Fear is one of those wide-ranging emotions that can mean almost anything. A couple of weeks ago, some people dressed up in costumes hoping to instill fear in others. Some people probably spent a lot of time watching movies intended scare them (for the record, I still think The Changeling is the only legitimately scary movie I have seen).
Some people are afraid of things that may never happen: illness, job loss, relationship break-up, the Dallas Cowboys being good again.
Some people are afraid because so many bad things have already happened in their lives they just can’t imagine that life could ever get better.
Some people are afraid of bugs (rational fear) or clowns (irrational fear). I’ll let you decide how I came to decide which was which.
Fear does a lot to us. Heart beat accelerates. Breathing gets shallow. Stomach ties up in knots. Decision-making becomes harder. Some people fight. Some people flee. Some people freeze.
Fear can be overwhelming. It can be crippling.
I would love say something as trite as cliché as: “And when faced with fear you can do one of two things.”
I would love to say that. But it’s a load of crap.
When faced with fear, the potential decisions are limitless.
There was a time when fear would turn me to a bottle. Today, there are times that fear turns me inward. I’m not drinking anymore, but crawling into the couch and letting my eyes glaze over in front of the TV is just about as healthy.
When I want to overcome survive in the face of fear, I find great help in doing the following:
I breathe. Deep, cleansing breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I count to 8 with each inhale and exhale. When I am afraid, I often forget to breathe. Or I start breathing so fast I almost hyperventilate. But when I make the conscious effort to slow down enough to breathe, my physical body calms down. Usually, my mind starts to, as well.
Then I admit why I am afraid. One important lesson I have learned in sobriety is that I rarely admitted why I was afraid. Now, I know how essential it is to name the fear. Now, I know how essential it is I admit to myself that I am afraid. For me, this self-admission also leads to an admission to God. As I acknowledge my fear, I let God know at the same time.
Then I tell somebody else. This is so hard. Sometimes, it’s my spouse. Sometimes, it’s a trusted person from my church. Sometimes, it’s a friend. Sometimes, it’s at a meeting. But I have to say it out loud. I have to let someone else know.
Does the problem go away? No.
Are all of my anxieties and worries relieved? No.
But do I feel isolated and alone and overwhelmed anymore? Absolutely not.
Today, I am scared. I am practicing my deep breathing. A lot. I have acknowledged the source of my fear to myself and I have prayed about it. I have journaled about it. (I am even adding an extra section to this blog post about it.) And I have told several people; both in face to face conversation and via technological communication (that sounds so much better than “email”).
Is my fear gone? Nope. But I feel a whole lot better today than I did a week ago.
A little over 10 years ago, I would drowned my fear with alcohol. And every morning when I came to, the fear would overwhelm me again. About 8 or 9 years ago, I would have bottled up my fear inside and gotten real testy with everyone I came in contact with. And then I would have felt guilty.
Today, I don’t need to drink. I don’t need to isolate.
But I am still scared.
Maybe you are, too.
It’s okay to be scared.
Breathe. Admit it. Talk about it.
Feel free to tell me: comment below and talk about your fears and how you face them. Or email me. If you need to have a conversation privately, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org