I don’t want to exist at a distance, afraid of life or afraid of potential – I want to embrace it, lean into it – I want to feel it all. That being said, some things are much more pleasant than others and as much as I am sure that I want to feel it all, choosing to be sober, I don’t always believe that 100%. Because I jump up off my mat, I click through channels, I check Facebook before I go to bed, I scroll Instagram while laying next to my partner on the couch after supper, I leave a meeting without chatting with anyone, I get caught up in my own insecurities and can’t focus on another’s message… all of these things I do because I am afraid – bottom line.
What am I afraid of? It varies, in content and size. Sometimes it’s a soul baring fear, deeply entrenched in the core of who I am – so much so that I have a really hard time discerning it’s existence. Other times it’s basic – it’s ego based or it’s petty. Either way, it stops me – I let it stop me. I choose fear, instead of love, so often because it’s my habit. It’s what I have been taught, it’s what I have accepted and it’s what has propelled me thus far in life.
The thing is, despite the fact that I’ve survived up until now – have I really lived? Of course I have lived, but not the life I really wanted. It is only within these last 19 months that I’ve begun to live the life that I’ve always wanted. I have begun to embrace change, really contemplate and participate in my own spiritual, mental and physical growth and want more for myself and for those around me. This life, this one has to be worth witnessing and participating in, right? I value it so much – I thank God every single day for the blessings heaped upon me – the ability to witness a whole 24 hours without a drink is still an absolute miracle for me – all of the wonderful and amazing things that have come my way in this sober life – they have to be worth feeling, right? Then why do I still avoid them?
FEAR. Fear, for me, seems to be a consistent answer. It seems to me that it’s been a motivator for me since I was very young. Alcoholic home, troubled relationship with my absent father, a rebellious streak.. etc. etc. I could go on – fear guided me. Fear shaped my perspective, crafted my decisions and decided my responses. I took no responsibility.
The thing that I am considering today is – maybe I do have a choice? Not in the presence of fear, but in my reaction to it. Maybe I get to choose love, instead. Maybe I get to face fear, head on and decide that it’s not debilitating. I wish that I could explain the benefit, but truly I wouldn’t have believed it had you told me, until I had experienced it myself: facing your fears, your absolute wildest, most ingrained fears, reaps rewards you could have never dreamed of. And the only reason I believe that is because for me, that’s exactly what happened.
My biggest fear for almost all of my adult life was living. Living without drinking, having to cope, having to deal or having to really, truly bear witness to the life that I had set up for myself – or so I thought – was the most terrifying possibility for me, so much so that it quite literally was NOT even a possibility. Until it was.
God intervened, I am sure. One day, it was a possibility. Although I still had this immense, overwhelming, totally-sure-I-was-right-about-it fear – I decided to take a chance. To try things the opposite of the way that I would usually – to try another route, that I didn’t know or believe in or understand – but just to try. Granted, the bottom that I was at when I got sober was not a pleasant place. It was lonely, desolate really.. it was quiet and cold and somber and frankly, it felt like dying while I was still breathing. So potentially, any other option looked better to me – but I didn’t know of a single one.
Even in sobriety, as challenges came up and I was intimidated, I was afraid – I decided not to take my usual route – I tried the suggestions of other people who had the kind of life that I wanted. I did what they did, instead of what I wanted to do.
You’d be absolutely right to think that I was out of my mind – listening to strangers suggest how to live my life. But here’s the thing – I was absolutely, totally out of my mind. I was hungry – I was starving – and I didn’t know what for. I was dying, on the inside and I couldn’t find a word to express it. My life was winding into a storm of meaninglessness and I couldn’t stop it. I was an alcoholic with no sight of the dry shore, and I had no clue where to start. So I took suggestions. I asked for help. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I looked the fears that I had right in the face and said “not today”.
And I still have to say that, out loud, some days. Some days I don’t.
Some days, like today, I need to say it and think it and write about it and talk about it at a meeting and hear other alcoholics talk about their fears.
As one lovely lady spoke this evening of her own fears about what life in sobriety holds for her, I wanted to whisper: I’m afraid too. We’re all afraid. And it’s okay.
Because it really, truly is okay. We’re going to get through this. We’re going to find out that life is much more beautiful on the other side of fear, when we embrace it, lean into it and really, truly recognize that fear will not be our undoing.
My hope for tonight, this grey and murky April evening, is that at least one fear is comforted by reading these words – you are not alone. You will never be alone.
Fear is natural and real and it’s perfectly normal, especially when we get closer to our true selves.