Apr 30

The Curse of the ‘What If” – Worry About our Kids in Treatment

iStock_000024138697XSmallI have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” — Mark Twain


For parents of kids in #treatment, the #stress is high, the #worry is intense.  Have you ever stopped to examine exactly what it is you are worrying about?  Is it real?

Many of us, especially in troubled times, can really get ourselves into a major worry cycle.  And for those of us who are really good worriers, or who have active imaginations, this worry can take on a life all its own.

We can dream up, worry about, and create potential outcomes in our heads that are most likely never going to make it into reality.  And as Mark Twain suggests in his famous quote, we then ‘go through some terrible things’ in our minds that actually never happen.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we never had to go through those ‘bad things’ that aren’t real?

A therapist might call it #catastophizing, and I call it ‘The Curse of the What If’.   Those potentially disastrous dramas that play out in our minds that usually have bad endings, and that make our state of mind worse, but never come to fruition.

It might be an interesting exercise to ‘check out’ what we are worrying about when it starts to happen.  We might ask ourselves, ‘How likely is what I am worrying about going to play out in reality, and is it really worth my time worrying about it?’.   And then, ‘What is a better use of my brain power?’.

And as we all know, worry and catastrophizing generate tons of possibly unnecessary stress, and we don’t have to look far to see what stress can do.  It can bog us down, make us sick, and it takes up room in our brains that would otherwise be filled with better stuff!

So I urge you to pay attention to what you are worrying about. Is it real?


Leslie Ferris is a Certified and Credentialed Life Coach

Serving the parents of kids in treatment

Connect with her via her website at http://www.phase2foryou.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Phase2ForYou

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Leslie_Ferris

LinkenIn:   www.linkedin.com/in/leslieferris/


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  1. Nicer Dicer Plus

    Hey there, You have done an excellent job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this site.

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thank you Nicer Dicer…..

  2. Martha Giffen

    You are right, of course, worry does no good and just depletes our energy. Parents of kids in treatment need some kind of counseling for themselves too. When one person is addicted, the whole family is affected. The worry is that their child will die from the alcohol or drug use. The good news for those parents IF their child is in treatment, is that they are in a safe place getting the help they need. Not easy as parents to let go, but that’s what has to happen. The “what ifs” serve no purpose.

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Martha – boy you’ve got that right. So hard to do though! But if they can let go of the what if, their brains will then be freed for better use. That is what I found anyway, it really worked for me..

  3. Norma Doiron @Explode Your Business ONLINE!

    I once read that 99% of what we worry about NEVER happens. Kind of puts a new perspective on things, doesn’t it? I believe in the old timeless principles; I’ll share it with you:

    “Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up. Look at the birds in the sky! They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you. Worrying does not do any good; who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying? …do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? …do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today.”

    Be blessed! ╰❤╮

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thanks Norma, how beautiful it would be to actually be able to do that!

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Elizabeth, yes it seems some of us are more ‘Cursed’ than others when it comes to this. Some worry all the time about everything while others seems to let it all just roll off their backs. Those of us that are the born worriers have to just keep working on it!! Very important to be aware though….. :)

  4. Alexandra McAllister

    I know about stress way too much! The “What if” and stressing about it caused me to have a stroke last year…in fact, 2 of them! I’ve learned how to handle it although it is a challenge every day…well worth it though. Thanks for sharing this post!

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Phew Alexandra! The stress caused by the What If can really do some damage, as you have testified to here. Thank you for sharing that. Many of us share that challenge very day – and thanks for the words of encouragement!

  5. Barbara Becker

    Yes, it serves our highest and greatest good not to worry about anything.

    1. Leslie Ferris


  6. Meryl Hershey Beck

    Leslie, worrying about the future is nothing more than giving yourself a good shot of bad energy. Thinking positive is a better and more effective use of your time and brain power!

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Meryl – yes. I like the bad energy analogy. so true….

    2. Michaelle

      I agree, but how do we do this?

      1. Leslie Ferris

        Hi Michaelle. Agree that it is easy to say and hard to do, and I am definitely not saying it is anything else but that. There are ways to lesson the worry over time, and there are definitely ways to help ourselves not worry about those things that will likely never happen. Much easier for me to share those things verbally. Would you like to use your 1/2 hour free session to talk about this? I would be more than happy to do that. Just let me know.

  7. Lisa Frederiksen - BreakingTheCycles.com

    This is so spot on! I was crippled by the “what if” game after decades of dealing with undiagnosed, unhealthy discussed, untreated alcoholism and alcohol abuse in various loved ones. It was devastating and kept me so stuck. My other favorite was, “It could be worse.”So glad to have that behind me…

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thanks Lisa, for sharing that. And I am so glad that it is behind you as well. I see that letting of the What Ifs has freed you up to be who you were meant to be, and you share so much important stuff with the world ‘now that it is behind you’. Keep on sister!!

