What if…..?

Ask a child to finish the sentence ‘What if’ and they will probably come up with a fun, imaginative, affirmative reply. ‘What if’ for a child is full of endless possibilities. Yet as adult we often use ‘What if’ as a pessimistic precursor, which goes hand in hand with that other ominous statement ‘If only…..’.

When faced with a difficult situation it is a normal response to think about the ‘What if’s’ and when looking at a situation with hindsight, it is equally natural to consider the ‘If only’s’. For many of us though it’s only the worst possible scenarios or the most awful outcomes that come to mind. And if you’re anything like me, those images that are conjured up can become a form of self torture that do nothing more than hold you hostage in a state of fear.

Several years ago my long-term sober husband decided he could drink again. Dismissing my expressed concerns he was adamant that he could control his alcohol and that it wouldn’t affect our family. He couldn’t and it did.

Whilst he enjoyed his new found ‘freedom’ to do as he pleased, for me it was like being forced onto a train that I knew was going to crash. The months passed and my husband lived in complete denial of the damage being done by his addiction. Whilst for me, each and every day brought a new terror in the form of a ‘What if’.

‘What if ….. he crashes his car, what if he gets into a fight, what if he hurts someone, what if he hurts me? O f course these were always accompanied by the self-blaming ‘If only’s which had become a normality in our increasingly volatile family situation. ‘If only….I hadn’t said that, done that, behaved like that.

“The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” ~ George Bernard Shaw.

It was only when my husband completely relapsed that it occurred to me that I had been allowing the ‘What if’s’ to lead the way. I had been so busy trying to keep the peace and reacting to every event that it wasn’t until crisis point that I realised I needed a radically different approach. There was nothing I could do to change the situation, but I could decide to change myself.

It started with changing my notion of ‘What if’. What if I said ‘Enough is enough’ and meant it? What if I drew up boundaries and stuck to them? And of course the victim mentality of ‘If only’ also had to change. For me the best way to stop lamenting the past was to make a conscious decision to close the door on the things that had gone before and look for a new door which would lead me to new opportunities.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Obviously living my life by choice instead of chance didn’t happen overnight. And the hurt of those desperate months took much time, patience and prayer to resolve. But the lessons I learnt from the experience have been invaluable in dealing with other challenges since.

Today I don’t have to worry about ‘What if’, because I’m too excited about the ‘What next?’

_____________________________________

With love and thanks to my husband, who found the courage and strength to overcome the relapse.

29 thoughts on “What if…..?

  1. Pingback: Treatment Talk – May You Wake with Gratiude | Treatment Talk

  2. I absolutely love You statement “Today I don’t have to worry about ‘What if’, because I’m too excited about the ‘What next?’” …

    Your blog is on my list of top 5 reads, I so look forward to each and every post!

    Thank You Carolyn xxx

  3. Pingback: Leave Your past where it belongs … behind You « Simply Me Just Be

  4. This was a beautiful post. I like how you addressed the fact that we can control our thinking and in turn the reality in which we live. When we focus on the possibilities and not the limitations we liberate ourselves to “live by choice instead of by chance.” Congratulations to you and your husband for your conviction to change your lives for the better.

    http://desibjornsvioletambitions.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/whats-so-bad-about-polly/

  5. LOVE THIS – “Living my life by choice instead of chance,” and I love this section, too: “It started with changing my notion of ‘What if’. What if I said ‘Enough is enough’ and meant it? What if I drew up boundaries and stuck to them? And of course the victim mentality of ‘If only’ also had to change. For me the best way to stop lamenting the past was to make a conscious decision to close the door on the things that had gone before and look for a new door which would lead me to new opportunities.”
    This is great, Carolyn – thanks for sharing and reminding us all – we always have a choice.

  6. Hi Carolyn,

    Thanks for sharing your story and how setting boundaries and sticking to them can make all the difference. I have the utmost respect for those in recovery from alcohol, because each morning when you awake, you must make the same and sane decision not to drink. All the best to you and your family.

  7. I was so glad to read at the end of your post that your husband has overcome his relapse…such good news. You are such a strong and resourceful woman…love that you reframed the “what if” into “what next”…what a great way to change your perspective and thus change your life. Superb post!

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