Those Unanswerable Questions


No matter which direction I ultimately travel, I carry those unanswered questions.  They are the ones that start with ‘what if?’ or ‘if only’. I transport them with me like my house key, as if leaving them behind will not allow reentry into my sanctuary of inadequacy. Heaven forbid I let them go. How will I get back to that place of pondering every turn I took? Every yes when I should have said no? Every missed opportunity?

I think letting them go will mean: what I did do, what I didn’t do, what I said, was okay—even acceptable. I can’t, I won’t let them go. Letting them go means I am forever stuck with my decision. It’s that feeling of I made my choice, now I need to tough it out. The assumption is that I made the wrong choice. I should have known better. I should have known back then what I know right now.

Guess what?

I didn’t know back then what I know now. Did I hear that? I didn’t know last month, last year, yesterday, what I know today. I didn’t. I am learning something new or reinforcing something old every day. The only way to determine which direction I will go is to make an educated choice on what I believe to be in my best interest. (For those of you who don’t know me ‘my interest’ is inclusive of those I love.)

The best I can do at the intersection-of-questions is to evaluate the cause and effect of past experience. Did I like what I got when I did XYZ? If not, choose again—something different.

If I am moving forward with a choice I have never before encountered, I am strongest if I seek the advice, mentorship, or guidance of a trusted source. Not because I am incapable of making a decision, but because I value another’s experience, another’s wisdom, another’s knowledge.

What I have learned is that no matter which path I journey the other path irrefutably leaves unanswered questions. This is the natural order of the decision making process­—unanswered questions. I can regret, but it doesn’t change a thing. The only thing that changes anything is to choose again. I am never stuck, unless I choose to be. Stuck = me feeling sorry for myself—helpless.


What am I going to do now? That’s the million dollar question. Knowing what I know today, what do I choose? Because no matter what I choose there will always be unanswered questions.

If I have made an educated choice, I will be less inclined to carry my house key of unanswered what ifs. I won’t need it. I will comprehend that I can always go back and choose again. Because there will always be more unanswered questions.

22 Responses to “Those Unanswerable Questions

  • “Did I like what I got when I did XYZ? If not, choose again—something different.”

    “…I will comprehend that I can always go back and choose again. Because there will always be more unanswered questions.”

    Good stuff.

    • Good stuff! I feel that way every time I’m reading. I love to be in someone else’s head, even for a few moments. It helps me shift/reframe my perception on life, philosophy, even me. Super happy you enjoy the nuggets. hugs

  • chris10452
    11 years ago

    I sometimes think that if a younger me had made different decisions/choices, I might still have my addiction to look forward to…now there’s a happy thought! Generally, I like where I am today and it is simply true that the path I took got me here. Humanity is flawed. Humans are flawed. All perfect decisions all the time is not to be.

    Thanks for this posting. Actually, thanks for all of them.

    • I love how you wrote this. It has taken me so long to see the distinction between the perfect me (spirit) and the flawed me (human). I’ve had so little tolerance for most of my life. It took getting sober (and staying sober and growing sober) for me to see the depth of my humanness. And when I can see and accept it in me, I can in another. I love what you said “All perfect decisions all the time is not to be” This is beautiful. I need to frame that and put it on the wall. Also, thank you for your kindness to me—to this blog. It’s people like you that keep me pushing forward.

  • I think this is the unspoken subtext to the Ninth Step: The reason we are making amends is actually to set the past where it belongs: behind us.

    Early on, I embraced the wisdom (though it’s still hard to internalize) that we have only this twenty-four hours and that dwelling on the past or the future prevents us from clearly seeing the choices we need to make TODAY. If we are second-guessing something from “back then” or kicking the can into tomorrow, we’re in danger of missing something we need to make a good decision now.

    That was helpful, as far as it went, and it’s very useful wisdom. But lately I’ve been meditating on the idea that “all moments are this moment.” And that is a powerful concept. Difficult, but powerful. And it’s helping me put a lot of “what ifs” and regrets and even good stuff that’s outdated now, where it belongs. Because if all moments are this moment, I still have everything I ever had or will have. Every choice, every experience, all the knowledge.

