Transforming Fear

Recovery has been transformative for me. Upon reflection, transformation is the essential action explicit in many of AA’s twelve steps, not just Step 12. This holds true for pretty much all secular versions of the steps. For me, it first began with awareness, seeing things as they are and as they were. Awareness became clarity – I could not drink to avoid fear without harming myself or others. Clarity framed my intention to not drink alcohol to avoid my fears.

My first several years sober, though I did not drink alcohol to avoid fear, I still avoided fear in ways that I eventually came to see were going to harm myself and others – food, sex, shopping, sleeping, to name a few. For context – I bought 25+ guitars, mandolins, banjos, cigar box guitars, amps, pedals during my first two years sober – many of which I hid from my spouse. Not as harmful as my behaviors drinking alcohol (even she agreed after an amend), but nonetheless, another obsessive way for me to avoid most of my fears.

With time, practice, fellowship, sponsorship, I reframed my intentions to be honest with myself and others. This is where my life began to truly transform. I began to see fear, to face it, rather than avoid it, by being honest with AA kindred spirits, and this ultimately became a way to learn to be honest with myself.

Today, I am more willing to acknowledge fear, to see its role in holding me back, imprisoning me in a past made safe by excuses. I learned to avoid, to lie, to manipulate, because I grew up in a violent house. A useful explanation, but no longer an excuse that I’m willing to use. Today, with tools, practice, support, I am able to free myself from the grip of fear, the prison of lies, a chorus of excuses, to be present. Rather than freedom from fear, I am free to fear.

Audre Lorde writes “…I am listening to what fear teaches. I will never be gone. I am a scar, a report from the frontlines, a talisman, a resurrection. A rough place on the chin of complacency…” as she faced a terminal diagnosis A Burst of Light: Audre Lorde on Turning Fear Into Fire

Fear There It Was

Fear there it was
Like all of those times
That came before
And all I could do
Was turn away
Turn away again

Fear a nearly
Constant companion
An unwelcome shadow
That I could not shed
So I looked away
I looked away

Fear defined me
Owned me
Held me back
Kept me from being
A me I wanted to be
Desperately wanted to be

Freedom from fear
I may never have
But there at the bottom
With nowhere to hide
I saw me all of me
And I became free

Free to fear
Free to try
And to fail
More than succeed
Yes I do believe
I’m finally free


About the Author

Robert B. is a 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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