If I knew then what I know now, would my path be any different? Would my choices change? Would I make different decisions? They say hindsight is 20/20. And yet, I look at my past, and I am still not sure what I could have, should have, or would have done differently. Maybe it’s not yet far enough behind me to say.
Maybe because I don’t know the final destination, I don’t know if I got lost somewhere along the way.
So what do I wish I knew before? What would have made this journey easier? A few things come to mind.
First: Letting go of “what-ifs.”
I’ve been fighting this battle for a while now, and I still don’t know what I would change if I could go back. What I do know is that getting stuck in the “what-ifs,” and debating every choice and decision that was made in the past (and sometimes even the present), does me no good. It fuels my self-pity and resentment. It makes me doubt myself. Don’t live in the “what-ifs.”
Second: Knowing doesn’t make feeling any easier.
I know that my husband is changed by alcohol. I know that the second it enters his body, his mind is changed, and he is a different being. I know that even when he is sober in the moment, his brain is altered by his addiction. I know that he doesn’t mean the awful things he says, I know this is not my fault, I know I can never, “love him enough,” to get him sober.
Knowing these things doesn’t make hearing them any easier.
It is still heartbreaking to hear that I am hated, that it is my fault, that if I just did more, things would be better. Even though I know they aren’t true, they still leave impressions in my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, knowing is important. Knowing helps me take care of myself. Knowing helps me detach. Knowing keeps me sane.
But knowing doesn’t make feeling any easier.
Finally: The burden of the secret is impossible to bear.
Let it out, share the pain, trust that others will be there for you. You are less alone than you know. This secret is not yours to keep, regardless of what they say.
Sharing your experience makes it more bearable.
You cannot do this alone, even though you feel alone every step of the way. Not everyone will understand, but when you find the people who do, lean into them, and know you are not the first, and sadly won’t be the last, to walk this path.
This journey is not a joyride. It’s a treacherous trail full of landmines. There is no map, no one guidebook that will help you get to the end of the journey. We all do the best we can.
And that is enough.
If you are the loved one of an alcoholic, and you are ready to find your people and lean in, please check out our Echoes of Recovery program.