to cure what ails me, what ails us all. Beer is an evolving story, and it’s part of my story.
I like beer because it’s one of mankind’s scariest and most glorious creations. I reckoned with that intoxicating hypocrisy by achieving balance, learning my boundaries and my motivations.
Beer, to me, is an act of travel — I can be in Dingle, Ireland, remembering that desperate yearning I had for someone to share my life with. I can be in a pub in Oxford, dreaming of collaborating with J.R.R. Tolkien or Kyle. I can be in Belgium with MA and Mariam, relishing the revolutionary act of truly getting to know people.
Beer — and all the things I love, I care about, whether it’s baseball, film or people’s stories — capture my imagination and help me learn about myself.
I love beer because… I had to find a way to love my mistakes. I had to find a way to love myself.
To make a mistake and still love yourself is the hardest thing.
But the act of doing that has enabled me to make mistakes that won’t harm anyone, and a willingness, a bravery, a trust in myself to make more of them.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m still terrified to fail. This episode isn’t going to come out quite right, it’s not going to be perfect. But that’s not only okay, it’s kind of spiffy. After all, you can’t learn from perfect.
We are capable of horrible things. I certainly am. I’ve seen them, and I continue to learn from them. But I can’t continue punishing myself for what I haven’t done.
The fear of failure has been my greatest fear for as long as I can remember having fear. In almost every instance, it has only served to bring about the failures I imagined.
But… that’s okay. Every time I’ve made a mistake, if I’ve learned something about myself, my life has gotten better. My life got better because I had the audacity to believe in myself to be better. Mistakes have the capacity to make us happy.
Forgiveness is a daily adventure and I worry that I’m merely trying to reassure myself, to give myself hope. So what?
I worry that I’m sending out the message that I’m fixed, that I’m cured. I’m not and I never will be, because there isn’t one.
Therapy has helped me transform my thinking: to be curious about myself, not judgmental. Therapy is like taking a Master’s Course on Andy and I remembered I love being a student. I love learning about myself, I love learning about everything and everyone.
This is exhilarating and exhausting, but it’s reminded me of who I am even without alcohol: a gregarious kid who can find the fun better than anyone, who likes and believes in everyone and who wants to be friends with all he meets. Someone game for anything. Someone who can host and crash a podcast in equal measure.
Someone I like.
I try not to make the mistakes in my head anymore — I make them on the page, in the restaurant, on the mic, on the softball field, I make them with friends, family and strangers.
I am a beautiful and unapologetic mess of a human. And yes, I read that on the back of a beer can.