M(3), 4/6/15: On Mastering Fear
I’m hoping all readers who celebrate Easter had a wonderful weekend!
A series of coincidences-that-I-no-longer-believe-are-coincidences led me to choosing the reading selection for this morning’s meeting. I think sometimes when I attempt to write out the chain of events it does not come off nearly as exciting as it feels for me, so suffice it to say I had a thought of a theme for the month’s meeting topics, then decided no one would like this idea, and then a crazy set of circumstances led me directly back to the topic and reading that, of course, I selected.
What’s particularly exciting to me about this chain of events is that I haven’t had one of these “aha!” experiences in a while, and so I am happy on many levels this morning!
With that introduction aside, this morning’s reading comes from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, also referred to as “The Big Book.” The story is called “The Man Who Mastered Fear,” and was written by Archie T., who is also known for bringing AA to Detroit.
The topic of the story and subsequent discussion, needless to say, was fear. The author of the story surmounted life-crippling fear to get and stay sober, his obstacles to sobriety were significantly more difficult than mine, and possibly for most of the recovering alcoholics I know.
One of the reasons I had this story in mind is that the topic of fear both intrigues and frustrates me. It is often said in the rooms of my 12-step fellowship that fear is the root of every problem in life. I have heard this said for as long as I’ve been attending meetings, and for that long the belief has defied my understanding.
There have been a few other bits of 12-step wisdom that eluded my comprehension at the outset:
One Day At A Time
Acceptance is the Answer
Ego is a stumbling block to recovery
These are just three of the most obvious, if I sat her and thought about it, I could probably come up with a dozen more “conceptual issues” I had with the 12-step program (and yet I was slow to the ego concept, go figure).
In each of the examples above, time and repeated bits of wisdom from the many who trudged the road of recovery before me led me to grab hold of a real understanding of the inherent value of the proverbs.
So I believe with certainty that when all these same wise people tell me that fear is the root of every problem I have, they know of which they speak. I realize that I am following my typical learning curve, and that eventually a light bulb will go off.
And that’s where the frustration comes in… why can’t I get this concept? Because I’m still fighting it… in my own head of course, I don’t mean I’m debating with people in meeting. I just keep thinking of myself as not overly fearful, and I’m challenging the premise that fear is the root of every single problem in life.
There. I’ve admitted it out loud. Usually when I do this, I get the answers I seek. I’ll let you know what turns up!
Meanwhile, having admitted most of this during my share at the meeting, the rest of the room chimed in with empathy and understanding. More than half the room this morning has more than a quarter century of sobriety each; in fact, we celebrated one gentleman’s 28th year of sobriety this morning! Each person who shared remembered well the mental confusion in which I find myself, wanting to grab hold of a concept but not quite getting it, and each agreed that understanding is a long process. As one woman put it, “there’s connecting the big dots, like don’t drink, sharing with others, one day at a time, and we can learn fairly quickly to connect those dots, and we feel better. But there’s a whole lot of smaller dots, and those take time, sometimes years worth of time, before we finally feel that relief that we’ve connected them.”
Another person with long-time sobriety agreed and related it back to the story. He liked how the author talked about it taking him 5 years before he could accomplish what most would consider a fairly average life goal. In the same way, our individual journey to recovery is not something we should compare with others, for it is an individual experience.
Others in the room discussed some of their fears in early recovery, and how those fears were overcome with a faith in a Higher Power. A simple prayer goes a long way to eliminate fear as it’s happening.
A final point in the discussion centered around “romancing the drink,” a topic the author covers in the story. It can be very easy, especially during the holidays and family celebrations, to see people enjoying a beer or a glass of wine, and remember the feeling of fun and relaxation it brought us at one time. The antidote to this nostalgia is simple but effective: play the tape through to the end stages of your drinking history. Was it fun and relaxing? Chances are, if you are reading this blog, not so much. All in the room agreed that remembering the last days is a quick way to end the romantic notions of “just one!”
In an almost unprecedented event, on day 5 of a school break, both kids are content and respectful of allowing me to type this post. Of course, that’s because one is at a friend’s house, but still, no fighting whatsoever and we are halfway through the afternoon. Could the streak continue until bedtime? Stay tuned…