There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin.
You hear people say it all the time: Let me throw back a couple of drinks and I’ll be ready to hit up that bar or that party or that event. Hell, I said it all the time. I couldn’t leave the house, aside from work, before I had at least a drink or two in me, but why? What made it necessary for me to be lit before I could have a good time with people I considered close friends? What made it necessary for me to be lit before I could present a speech on a topic for which I cared deeply? What is it that I am choosing to drown instead of face? The answer is that dreaded four-letter f-word that seems to permeate every race, nation and walk of life… That word is FEAR.
Fear has been with us almost since the beginning of time. In the Garden it was Pride that caused Adam and Eve to partake of the one tree that they were commanded not to touch. When Adam and Eve sinned, fear resulted. They became aware of their differences, they became aware of good and evil and as a result of this new knowledge they became afraid. They were so scared that God had to call them out from their hiding places. They immediately realized they were in over their heads that they had bit off more than they could chew, so to speak. The good news is that God never wanted us to live in such circumstances. The words “Do not be afraid” and “Fear not” occur over and over in His word to us, the Bible. 2 Timothy 1:7 claims that God did not give us a spirit of timidity and fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.
If you think about it, we are the ones who gave ourselves this spirit of fear when we decided to partake in that which we were not allowed. The moment we invited sin into this world fear came rushing in with it and fear continues to run side by side with sin creating havoc in our daily lives. Since we are the ones who invited fear into our lives, we have to be the ones to give it and all its friends the boot. How you ask? By choosing an action that leads to a state of empowerment rather than an action that leads to a state of powerlessness.
For me, my use of alcohol directly corresponds to the amount of fear in my life. The more I am drinking the more timid I become… Well, not while I am drinking, but a system gets put into place without my even being aware. For example, let’s say I am meeting a large group of people for dinner. I know the majority of them, but there are going to be a bunch of friends of friends as well. Being a little shy, I decide to throw back a couple of stiff ones before I leave. I arrive at the party with confidence. That little voice in my head that does me damage is silenced…err drunk and so I am able to strike up conversation after conversation and have an enjoyable evening. Never mind that to everyone else at the party I am clearly lit… I am having a good time and making friends. That’s what it’s all about right? Well not exactly. You see, the problem is that next time I have an invite to dinner with some people I may not know, I am going to feel the need to drink beforehand and the more I rely on drinking to make me feel at ease and chatty the more trapped I become. What appears to be an easy and fun way to relax my nerves is actually a noose I am tightening around my own neck. The more I rely on the drink as opposed to myself, the tighter the noose gets and the more powerless I become. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I have unknowingly conditioned myself to require a drink in order to do anything that makes me feel the least bit uncomfortable. What’s even worse is that daily ordinary life tasks become harder because I have also inadvertently taught my meager little mind that whenever I leave the house there is a chance for discomfort so my mind reacts by creating a state of fear around very normal mundane things like going somewhere new or trying to find a parking place. All of a sudden I am hit by a panic attack of sorts because my brain wants the alcohol to shut up the little voice that’s freaking out… after all that’s the only way I’ve taught my brain to deal with any discomfort.
Luckily, our brain, yes, that thing that keeps us alive by telling our organs and muscles when to do what and why, is actually trainable. I, myself, am in the process of getting out of the fear cycle. I have been sober before and I have to say that I actually have had the better times of my life sober… maybe that’s because I can actually remember them. Last time I was sober I realized how much of life I was missing while drinking. Experiences are so much richer when you are completely present for them. I also really liked the person I was when I was sober. A funny thing happened: as alcohol was pushed out of my life, the less timid I became for a while…. Then a resurgence of fear returned. Just like with any sort of behavioral training sometimes there are set backs as the mind suddenly realizes its own transformation and for some reason it gets scared. It realizes it is in new territory and suddenly longs for the days of old where it knew how to handle what was coming at it. In the end my fearful brain won out and I returned to drinking to calm my nerves, keep me comfortable and retain what I thought was a spec of happiness. As I returned to the drinking my fear came back tenfold and this confident, chatty woman became the most timid being on the face of the planet. A lot of my creativity and productivity also suffered. Basically I became less and alcohol became more until I once again got fed up with having to have a drink or four in order to have a good time. That’s no way to live! I remembered how strong I was when I was sober and I remembered how good it felt to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and I wanted that feeling back.
I am penning this on the evening of September 11th, a day in our American history where we all felt a loss of power both as a nation and as individuals. Our nation and our people wasted no time bouncing back from this tragedy for we were not going to let our enemies have the satisfaction of seeing us whither and die under the cloak of fear. I have no plans of doing such either. I am around three weeks sober as of this writing. To say getting sober this time around has been difficult would be an extreme understatement. I find myself scared of pretty much everything these days, but each time I venture somewhere new I know I have a choice to make. I can either face the fear, humiliation or whatever it is hiding as in my brain, head on or I can just retreat and promise to try again tomorrow. The funny thing is the times I choose to face the fear head on the more things seem to fall into place like I’ve initiated some sort of snow ball affect for blessings. On the contrary, the times I find myself unable to face my fear and choose retreat instead, I seem to invoke a rather evil snowball affect where countless things go wrong until I am able to choose to face my fear again. In other words, each time I choose to properly empower myself and live out 2 Timothy 1:7 I render positive consequences in my life and isn’t that what we all want?