“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” — Dr. Susan Jeffers
Fear has been a dominating factor throughout my life. My first fear was the fear of abandonment. My father was addicted to alcohol and left when I was four years old. My coping mechanism was sucking my thumb. There is nothing wrong with thumbsucking as a toddler, but at eight years old, I still did it every day. My kindergarten teacher wanted to keep me back a year because of my thumbsucking. It was getting out of control. But it brought me ease and comfort, and I would hide it. I was a functioning thumbsucker.
Sucking your thumb as an 8-year-old is hard work. You have to escape being seen by friends and family members. For me, it was my two older brothers. They would harass me. They told me my thumb was going to fall off. But I couldn’t stop doing it. I didn’t know how else to cope with my emotions. Eventually, the pain of embarrassment caused me to stop.
The same emotional pattern affected me as a young adult when I started using drugs and alcohol a decade or so later.
Drugs and alcohol became a solution to my fears. Why did I do some of the things I did? Much of it can be broken down to fear. Not healthy fear, like when you’re faced with life and death decisions. I’m talking about everyday fear that brings about feelings of extreme self-doubt, worry, and anxiety.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” -Jack Canfield
When I was 22 years old, my fear of abandonment was back again. This time, it was because I spent the $200 my brother sent me to get me home from Orlando, Florida. The second time he had sent me money in two weeks. I intended to use this money to escape the hell in which I was living, but I couldn’t stop using.
About a week or so of being home from Florida, I was arrested for federal felonies due to my addiction to synthetic opiates. Being arrested created many new fears. Fear of the future. Fear of losing my freedom. Fear of staying sober. Fear of prison. Fear of not being able to get a job.
Then I had a fear of going to 12-Step meetings which I was required to attend. Especially young people’s meetings. Even after being in recovery for a few years, I was terrified to go. It felt like high school all over again, at least in my mind. Fear doesn’t go away because your sober and living in recovery. You still have to deal with fear head on. I wore a mask for years at meetings, acting as though I was comfortable in my own skin.
“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”- Paulo Coelho
I even stayed in the same job for eight years because I was afraid of what would happen if I tried to get another job. Who would want to hire a felon? My options seemed extremely limited. I stayed at the same job and I attended college at night. I got a degree. I eventually bought my first home in recovery. These were significant milestones since I assumed my felonies would keep me stuck. But now I had to face the reality of paying a mortgage.
Money problems motivated me to face the reality of having felonies. I applied to a Fortune 15 company. I put the details of what had happened in my application where it asked, “Were you ever arrested?”
During phone interviews, I shared everything. I told them about my problem with OxyContin and other substances; I told them my whole recovery story. Probably too much. But the fact of the matter is that I had been in living in recovery for eight years at this point, doing the next right thing. I had nothing to hide and nothing to lose. And I wanted nothing coming back to bite me if they did hire me.
I got the job. My options seemed limitless. There was a new hope for my life. But now, new fears arose. I had the fear of being found out and the fear of success. But these were fears I could handle, at least for now.
Fear had been there all along. It was debilitating at times. But I discovered that most of the things I feared never happened. Today, when there’s fear, it’s usually an indication that I need to take action. It’s uncomfortable at first, but the fear is gone.
How do I face my fears in recovery? I ask questions. I seek counsel from people and mentors who can help. In the past, I would not share my fears, because I was afraid of appearing weak. I never asked for help. I just stuffed fear away and moved on. But it never goes away.
2 Steps to Overcoming Fear in Recovery
“He who is not everyday conquering some fears has not learned the secret of life.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. Forgive Yourself
Write down, “I forgive myself for having xxxx fear.” Release the shame and quit punishing yourself about having the fear. Ask for help and find a mentor you can share your fears with. We all have fears, even people who don’t struggle with addiction. Practice the act of forgiving yourself every day. It’s all part of the journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
I found that nothing in my life is wasted, not the good or the bad.
It all gets used in some way; usually, in a way, that benefits someone else.
2. Take Action
Make a list of your top 3–5 fears. Then get out there and take action to confront your first fear. Be curious and ask questions. You’d be surprised by how many struggle with the same fears you do. Get someone to keep you accountable.
And finally, when you face a fear, make sure you celebrate. Get a massage, book a trip, or buy something nice for yourself.
I’ve decided to face my fears in recovery.
To live a life without regrets. Who knows? It might just work out. The more I face fear; the more my life seems to expand. I used to ask myself the question, “How many opportunities have I missed out on due to fear?”
Now, I ask myself “What new and exciting opportunities will I receive if I face this fear?”
When we change the questions we ask ourselves; we change our lives.
Thanks for reading!
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