    I just need to teach myself to see.

    • This is beautiful! I too have a challenging time wrapping my brain around this concept. I do know the faster I release noisy thought, the easier it is to be here—now. I think this is one I will be working on my whole life and I’m okay with that. For all the troubles I could have, this is a pretty nice one to be working on.

      Just Friday I had a tough day. I took my bike for a ride. When I was out overlooking the harbor it was beautiful, I mean stunning. I felt that moment so profoundly. It was sheer perfection. Not because anything had changed, but because I was in the moment. I always love your comments. You manage to consistently lift me to higher ground. Thank you.

  • I am strongest if I seek the advice, mentorship, or guidance of a trusted source. Not because I am incapable of making a decision, but because I value another’s experience, another’s wisdom, another’s knowledge.

    Thank you, Lisa, for helping me become stronger, more accountable and more decisive in my recovery.

    • Awww, thank you. I value our friendship. It seems you are so many things that I don’t know how to be, but I get to enjoy them through you. It’s nice to know you can have someone in your life that compliments it through the differences. You’ve been a big part of SoberIdentity. Thank you for the unconditional support. Thank you for keeping beautiful words in my head and a beat at my feet. BTW: My foot is healing and I even got out for a bike ride and a run this weekend. (and I wore my brace) I’m back in business. 🙂

      • Yay! I’m glad you got out for a ride. When you get time, be sure to check out your poem included on the weekend words debut, and check my RoS blog too–you’ll like it!! Love ya, C

        • I’ve yet to get there, but wanted to tell you thank you because … A woman found me through that post. She also called her local recovery group and got some help. Christy … you’re always getting things done aren’t you! Spreading the love, spreaading the hope! xox Me

          • You just made my day. Thank you so much. The synchronicity in that Words post is like electricity–apparently it’s working under the surface too. Yay!

            Stop by when you can, if you can. I’ll just email you the posts so you can have copies. I want you to ‘see’ my RoS post 😉

            Such good news! xoxo

  • There is much illuminated here, Lisa. Lots to chew on. Once again, the language is down to earth, but the ideas deep. Such a wonderful way to communicate.

    Choice. Regrets. Shifting inner and outer landscape. Consciousness. Attachment. Ego. These are the things involved when I made (and make) decisions. Sure, I made some fantastically moronic choices. Many were wrapped up in my alcoholism. But I can’t pin it all on the bottle. I picked up the first drink sober, so I had a large part to play in the domino effect. I’ve made some silly mistakes in sobriety. So again, no blaming the booze. But there is one constant that is always there when I make choices – ego.

    You make a wonderful point about seeking counsel with others, and that is what I have learned to do in my short time being sober. I run things past people, I ask for opinions, I meditate and pray upon things before I jump into something. Doesn’t mean I can’t make split second decisions, but it’s the ones that bear more weight that I try to see other sides. And that’s what I try to do. I don’t always succeed. I find that when ego is involved, or pride, or any other manifestation of self, I tend to make poorer choices. I can sometimes even preface my decision by saying “I know I am going to regret this, but…”

    I can’t change what I chose in the past. Absolutely not. And in making amends and changing my behaviours and ways of thinking, I am learning to recognize that its’ the old Paul that made those choices, and that I only have today. Now. And by tomorrow, something new will unfold. But for now, I have *now*. And what you say is bang on – I can only make the decision now with what I know right now, and what is best (in the way that I seek and know what “best” means).

    I can’t live in the “what if”s any more – it eats me alive, Lisa. So I don’t go there, but I am comfortable with the idea that I only knew what I knew, and I was doing what I could only do as a sick person. And in my sobriety, I do only what I think I should be doing, trying to align myself with the Creator’s will and doing that. But when ego gets in the way, I go sideways. Choices. I have free will, and choose to use it to better others and through others, myself.

    I had enough regrets in my life. No need to create new ones.

    Wonderful post, Lisa.

    Thank you for this.

