What’s Your Greatest Fear?

I asked this of myself recently, as I shared in a meeting, and I’ve thought about it frequently since. As a child, I feared my parents would die. I was cultured to not fear – at least not to show it. I feared nuclear war with Russia. I feared snakes of any kind and any size. I feared being drafted to Vietnam. I feared failing – of not being good enough. I feared I would never have a girlfriend – never marry. I feared being alone.

Until I hit that place many with addictions call bottom, I do not recall being afraid of my own death. And it was there in that place of not being able to drink alcohol and absolutely needing to drink alcohol that I became afraid to die, even though suicide was frequently in my thoughts as the only way out.

When I finally and truly saw what and who I had become, I was so afraid that if I died then, broken, unable to cope with life, what that image, that legacy, would mean for my son. I did not want him to live with the shame that I had felt for so long, a hungry ghost of a dad that might have been. Wondering why? Why not? What if? Questions that he’d never answer – much like the questions I have about my dad.

Now sober and truly present for him and for all of my family and friends, I’m not afraid of my own death. Because I think, maybe even mostly I believe, that now I know how to be afraid.


I used to fear death
Mostly the death
Of those I love
But now it’s
Not so much
Death I fear
It’s the dying
The slow slide
Down a spiral
The lost no longer found
When treasures become trash
And entropy claims its due


Fear it grabbed me
Took my breath
And wouldn’t give it back
Choking on a rising gorge
Diffusing from deep within
Cells I know are there
But cannot see
Dark imagination run wild
A constant companion
An unreliable narrator
Of stories to unfold
But now I know and
Have slowly come to see
The real courage
So often it seems
Is too just be afraid
And turn to see
That which I fear most


There is a place I know
(Stop me if you’ve heard this before)
That I visit from time to time
When I remember to pause
There I need not worry
Fear fret or dread
I can simply be
No coming
No going
It’s a place of OK
A place of good enough
So oft when I find it
Oh how I yearn to stay
But you know as do I
That that’s not the Way
No that’s not the way
Of impermanent life
And though I can’t stay
I do plan to visit
More often than not

About the Author

Robert B. is sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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2 years ago

well done, Robert! funny, I’ve written a couple of poems recently too.. must be in the air. I love wordsmithing to a rhythm. what’s my greatest fear? always but one: the fear I’m experiencing in any given moment. gratefully, fear rules me less and less these days. I think mostly, because I really do practice detachment, daily, hourly, moment to moment, as best I can. Letting go, trusting the process, whatever way we spin it, has made my mind, less likely to tolerate the inevitable creep of fear. Fox’s “Golden key” pamphlet has been a big part of my recovery.… Read more »