Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"What if?"

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When there is stress in my life, the “what ifs” keep me up at night. My imagination can run wild with different scenarios. Sometimes my imagination runs wild and takes me back to the nostalgia of drinking. I think to myself, “what if I were a normal drinker? What would my life look like?” I could go to parties and drink without making a fool of myself, I could go to events, concerts, or clubs, and be happy with only having one or two drinks. Wouldn’t that be easier?

I could think of these things all night long, but the reality is, that will never happen. When my head starts swimming with all the “what ifs” my sponsor tells me to write a gratitude list. Sometimes I’m bitter and I don’t feel like it, but when I actually stop and calm down, I can see all the wonderful things I have in my life.

If I weren’t in recovery and actively in AA, I would not have all the tools of communication and self-knowledge I now have because of the 12 Steps. I wouldn’t have a wonderful sponsor I can call anytime for advice. I wouldn’t have a wonderful relationship I now have with my spouse, and I wouldn’t have a wonderful relationship with my children.

One great thing about attending AA meetings is being able to share my life and problems with other people who can relate to what I’m going through. I can come into a meeting seething with anger, share my frustration, and listen to a bunch of similar stories.

For instance, I had a problem with a family member, I’ll call her Mary, after my first daughter was born. Mary would come over to my house all the time, tell me what I’m doing wrong, tell me she knows more than I do, complain about everything I did, tell me I’m not doing anything like she did, so I was wrong, etc.

Mary told me I needed to ask her permission to put my own daughter in school, and proceeded to tell me my choices were wrong. She insulted my food, and would say things like, “I could make others hate you if I wanted, but I would never do something like that to you.” She would also say, “if you ever got divorced, I know you would be okay.”

I started getting paranoid and thinking, “what if she knows something I don’t know?” “What if she turns the family against me?” “What if I really am doing everything wrong?” Eventually I spoke with my spouse about Mary’s behavior, and I was told to ignore her. Apparently Mary does this to everyone.

Other people are able to ignore Mary’s insane rantings, but she got to me. I was angry all the time. I was resentful and shared my feelings at many meetings. I was met with understanding, and to my surprise, many others had similar stories. That made me feel a lot better. AA meetings are safe places where I can share things and not worry about gossip. I got advice from people walking a similar road. People in AA taught me many valuable lessons that I would not have learned if I weren’t in the program.

I cannot change Mary, I can only change how I react to her. I have to accept that I may never have the relationship with Mary I would like to have. Her attitude and behavior is her own, and has nothing to do with me.

These are hard lessons to learn, ones that I am still struggling with. I always think that everything has something to do with me. I always want to be accepted and loved, and will jump through hoops to make that happen.

I now know that no matter what I do, it will never be enough for Mary. It’s painful, but true. I now stand my ground and am respectful, but firm. I don’t let her rule my life anymore. There are times when I make myself crazy with the what ifs. “What if I do something special for her, maybe she will be happy.” Now I can catch myself, and restart my brain. I remind myself of what I am grateful for in my life, and try to move on. Now I can move on in a day or two, instead of months or years.

Many people who have stress in their lives drink to escape from reality. I used to drink to get away from feelings, stress, and daily life. When I got help through an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, my whole life changed for the better. Staff members taught me valuable life lessons and tools I use every day. Checking into a rehab was the best decision I have ever made, and if you have issues with substance abuse, it can save your life.

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