“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
— Bertrand Russell
Around my sobriety birthday, I look back over the year and try to decide what theme showed up most for me in the past year. There were plenty of pickings in 2020, that’s for sure. And of course, like many people, it was fear in all of its forms. The Big Book of AA talks a lot about fear and facing our fears, in fact, the Big Book states:
“The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.” p. 145
If we do a proper “fearless” moral inventory in the 4th step, we begin to see the ego at the center of our fears. We won’t get what we want or what we deserve; we will lose what we have, and life is just not fair. This year, however, a lot of fear came from so many unknowns–a raging pandemic, political unrest, and a perilous election looming. Halloween is so apropos this year. Life can be scary. We lose our economic security, and sometimes we lose friends or family. Some fear the loss of freedom to do what they want, and thus, we have the political lightning rod around mask-wearing. On the other side, others with weakened health conditions remained locked in their homes for months on end, fearing for their lives. At either extreme is the self-centered, selfish ego, cowering in a corner or fighting back and stomping on the rights and needs of other people like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum. Both are inward-looking, belly-button contemplating activities.
The Big Books asks us to have the faith–faith in a higher power, in the program and in the fellowship–that will give us the guidance that meets fear head-on. Fear leads many to behave badly, selfishly, and sometimes even immorally. We see it on the news all the time. The ultimate question is: Can I do the next right thing? Can I follow the guidance of a higher power, setting aside my ego, and face my fear in order to be of service to my fellows? It is truly a tall order, but no one ever promised this would be easy. Can I continue to show up for others, both alcoholics and non-alcoholics that suffer? That is what is asked of us.
I know from my own experience of being in the program for 20 years, 16 of is sober since Halloween of 2004, fear can be paralyzing, preventing me from taking action; an action that indeed may be exactly what I need. I do not know the outcomes, but have learned over time, more often than not, placing those fears on the “God-shelf” has given me a soft, quiet confidence called faith that allows me to take risks I did not or would not have taken had I not gone into recovery. It’s a wonderful feeling to acknowledge the fear and move ahead in spite of it. Sometimes things turn out worse than expected, but more often than not, the opposite is true. The risks I’ve taken and times I have “gone out on a limb” rarely ended how my catastrophizing mind told me it would. I just don’t know the future, and have mostly, been pleasantly surprised as long as I stay spiritually fit and plugged into that which keeps me sober: AA and the cadre of AA friends I have grown to know and love.
“God, thank you for helping me be honest enough to see this truth about myself and now that you have shown me the truth about my fears, please remove these fears from me. Lord, please help me outgrow my fears and direct my attention to what you would have me be. Father, demonstrate through me and help me become that which you would have me be. Help me do thy will always, Amen.”(68:3)
I have to keep asking for fears to be removed, and always look for the inner guidance from my high power. If I work on this, I can almost be rest assured that life will turn out exactly how it is supposed to, and I will be okay with the result.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
— Nelson Mandela
So carry on, my friends, I will see you whilst we trudge the road to Happy Destiny, despite our fears and sometimes just one foot in front of the other, one moment at a time.