Thursday, October 22, 2009

F.E.A.R. - Forgetting Everything is Alright

SPLASH! Diving to the bottom of pool, I grinned underwater as I enjoyed the rush from the high dive into the deep end of the pool. I surfaced and swam towards the ladder. And once again, it came back. What, you might ask? That old familiar tune, you know the one. Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun…JAWS! I had seen the movie earlier in the summer and it had ruined every subsequent waterway I encountered from the toilet to the sink to swimming pool to a rain puddle. I walked in perpetual fear that the Great White Shark of Death was going to consume me at any moment. And for that long moment, my definition of fear was not like the title of this article. It was more like…”Fear = My impending death!

I felt a lot like Dory and Marlon from the popular Pixar movie Finding Nemo.
The two stumble upon a Great White whilst looking for Marlon’s son Nemo. As they shake in their fins, they realize this is no ordinary shark. He hosts a 12 Step Shark’s Meeting, much like a 12 step meeting for addicts, only these addicts are addicted to fish. The meeting starts with the following pledge:

“I am a nice shark not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends NOT food!” Bruce, the Great White in question, who also happens to be Australian, then leads the sharing saying, “Hello, my name is Bruce, it’s been three weeks since my last fish, on my honor, or may I be chopped up and made into soup.” The other attending sharks yell out affirmations, “You’re an inspiration to all of us. I’m in!” Meanwhile, the two fish do not seem impressed nor do they look all that peaceful.

Fear is a big part of life. It is also a big part of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Fear of relapse, fear of feeling good, fear of feeling bad, fear of feeling at all, fear of having a good time, fear of having a bad time, fear of staying clean, fear of being normal…you get the point. So how does one deal with fear while trying to stay clean from their addictive behaviors? Let’s take a look at this important question.

First, redefine the fear. For example, if you make it an acronym (F.E.A.R.), it can stand for the following: F.E.A.R. - Forgetting Everything is Alright. You see, fear operates best when it keeps us from actually looking at the real problem. It knows that if we only speculate, anticipate, or worry about potentialities than it has us in its grip.

It can also mean F.E.A.R. - Face Everything and Recover. When we face our fears, we can overcome them. For example, once I realized it was absurd to be afraid that Jaws was going to eat me at my local swimming pool, I no longer feared going in the deep end. I realized that it was impossible because a) sharks can’t live in chlorine, b) the pool wouldn’t allow kids into the deep end if a shark resided there, c) how can a shark get to this pool when the nearest ocean shore is over 100 miles away and they can’t survive outside of water for very long? See my point?

Second, after redefining the fear, you can create helping statements to combat the lingering effects of the fear. For example, you can say things like, “I am not made of fear but of courage.” or “There is nothing I can’t do as long as I apply myself.” Helping statements help you to actively control the thoughts in your mind versus becoming a victim of your own thoughts

Third, fear thrives in the dark…so turn on the light. For example, you never hear of a kid lying in bed with the lights on complaining about a potential monster under the bed. But turn the lights off and the child’s imagination suddenly goes berserk. In order to stay sober, it is important to leave the dark thoughts, attitudes and actions of active using. Going to meetings, journaling your feelings every day, seeing a counselor, talking to your sponsor and reading recovery literature are just a couple of ways you can expel the darkness, turn on the light, and transform your mind with helpful, sobriety-focused information.

Unfortunately, Bruce relapses after a fish gets cut and Bruce smells the blood declaring, “I’m having fish TONIGHT!” as he bears his teeth in a mean growl. The good news is you don’t have to be a victim of Bruce (in your case, the drugs or alcohol). You can turn away from fear and embrace courage in order to get clean and stay clean!

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