In meetings we talk about things that “real” people don’t usually talk about. Sometimes I have to redefine words used a lot in the 12 Step program because my definition doesn’t fit. In order to fully grasp the message of the meeting, I need to see some words from a different perspective.
One of those words is, “Fear.” Fear with a capital “F.” In the AA text book, we are told Fear is pervasive and runs throughout all aspects of an alcoholic’s life. That was difficult for me to grasp at first because to me Fear was what happens when I find out my brother’s snake is loose in our house or when seeing a scorpion in my bathroom.
The Fear we talk about in meetings is subtler. It’s in our minds. It’s future-based. And, it’s more than mere “worry.”
The founders of AA felt so strongly about Fear that they even made it its own category/column in the 4th Step. We inventory not only our resentments but also our Fear. If we don’t “conquer Fear” we may drink again to escape it. I’m on the 4th Step again right now, so this topic (at yesterday’s meeting) was really pertinent for me.
There are some acronyms—AA loves acronyms, I guess because we aren’t smart enough to remember things without them.
FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real
FEAR = Face Everything And Recover
Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s good when we come across a bear in the woods and we need to act. But our minds trick us into thinking emotional stuff is like a big bear in our heads. Do we fight or flight? When I am walking into a room with people I know don’t like me/are judging me, my brain creates this huge black bear that I am supposed to be afraid of. Do I fight it or escape?
Escape. All my life I’ve chosen escape in the face of Fear. Drink. Liquid courage. And then walk into the room. No Fear. Now that I’m sober (again) the Fear is back and I’m having to deal with it head on. I’m told to “walk through the Fear.” I do that, but not very well. I tippy toe around it hoping it won’t see me. I make a lot of crazy noise hoping it won’t attack me. I fall into self-pity, hoping it will feel sorry for me and walk away to find another target. But in the end, as long as I don’t drink, I eventually HAVE to face and feel and deal with my Fear.
It’s funny, I used to choose escape/drink/flight—and now I find myself choosing to fight and get angry. The pendulum is swinging the other way, I guess intending to balance itself out eventually. So, this anger I feel at my ex-husband, his “lovers,” his parents, his sister… all that anger is surfacing and it’s troubling me. It’s all still Fear and I still need to walk through it. The Fourth Step is supposed to help me with this. I’m hopeful.
One way to deal with Fear is by talking to other people about it. That’s what we do in meetings. When we talk about our Fear the thing we are afraid of gets a lot smaller, more manageable to face.
People like me—who think we don’t need help, don’t need advice or need to talk to anyone to solve my problems, who think we can do everything on our own— we do sometimes rely on God but we forget that God send us people to stand in for him and help us, too. That’s one thing AA has REALLY helped me with—asking for help, seeing I need help, acknowledging and discovering that I need people.
So, even if I don’t yet call someone and talk about my current Fear, I do share in meetings. For some reason, sharing in meetings feels less personal than calling someone up and asking them to listen to me talk. What if they’re busy? What if I’m annoying? What if they are rolling their eyes on the other end of the line? What if they think I’m stupid?
In meetings, that’s what we’re there for. We sit there and listen to people “share.” So, I don’t feel like I’m putting anybody out or being a burden or annoying. And I get it out of my head and into the room, in the hands of people that “get it.” And the Fear subsides a little.
The scariest Fear for me is the one that grips me and immobilizes me. Perhaps everyone has something like this? Perhaps not? I do. And it’s always relationship based—intimate relationship based. It’s usually my (ex) husband or family members that can evoke this type of visceral, gripping Fear. And it’s all in my head. It’s usually based on something subconscious I can’t control, like fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, stuff like that. Something imagined, but very real to me.
And so I panic. And that feels like I’m dying. And I know from experience that a drink will fix that. In those moments, I feel like I am going to die if I have to continue feeling. It really feels like if I don’t make this feeling go away then I will die. So, drinking fixes that and I never truly face or walk through that subconscious Fear and get to the other side of it. I would just drink and feel better and all would be right with the world! Until I did something awful while drinking and then the Fear and shame were increased.
I’m rambling this morning but I just wanted to get back into blogging. It’s good for me. It’s good for my sobriety. Today I choose to walk through my Fear, even the gripping awful Fear I feel when I deal with my ex-husband and think too much about my future. As long as I just DON’T DRINK then I’ll eventually (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly) get to the other side of the Fear and realize I didn’t die. I felt it and didn’t die.
I’m told the opposite of Fear is Faith. I’m told Fear and Faith cannot co-exist in a person’s mind. I’m either in fear or have faith. If I’m in Fear, I’m not trusting God that He’s got me. I’m not trusting God will take care of me. God gives me only the burdens and blessings and grace needed for these 24 hours. He won’t give me more than that. I can face anything that comes my way today. Tomorrow He will give me what I need to deal with tomorrow. As long as I stay in the present, not worry about what may or may not happen in the future—what is my life going to look like a year from now? Will I be lonely and old? Maybe, maybe not.
I choose Faith. Trust God and have Faith that everything will work out for good. It will either work out or it will work out.
2 Timothy, 1:7
“God did not give us a spirit of FEAR, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.”