    Love and light,

    • Paul, I think you see deepest into my posts. (Everyone’s for that matter.) The interesting thought about what you said is that I know today, maybe tomorrow, I will create one of those “what ifs” not intentionally of course, I just will. And in seeing that I will I see that others’ will as well and in an instance I am free. I am free to see that others are doing their *best* … And in all of this there is harmony, not perfection, but harmony. A word I so undervalued …. truly undervalued all my life. You are my blessing too! Sending love and knowing it was received. Me.

  • “I can regret, but it doesn’t change a thing. The only thing that changes anything is to choose again.”
    I loved that sentence, it is so true the only thing left for change is to choose again!
    very profound! then, you end off with…
    “Because no matter what I choose there will always be unanswered questions.”
    That’s why sometimes I prefer not to ask, think about the past or present, my mind goes on a compulsive over-thinking, the best thing is to do the choosing & let life happen.
    The thing about this post is that it’s so well written, everyone can interpret it to whatever is going on in their life.

    • You’re so good for me. How did I get you for a friend? I will not remain humble if I just hang out with you (teehee)… How is the backup/reconstruction going?

      • It’s hard…yesterday I worked all day but got discouraged today when I was focusing on what still had to be done instead of what I’d done so, today I did some indoor gardening which I got passionate about of late & worked on all the things I was putting off… (it’s called procrastination ;))
        In the end, it produced the effect desired of self-satisfaction which hopefully will put me back on track!
        Thanks for your kind interest it can be an isolating job.
        By the way, I don’t think you’ll ever get big- headed!

  • Priceless. Absolutely priceless.

    I just finished reading Paul’s post on anonymity, and was beating myself up something fierce for what I never even considered a breach in etiquette, and came to this post. Are there coincidences, ever?!? I think not.

    I had no idea that mentioning my real name and the name of the 12-step program at the same time was a breach of tradition (you can read my comment at the bottom of his post), so I now have two choices: berate myself for the next few minutes/hours/days/weeks, or I can acknowledge that I don’t know what I don’t know, and learn from my mistakes.

    Thanks for ending my self-flagellation, Lisa! You are my hero!


    PS… still chewing on the “what is the gain” from our last discussion. Haven’t reached any definitive conclusions, but wanted to let you know I am working on it 🙂

  • xnavygal9916
    11 years ago

    Hi Lisa, “back then”…I am going to refer to that timeframe as my “active addiction”, just for clarification purposes. I was either unwilling or unable to healthy choices about ANYTHING. I “allowed” either the substances I choose to put in my body, or other people make my choices for me. Today, in recovery I have been blessed with the “freedom of choice”. It is that choice that allows me to find out who I am, what I believe in and my Higher-Powers “will” for me. However, that freedom comes with responsibilities. I do seek a limited number of other recovering addicts’ EXPERIENCE, that have been through similiar circumstances and listen to how they handled it. However, the responsibility part that I mentioned earlier (for me) is this: If I utilize and apply that freedom of choice; then I must weigh those choices and “be willing to accept the consequences”. Seeking others experience is one thing; abdicating personal responsibility is something else (once again, to me). I am responsible for my recovery and my choices. (RESPONSIBILITY=to respond to the ability God has given me or the ability to choose my own response). big HUGZS, jen

    • Well said. I was wanting the post to come across as “get help, don’t try and do it with your thinking, your thinking has you XYZing” I did not intent to make the process another’s responsibility. I love the word ‘responsibility’ and I’m glad you’ve shared it within this context. Give me an idea for a post (teehee) Big hugs to you my friend. L

      • xnavygal9916
        11 years ago

        I understand what your saying and please know that I did’nt interpret your message as passing off the responsibility to another. (Did you mean give you an idea for a post or I gave you an idea for a post? 🙂 big HUGZS, jen

  • xnavygal9916
    11 years ago

    (sidenote to self:..don’t look back in regret, look ahead in fear but look” around in the moment”, with love, acceptance and gratitude) Thanks Lisa for this post, you RAWK!! and you always leave me anticipating what I may see from you next. _/l_ jen

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.