Many alcoholics and addicts are constant worriers, or as my mother used to like to tell me, “You worry enough for the entire family.” This is a common characteristic that many people with an addictive personality share, and for years, especially in our addiction, we were plagued with worry and anxiety. We would wake up in the morning wondering what if the dealer didn’t answer, or what if today was the day we would get arrested, or what if we someone discovered our affliction, and the list of possible scenarios, which could cause us pain went on and on.
Yet this anxiety doesn’t necessarily stop once we get sober. In fact, many times leading up to recovery we have a number of different what-if scenarios, which beleaguer our minds. We wonder what if we can’t get sober, or what if the withdrawals are really bad this time. We may wonder what if people discover that we are going to rehab, or that we are finally stopping drinking or using drugs. And a million other things that usually never come to flourishing.
As if that wasn’t enough, once sober and having worked the Steps the what-ifs can continue if we allow them to. We can be totally sober, having a spiritual program of action in place and still wake up in the morning and think, what if I lose my job? I’ll probably never be able to find another one and then I’ll probably wind up homeless and everyone in my life will desert me. This may be an extreme example of what-ifs gone wild, but they are thoughts that come to everyone in recovery from time to time.
We are a people that have an overactive imagination, coupled with a depressive side that likes to obsess on the things that could possibly go wrong. Due to this, we have to work to break free from the what if disease and learn to live in the present, where only one possible life scenario is playing out.
Today we are going to take a look at 7 ways to stop projecting into the future about things that could happen and live in the moment, where all of our needs are taken care of. At the expense of sounding ridiculous throwing quotes from two family members into such a short period of writing; as my grandmother always used to tell me, “There is no sense in worrying because of most of the time the things you worry about never come true.”
7 Ways to Stop the What Ifs
Take a deep breath
If you find your mind racing off to exotic places where disasters are occurring in your life, then take a step back and breathe. For one, those things are not currently occurring, and by chance, they do occur, being overly anxious will not help the situation. Take a minute to collect yourself and take 3 deep breaths. You will more than likely notice that your thinking has slowed down and your What Ifs have disappeared.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts
This may sound absurd because most of us only seem to pay attention to our thoughts, but there is a difference between being a participant in the mania between your ears and being an observer. As an observer, you are able to really “see” what you are thinking and begin to break the negative thought patterns that cause what ifs. For instance, if you find that you have a rather negative self-talk pattern going on that leads you to think, what if everyone discovers I’m worthless and they abandon me, then you need to begin to pay attention to that and break the pattern of thought as it starts.
Nothing will so much help a bad case of the runaway brains, as meditating will. It isn’t always easy to start meditating, especially if your mind is racing, but if you stick with it, you will find that you are better able to focus on the present and leave the future for another time.
A great way to stop the What Ifs is by exercising. The act of exercising, whether it be at the gym, going for a walk, or yoga, will not only take your mind off of whatever it is that you are thinking about, but it will also release chemicals in the body that will make you feel better overall.
If you find that your anxiety is unshakeable and you just can’t escape the thoughts that are coming into your mind, then give someone a call and expose them to the light. There is usually no better way to stop intrusive thoughts than to talk them out with another person. You will realize in the process how ridiculous some of the things you are saying are, and in turn be able to let them go.
Go to a Meeting
Going to a meeting is a great way to re-center yourself and to also find gratitude for the things that you have. It is usually more difficult to live in anxiety and fear when you are grateful, and so a meeting can help you accomplish this.
Use Positive Affirmations
I find that a lot of the time my anxieties about the future are based on a lack of confidence in myself. A good way to put an end to that is by telling yourself positive things, in order to reinforce the good and negate the bad.
The reality is that you will probably never be totally rid of the What Ifs, but by practicing some of the suggestions above, you can at least wrangle in your mind a bit and begin to understand that just because you worry about something, doesn’t mean it is going to come to true.