Fear, No Matter What

New Life House has had many parents who are sober themselves help work an Al-Anon program by providing an environment for their sons to come to terms with their disease. A sober parent with over 20 years of experience writes the following article about fear of the past, present and future.

Think about it. Relapse is a choice. It’s a conscious decision to return to behavior that has already brought on consequences sufficient to seek recovery or at least, abstinence. In 12-step literature you will find several stories of men and women who, time after time, pursued the insanity of going back to drinking and using. Analogies are made to people who jaywalk or ask for a heart attack. But someone in relapse mode is thinking less about the pain or the consequences; not so much afraid of what’s beat them in the past. They have a paralyzing fear of the future; a future without an “off” switch for feeling and dealing with the uncertainty of life.

The future is a pretty scary place. I wonder if any of our brave astronauts ever fully conceived as children that they would be one day going into an environment where there is no air or water. I’m sure if young Capt. Armstrong’s mother told him “Now, Neil honey, don’t be afraid, but you’re not going to be able to breathe like you do now and there won’t be any water or a bathroom and I’ll be 48,000 miles away.” would he have stayed straight in school and joined the space program?

Yet, this is what we hear in meetings. Some of us pay attention when the steps are read in “How It Works” and others chat with their friends. Do you remember the terror you felt when they first told you “All you have to change is everything” and “Abandon yourself to God”? I believe that some of us find faith and truly surrender and some of us find fear and surrender. Surrendering to the fear is no way to live. It’s too easy to renege on that surrender. Nobody likes to live in sheer terror. That’s why most of us drank and did dope. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely found some faith that the program will work for you.

Recently I have known two of our fellows that have gone back into the jaws of death repeatedly. Each time they have been miraculously spared. Both could have easily died based on their actions upon going back out. Each had experienced renewed enthusiasm for life after coming back from the last relapse, getting into the steps and embarking on a fourth step inventory. Both had been going to meetings regularly and sharing about their gratitude and their growing connection with a Higher Power. In reality though, I believe that those on the edge of relapse have no such faith, they simply have an enhanced fear of the future that causes them to keep “one foot in the past and one in the future”.

The past represents the familiar and predictable pain that we have somehow been able to survive. The future represents a free fall into unknown emotional and physical experiences that we have never been able to tolerate sober. Our Higher Power will support either choice. It is ours to make. We can choose fear or we can choose faith. Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is the respectful detachment from fear. Fear is not the absence of faith. Irrational fear is part of our disease; an unhealthy attachment to low self-esteem and distorted ego.

Is it worth it? Is staying sober worth all the effort, the vulnerability, the emotions? What about staying loaded? You face the same difficulties but you might die, kill someone

– Dave H., New Life House Father

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