When I was beginning my journey in sobriety, a counselor had me make a list of all of my fears (us twelve-steppers know this as a part of the fourth step). These weren’t tangible things like spiders or snakes, but rather the aspects of life that made you want to run the other way. For me, my list looked something like this: never marrying, never being financially secure, having someone I love die, etc.
After writing several of these things down, a mentor went through them with me and helped me to see their commonality – they were all fears of what I could not control. What I discovered is that I had been filled with fear my entire life. Fear of the unknown and fear of what I thought I knew (which was never quite accurate).
That list was made almost 7 years ago. If I were to make the list today, the items on it would be entirely different. The funny thing about my previous list is that those fears either never came to pass, or they did and I got through them. While the list that I would make today would have different items, the theme would still be the same – fear of not having control.
Don’t get me wrong, there are healthy fears. I happen to think that some forms of fear are a God-given instinct to keep us safe. I have a healthy fear, for example, of running into oncoming traffic. I certainly don’t want to be hit a car. If there is a 150-pound dog that is snarling and baring its teeth at me, fear is going to tell me to go the other direction and not reach my hand out to pet it. Fear can lead us in the right direction, sometimes. These are not the types of fears that I am talking about.
I think that all of us have a little bit of a control freak in us. We wake up every day making plans and thinking that for the most part, things will come to pass as we wish them too. While I have control over myself, I have very little control over much else. Depending on the way you look at things, that can either be totally freeing or absolutely terrifying.
That’s the trouble with fear. It will eat you alive if you let it. Our minds have the capability of creating hundreds of different scenarios about how things may turn out. In my experience, the ending is never really how I pictured it. The first list of fears? Well, I did end up getting married. I married someone that is my best friend and I can be myself around. While I am certainly not wealthy, my husband and I are fortunate to have everything we need, and a little bit more – that crosses off that financial instability fear. The fear of someone dying? Sad to say that between then and now I have lost count of how many people have died. Some of them family, and some of them old friends that were defeated by the disease of addiction. As painful as that has been, I have gotten through it.
The trouble with fear is that it steals your joy and can keep you from taking that leap of faith that could forever change your life. The best that we can do is take it one day at a time, take a deep breath, and realize that all we have control over is ourselves and our attitudes.
Make a list of all of your fears and tuck it away somewhere. I might be interesting to look at in several years for comparison.
And as always, follow the bread crumbs.