On the face of it, I am no more qualified to take my own inventory than the addict with the fetid dreads who spare-changes people on the subway while singing “Stand by Me.” Ask him how he ended up sweating people for quarters, and he may have an answer, but he doesn’t really know and probably couldn’t bear it if he did.
To be an addict is to be something of a cognitive acrobat. You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs — you need, actually — to keep them at a remove. Let’s stipulate that I do not have a good memory, having recklessly sauteed my brain in fistfuls of pharmaceutical spices. Beyond impairment, there may be no more unreliable narrator than an addict. Recovered or not, I am someone who used my mouth to constantly create one more opportunity to get high.
Here is what I deserved: hepatitis C, federal prison time, H.I.V., a cold park bench, an early, addled death.
Here is what I got: the smart, pretty wife, the three lovely children, the job that impresses.
Here is what I remember about how That Guy became This Guy: not much. But my version of events is worth knowing, if for no other reason than I was there.