Fear for Fear’s Sake

downloadOne of the six definitions of the word “Fear”, according to Houghton Mifflin, is the “anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur”. Speaking solely from my own experience and from what I have gathered from my 32 years on this earth, my fear is based on the impending threat of something real or imagined. It derives it’s fuel from the unpleasantries of years past and projects itself on things to come. Things that may be real or imagined. Instances that have yet to happen. As human beings, we are physiologically programmed to be afraid of and react to anything that could potentially jeopardize our well being. From an evolutionary standpoint, fear is a primordial survival skill that has served it’s purpose and served its purpose well. Cave men feared their larger predators because they posed a threat to their survival. The evolution of cognitive thinking has given man kind the ability to grow and flourish, yet herein lies the enigma. The very thing that has perpetuated our survival, also has the strength to stagnate and hinder growth. What if the fear that our ancestors experienced was so great, that they never left the familiarity of their cave? What if fear drove them to cower in the corner instead of devising ways to defend themselves against such predators? …

I fear change and I crave the comfort of the familiar. There is a certain amount of stability that comes with the familiar. As a recovered alcoholic and heroin addict, I operated in fear for as long as I can remember. Though my situations were less than ideal, my reality was an intolerable cruelty. At my lowest I was a homeless heroin addict living under a slide and it was all too familiar to me. I had gotten comfortable and accepting of the these types of scenarios. I had attended Rutgers University on academic scholarship, and there I was four years later, sleeping under a slide. I was too fearful to change my situation because that would mean that I had to go and do something new…something I knew nothing about. It was underneath a slide in a public park in South Florida that I had a decision to make and a fear to walk through. I could seek help amongst a fellowship of men and women and have a complete shift in my perception, or I could die under a slide amongst the Jungle Gym and piles of mulch. The fear of change had both literally and physically incapacitated me.

Alcohol and Heroin did a great job at masking my fears. They worked well for a long time. They eased the fears, anxiety, and insecurities that I had walked around with from a young age. Ultimately, they would stop working. The consequences would start outweighing the benefits. Familial troubles, relationship troubles, legal troubles, and financial troubles would ensue ad infinitum . Fear had it’s hold on me and wouldn’t let me go. I was scared to change. I knew it was injurious, yet I was scared of taking the one thing away that had always silenced my fears and given me the ability to operate without inhibition.

The cycle of addiction is a curious thing. To the normal person on the outside looking in, they typically view it as an absence of will power. They seem to be tragic individuals with no regard or emotion for those they affect. To the true alcoholic or addict, fear tends to be a primary motivator. Once the user finds refuge through using the substance, the cycle begins and becomes increasingly harder to break. Physical dependence as well as mental dependence begin to take over. Soon, the user becomes upset with themselves and the consequences begin to mount. In order to temporarily escape the impending fear of judgement or consequence, they will do whatever is necessary in order to use again in order to escape the fear. In many cases, what is necessary to perpetuate the use is extreme.  The pattern soon becomes an ominous descending spiral. Paradoxically, the user can often fear the change necessary to break this downward spiral. Much like the cave man cowering in the corner, fear has incapacitated the user.

For a long time, I would not take the necessary action required for the successful consummation of my recovery. I feared it. It was fear that drove me to use, fear that drove me to keep using, and fear that blocked me from seeking help. I was told that once the pain was great enough, I would be willing to do something different. Once the fear of remaining miserable began to outweigh the fear of getting sober, I knew I had been granted a gift. That gift came in the form of the willingness to get out of my comfort zone, walk through fear, and try something that I was convinced would not work for me. A spiritual program of action, altruism, and faith has given me the ability to walk as a free man today. Though fear may crop into my life, I have the ability to see it for what it is worth. Today I know that my fears are based out of yesterday or tomorrow…never the present. It is a freedom that I had never known until I got sober and worked a 12-step program of recovery. It is a freedom that I cherish and only have do so a few simple things on a daily basis to preserve it. I strongly urge anyone that is struggling the alcoholism or drug addiction to walk through your fear and seek help. We never know what may come of things if we live in the shackles of fear.

 

 

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