  8. Tom Holmberg

    Thanks for discussing this topic. I all too often see people limiting themselves because they ask “What If”

    1. Leslie Ferris

      For sure Tom. The What IFs can shut us down in a heartbeat if we let them…

  9. Catherine Doucette

    Love the question: what is a better use of my brain power

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thanks Catherine. Our brains are incredibly might things if we can get them to work for us in positive ways!

  10. Angela Giles

    My dad always taught me that I was only allowed to worry 20 minutes over something and then I had to let it go!

    Works for me

    Great article!

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Angela, I think you must have had a very wise father!

  11. Yvonne

    Unluckily you can’t just always “shut off” your brain :(

    1. Leslie Ferris

      So very true Yvonne. I don’t think we can really ever shut it off in a totally healthy way, but perhaps we just have to work on changing how it works for us! What do you think?

  12. Shari

    This is an excellent post, Leslie. I am learning to let go of the “what ifs,” but it’s been a long time coming. I love the Mark Twain quote too. I needed to read that today! :-)

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Great Shari. I am so glad it hit you just right for today, and Mark Twain must have been a pretty wise fellow….

  13. Helena Bowers

    A few years back I “what if’d” myself right into a heart attack. You are so right that worry bogs you down and makes you sick. It was a hard lesson to learn, but letting go of “what if” is one of the best things I learned to do.

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thank you Helena,

      You are great personal testament to what we are talking about here. Thank you for sharing your story.

  14. Moira Hutchison

    Thanks for this excellent article! I often say to clients that worrying is putting your attention on what you do not want to happen – oftentimes that helps them start to choose better feeling thoughts.

    1. Leslie Ferris


      Thanks. That is really good way to put it – focusing your attention on what you don’t want to happen. I am going to remember that one…

  15. Daniele Holmberg

    The curse of the “what if” is a big one and I see it holding people back daily with the high school students I teach. We need to always keep pursuing our dreams and live in the moment to move forward.:)

    1. Leslie Ferris


      What a great opportunity you have to help kids to move beyond being blocked by the What If. Unfortunately it seems like we are all taught the What If at a pretty young age….

  16. Anita

    What an awsome message! And one we all need to hear…my hand is raised and I too am guilty of the ‘what ifs’ as well :)

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thank you Anita. For sure, we are all guilty, at least to some degree of the Curse. It’s a matter of taming the monster sometimes!

  17. Katrina

    I found your website on the UImpact Facebook page and I really and truly enjoyed your article. Staying the frame of mind of “what if;s” can really stump you from growing, and working through the areas that you need to focus on. Worrying can not just affect our environment, it can also wrech havoc on our health as well. Great article that you wrote!

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Thanks Katrina, yes it seems like staying in the What If has a lot of ‘safe’ elements to it, so it can indeed keep us from growing – because that means venturing into the unknown a bit!

  18. Cathy Taughinbaugh

    Hi Leslie,

    Great reminder to let go of worrying about the “what if” thinking. When we are concerned about our children, our minds tend to go to the darkest places. I know I’ve been there as well. We do have control over our thoughts. It takes practice and it is a process, but we can focus on the positive, the here and now, rather than the unknown of the future.

  19. Kyczy Hawk

    I, too, strangle progress with what if’s. Worry is a way to keep myself from engaging in the present. It is also a way to let MY concerns drive someone else’s train. Let go and trust the process, over and over. Thank you for the post.

  20. yvonne

    just wanted to say I am glad I found this website and glad to connect with u!!!! My kids r not in treatment BUT I already worry b/c both me and their dad are in recovery and I hope they don’t get into addictive ADDICTION. BOY DO I STRUGGLE WITH THE WHAT IF ‘S !!!!! Thank u for this post it REALLY shows me I have some work to do!!!!

  21. Leslie Ferris

    Hi Yvonne, I am glad it helped. Thanks for stopping by! I am so glad you are in recovery now. Yes, those ‘what ifs’ can get us sometimes, but as long as we are aware, and call it out for what it is, just good old fashioned worry, that is the first step to curbing the effect if has on us! Good stuff….

  22. Herby Bell


    I absolutely love your/this question, THIS challenge to discipline the mind. I can say that this practice is in the top three most difficult over the course of my own recovery. Some of what I worry about comes from implicit, non-verbal, unconscious memory and unless I’m willing to take a look at how my think-tank thinks, what, ME worries!

    Thank you for bringing it into conscious thought–again–as it is indeed, a work in progress!

    Great post!

  23. Jody Lamb

    This is so true, Leslie. I know those stupid what ifs all too well. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d wish away my imagination. :) I spent my childhood and teenage years imagining every single terrible thing that could happen and dreaming up solutions/game plans for when they actually occurred. In the process, I completely stopped taking care of myself. Now, I’m much better at pushing away those powerful what ifs. Thanks for the reminder to do this!

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