…what if?

Do you ever think, what if?  Do you ever imagine the how your life might be different? What if had you turned right instead of left.  What if you had talked to that handsome guy a little longer at the Christmas party when you were younger?  What if you had truly stopped drinking 984 days ago?

What if?

If we are wise, and healthy, we live in reality, not in what if, but on Day 7AF (alcohol free) I find myself reflecting a bit on how I got here and why this time is different.  My very first, declared Day 1 was 2 years and 251 days ago, nearly 3 years ago, 984 days to be exact.  What if I had truly stopped on that day?  What have I missed in all that time by continuing to drink, on and off?  What have I learned, by drinking and stopping and drinking again?

On my phone, hidden in a folder, I have a Day Count app.  Over the years I’ve entered countless “New Beginnings”, “Day 1’s”, “Starting Over’s”.  I’ve deleted all of them, except my very first, May 17, 2017, and the one I’m now currently on January 19, 2020.  I hesitate to say “my last” for fear I will have to eat those words.  I’m learning that all I have control over, all I can focus on, is today, now, not even tonight or next week, or the next family wedding or any other alcohol filled celebration.  I am here. Now. Alcohol Free.  My head is clear.  My eyes are not (as) puffy as they were last week.

I truly believe that God gives us free will.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

God puts opportunities in front of us but leaves it up to us to make our own decisions, as parents should.  If He forced us to do things the Right Way, His Way, we would resent Him.  We would eventually rebel.  Instead, He provides guidance and then steps aside allowing us to find our way.  Think about your parents and how you reacted when they told you what do to or how to behave or what decision to make.  What impact did that have on you?  What about your own children or your friends?  Do you tell them what to do, or do you show them options and talk with them, teach them, about consequences and outcomes, allowing them to think through a situation and make their own decision? Or, do you force them to do it Your Way since you have knowledge and experience and want to save them from the pain and suffering of the mistakes you made?

I believe that we only truly learn through first hand experience.  We cannot truly learn by hearing someone else’s story.  I think that is why, although I my intention was to fully stop drinking that Spring day nearly 3 years ago, I still needed to try things “my way” and discover that there was a better way I had yet to discover.

I spent several years before that spring day in 2017 starting and stopping my drinking.  I had talked to a counselor.  I had prayed to the porcelain gods.  I had confided in my priest.  I had hidden empty bottles in the trash.  I had hidden 4 packs of minis under the kitchen sink to have in an emergency.  I had written an essay on the back of store receipts as I sat in a cafe for lunch, head pounding wondering what it would be like to drink wine at lunch.  (see post “She Sits Alone”)  I had stopped for a day, or a week but I’d never said Never Again.

But something clicked on that day in May 2017 as I sat in my car waiting for my daughter to finish sports practice, I cannot now recall what.  And while I thought at the time that would be it, the wine witch and the insidious addictive nature of alcohol meant that it would not be that simple, or easy.

I am so thankful now that I started writing back then, capturing my thoughts on paper.  I honestly cannot sit here and recall all the highs and lows, successes and failures, maybe I should say lessons, of the last 3 years, but having recorded them in my journals I can look back and remember.  I also know, without doubt that God has walked that path with me, even when I strayed into the rocks and thorns, He was there, on the path, offering help, stretching out His hand, but never grabbing me by the arm and pulling me back, always allowing me to find my own way.

Had he rescued me I’d never have developed the understanding I have today.

Had he rescued me I’d never have asked for help.

Had he rescued me I’d have missed the opportunity to develop wonderful friendships with others traveling this same path.

So no more what if’s.  The story they would have written would not have been my story, and I’m okay with that.  My story needed to include the experiences of last 3 years.  My story made me open to the message of Annie Grace’s wonderful book, This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Mind.  It has certainly changed not only my mind, but my life!

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