“It is how we embrace the uncertainty in our lives that leads to the great transformations of our souls.” –Brandon A. Trean
There have been a lot of thoughts swirling and spinning around in my head lately. I’ve been trying to move forward, but sometimes it feels like I’m trying to tidy up in a hurricane, which, let me tell you, is not super effective.
My thoughts can run a million miles a minute if I let them. They twist and turn and seem to try to latch on to any little micro-anxiety within a ten foot radius. They tell me that I must figure out my entire life in the next hour. They tell me that I need to make a choice about this, or a decision about that, right freaking now!
During a session with my therapist, as I was describing these thoughts to her, she said something so simple that triggered a huge lightbulb moment.
“Katie, it’s okay to be uncertain.”
Um, come again?
I had become so wrapped up in finding solutions, nailing down plans, and figuring out my entire life, that I had lost sight of this simple truth.
Throughout my whole life, I always felt like I needed a definite plan. Something to hold on to. Something to move towards. If I didn’t have that, I felt like I was failing, floundering around in no man’s land, a horse with no name, whatever you want to call it. I felt like I needed an answer to be okay. To feel safe.
The truth is, it’s 100 percent completely okay to not know what you want to do. In fact, it can be a very exciting and peaceful place to be if we can simply change our outlook on it. Rather than looking at uncertainty as a horrible uncomfortableness, we can look at is as a place of growth and opportunity.
Let me give you an example from my life right now.
I have not had a sip of alcohol, or used any type of substance, in over eight months. I was not a stereotypical alcoholic. I don’t even like to use labels. I do, however, know that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and that it was not serving me anymore. After years of attempts to quit, I woke up on New Year’s Day of 2017 and decided that I had had enough. I quit drinking by myself, without the help of any group. I read some books, I started therapy, I did a lot of inner work on myself, I started getting back out into nature, I began meditating, I started treating myself kinder.
I have a few friends who quit drinking using Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They’ve said it has helped them immensely in living healthy, balanced lives. I have always been rather opposed to AA. I have had some longstanding assumptions about AA, and frankly, I did not want to be a part of it and I did not think I needed it.
A few weeks ago, however, my curiosity got the best of me. Maybe there is something for me in those meetings, I thought. Even though I don’t have a desire to drink on a day-to-day basis, I wondered if perhaps AA could further help me with some of my underlying issues, allow me to make some sober friends, and give me a safe space to share what I’m feeling.
I’ve been going to two meetings a week for the past three weeks. I quickly became acquainted with a woman who I could relate to a lot. A fellow binge-drinking former party girl. We got coffee and talked about our lives. It was really nice to be so open and comfortable with a stranger right off the bat. It made me feel less alone. The meetings themselves triggered some mixed feelings. I loved the openness of the people in the group. I loved the fact that strangers were coming together in the name of improving themselves and supporting each other. It felt real, and was a refreshing departure from small talk and hidden stories. I loved that people I didn’t know came up to me and made me feel welcome. On the other hand, I was not too keen on the labels, some of the language, the overall intense focus on alcohol, and a sort of defeatist mentality amongst some of the members.
As I have mentioned a few times in my posts, I read a book called This Naked Mind when I first decided to stop drinking. It works to bust common beliefs about alcohol, drinking culture, and our relationship with drinking in an effort to rewire our brains so we don’t crave alcohol anymore. It worked quite well for me. I think it was a combination of that book, reaching a point of being entirely done with drinking, and a strong curiosity about sober life that rid me of my day-to-day desire to drink.
Here’s where my uncertainty comes in. In This Naked Mind, the author encourages people to put alcohol in the past and move forward, not making alcohol a focal point of our lives. I’ve read many other views similar to this, in which people turn their attention towards other positive things, filling up the space alcohol once held with productive, soulful activities, people, and experiences. Essentially, not making alcohol a part of our lives anymore in any way.
AA on the other hand encourages people to focus on the fact that they are an alcoholic on a daily basis. To talk about how it once affected their lives, the character defects that led to alcoholism, and how they are coping with this lifelong affliction. Don’t get me wrong, many people seem very content, happy, and peaceful in AA. They do the daily/weekly work and continue to improve themselves and their lives.
These seem like two very different approaches in my eyes, and honestly, I do not know which path is best for me. I was growing increasingly frantic over this self-imposed dilemma.
“Do I work the steps and make AA a cornerstone in my life, or do I just continue to work on myself, fill myself up in other ways, and forget about alcohol all together?” “If I don’t do AA, am I missing a huge opportunity for self-growth?” “If I do AA, will alcohol continue to be a focal point for the rest of my life? Will that bring me down?”
On and on the thoughts went. WHAT DO I DO?!?!
Enter my wise therapist: “Katie, it’s okay to be uncertain.”
Holy crap, you’re right, I thought. I don’t have to decide this right now. I don’t have to stop moving just because I don’t know which path is best for me. Instead, I can keep moving forward, gaining more information and different perspectives, until I do know. Eventually, I’ll just know. The same way I eventually just knew that I needed to quit drinking. I can trust myself. I can trust that my gut will eventually lead me the right way.
I might not know right now, but that’s okay! I don’t need to know right now. I can keep going to meetings and see how I feel. I can keep gaining other perspectives and see how those feel. I’m being given the opportunity to find what works best. I have options! That’s a great place to be. Maybe, it’s not even an either/or situation. Maybe both ways could have a place in my life.
Regardless, my world does not need to stop spinning because I’m uncertain.
So for now, I’ll keep going, one foot in front of the other, trusting that my guidance will come to me and show me the way.
It’s okay to be uncertain. Okay, indeed.