It’s amazing how easily we addicts fall into a bad case of the “if onlys.” Especially around the first of the year, when all those resolutions and good intentions come to the fore, we’re inclined to look at our past and measure it against some (usually imaginary) standard. Sometimes it’s a standard that we believe someone else held us to, and sometimes it’s one that exists only in our own minds. In any case, if we don’t get our heads back on straight, it can lead to problems.
In one of our books, we are promised that “We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” There is no question that things could have been different, but think about this: if we hadn’t been where we were, done what we did, and experienced what we needed to experience, we wouldn’t be where we are, and there is no guarantee that things would have been better.
I have two beautiful daughters whom I love beyond description, two beautiful grandchildren (ditto) and a wife who is far more than I ever realized when I married her nearly 34 years ago. I treated my first wife, the girls’ mother, badly. She should never have married me, and I feel badly that, as a result, her life turned out less wonderfully than she deserves. One thing leads to another, whether fortunately or otherwise. But that’s just the point. If we hadn’t married, we wouldn’t have the girls, the grandkids, and all the good things that come along with them. If we hadn’t married, I wouldn’t have met my present wife, the love of my life.
See, when we say “What if,” we change everything. It took every single decision I ever made, both good and bad, to get me where I am, and where I am is pretty darned good. Could it be better? Sure. But would I change things? Hell no! The risk would be far too great. Change one thing, mistake or otherwise, and you change everything that follows.
Each of us, addicts or Earth People, has a history. But, as it reads in a meditation book that I consult daily, “We don’t have to obsessively fill our present with the past to acknowledge our history. We aren’t there; we’re here. It’s not then, it’s now, and always will be.” (Answers in the Heart, Hazelden) That’s not to say that we should forget the past, and certainly we need to plan for the present, but we don’t have to obsess about either. Enough is enough. By learning to live “in the now,” mindful of what is happening this moment and not worrying about the past or the future, we enrich our lives, our relationships and, ultimately, become much happier people.
Isn’t that what recovery is supposed to be about?