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 thumb-sucking 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 thumb-sucking. It was getting out of control. But it brought me ease and comfort, and I would hide it. I was a functioning thumb-sucker. Now, 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 fear. 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 the fear that brings about feelings of extreme self-doubt and anxiety. When I was 22, my fear of abandonment was back again. This time, it was because I spent $200 my brother had 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. Within a week or so of being home from Florida, I was arrested for federal felonies due to my addiction to prescription opiates. My arrest created many new fears. Fear of the future. 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. 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 you get sober. You have to deal with it head-on. I wore a mask for years at meetings, acting as though I was comfortable in my own skin. 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. Instead, I went back to college. I got a degree. I eventually bought my first home in recovery. These were significant milestones for me. But now I had to face the reality of paying a mortgage. Money problems motivated me to face my fear 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 a fear of being found out and 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 Facing Fear in Recovery Forgive Yourself
Stop beating yourself up about feeling fear. We all have fears. Learn to forgive yourself. It’s all part of the journey. 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.
Get out there and take action to confront your fears. Go up to people and say hello. Be curious and ask questions. Share your fears with another person. You’d be surprised by how many people struggle with the same fears. And if they don’t, they might know someone who can help you with yours. 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 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 “How many new opportunities will I receive if I face my fears?” When we change the questions we ask ourselves; we change our lives.