It has been said that underlying almost all problems is fear. We in the program can definitely identify with that concept. For as long as we can remember, fear permeated our life. For the most part, we weren’t even conscious that we had these feelings. We just knew that something wasn’t working for us. Along the way, we discovered alcohol, drugs or food. These substances didn’t remove the fears we felt. They just buried them down deeper.
When we finally made it into the rooms; we of course gave up our drug of choice. Within a short period of time, all of those old fears came rushing back into our lives. In listening to others in the fellowship we began to understand that many of those fears could be pushed through. All we often needed to do was to take that first step. What had appeared in our minds as an insurmountable and frightening task was frequently something that with effort could be handled. We also began to tap into our Higher Power. Whenever those feelings of fear kicked in, we prayed for the strength and courage to transcend those feelings. In asking for courage to move forward we found that we had inner resources which heretofore had lain dormant.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to pray for courage over a life challenge?
Many of us were comfort junkies. For much of our lives we had taken the path of least resistance. Rather than asking our boss for a raise, we avoided the anticipated confrontation. Perhaps we didn’t go to college because we thought it was going to be too much work. Maybe we remained in unhealthy relationships because the thought of breaking up was too painful for us to imagine. And so it went. To assist us in our search for comfort, we found our drug of choice. Whenever we felt distress over something, we immediately turned to alcohol, drugs or food to dampen its impact.
We had a bit of a shock when we entered the program. Other members were not the least bit concerned about their comfort or ours for that matter. We were quickly informed that if we wanted to become sober, we would have to go to any length to do so. That included doing some things that might make us extremely uncomfortable. We went to meetings even when we were dead tired. We called our sponsor even when the topic of conversation might be embarrassing for us. We took a coffee commitment even though it was far below our skill set. As time went on, life began to become a more comfortable experience for us.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to push through my discomfort?
There were many reasons why we continued to use our drug of choice. One of the most common, was that we could not envision going through our day without alcohol, food or drugs. Our drug of choice was our comfort. It soothed us when we were upset. It made us comfortable in social situations. It bolstered our courage when we were fearful. How could we give it up? It was integral to our being able to cope with life. This type of thinking is often reflected in the faces of newcomers sitting in meetings. Looking at them you would think they had been sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.
As time passes, these very same newcomers look very different. They appear to be far happier, more relaxed and healthier than when they were active. They have come to realize that giving up their drug of choice was not a sentence. Just the opposite. It was reprieve from the treadmill of addiction. Beyond that, sobriety provided an opportunity for growth in many areas. People’s lives greatly improved at work, at home, financially and in the community. Along the way they developed an entirely new network of people who they could call upon at any time.
Personal Reflection: How has my life improved since I entered the program?
At its simplest level, our bodies are miracles. Thousands of intricate functions take place without our even thinking about them. One of the most fundamental of these functions is respiration. We breathe in life giving oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and waste products. The failure of either of these functions would in short order endanger our lives.
On a spiritual level one can say that breathing represents something much deeper. When we inhale, we are taking in the future. When we exhale, we are giving up the past. As a simple body function, these two processes usually work flawlessly. As a spiritual concept, it’s not always so. Many of us were extremely afraid of the future. Our fear of the unknown held us back from personal growth and change. As we worked our program we began to see that the future could be accepted as easily as an in breath. The same held true for the past. Either the past was romanticized or we were stuck in guilt and shame about our prior actions. As we began to let go of our former life, we became open to both the present moment and future possibilities as well.
Personal Reflection: Do I still fear the future or regret the past?
Everything in our society has accelerated. From the speed athletes can run a mile in, to the processing time of computers. People are looking for rapid weight lose and a quick way they can double their money. Fast food has become a staple in most households. This acceleration has affected human relationships as well. There are whirlwind engagements and speed dating. The list goes go on and on.
For those of us in recovery, we need to exercise caution when it comes to life speeding up. In the past we often acted impulsively and failed to exercise judgement. More often than not this resulted in problems down the road for us. Some of that impulsive nature was rooted in fear. We felt that if we didn’t immediately respond to a request, that somehow you would think less of us or not like us. We ended up to agreeing to courses of action that were to our detriment. In the program we learned that it’s okay to tell someone that we need more time before we give an answer. In the past we probably would have been in judgement of ourselves had we taken that course of action. Today we can endorse ourselves for exercising care and weighing our options.
Personal Reflection: Do I still act impulsively?
No one in this life can escape fear. It is part of our genetic ancestry. Without fear, most of our ancient ancestors would not have made advances in technology, art, medicine, and assorted other fields. Without fear, when that wild animal roared or that forest caught on fire, they would have been the victim of inaction. On a fundamental level, fear preserves the continuation of the species. The problem is that in modern society, the remnants of that fear genetic code have often become counterproductive. Yes, there are still times when fear does play a role. Most of us wisely avoid free fall parachute jumping as a weekend distraction. That being said, fear also often arises in situations where it is unwarranted.
This is especially true for people who have struggled with substances. Many of us actually walked around in fear most of the day. Drinking and drugging covered over the fear temporarily, but it always returned sooner or later. As we gained sobriety, those fears still arose. The difference was that we now had the new found ability to question those fears. We began to determine which fears were based in reality versus those based in imagination. That process demonstrated for us that many of our fears were totally unfounded. They were self created myths which had no truth and only served to stunt our growth. For the remaining reality based fears, we exercised sober judgement.
Personal Reflection: How do I discriminate between real and imagined fears?
As we were growing up, we were not issued a manual on how to navigate this life. Many feelings arose for us on a daily basis. Although some were positive, many were not. All those feelings of fear, anger, shame, jealousy, envy and pride hobbled our ability to function on a daily basis. We suffered greatly because of it. Then one day, we discovered alcohol, drugs or food. As soon as we ingested our drug of choice, all of the pain we suffered from lifted. At least for a short while we had a respite. The problem was that a short respite was not enough and we increased our usage. Before we knew it, we couldn’t even identify what a feeling was. We walked around in a coma like state; one day aimlessly following another.
At some point we were able to put down our substance. Within a short period of time, we began to truly feel alive once again. Shortly thereafter all of those old troubling feelings came flooding back as well. This time we didn’t run away from all of those feelings. With tools garnered from our 12 step program we were able to deal with life issues without turning to substances. We had learned the meaning of living life on life’s terms.
Personal Reflection: How do I deal with feelings today?