Somewhere between my consciousness and subconscious, I knew that this was a question that I was even afraid to ask – this the power that fear held in my life. I’ve had a long pattern of avoiding as a way to cope. This has taken the form of procrastination, dishonesty, emotional distance, and increasing dependence on alcohol to sometimes actually face my fear, but mostly to avoid the feelings temporarily or if possible, avoid them altogether.
Combined, avoidance and increasing dependency on alcohol put me into a spiral of heightened anxiety, darkening depression and suicidal ideation and attempts. That I’d rather die, consciously abandon those that I loved and that loved me, rather than face what I was avoiding, is today, unfathomable.
I vainly and naively thought (hoped) that stopping drinking alcohol would be enough. All the while, forgetting that for me, unacknowledged trauma, anxiety, and depression were precursors to my progressive dependence on alcohol. Without numbing or escaping my feelings by drinking alcohol, my feelings and emotions were amplified. For the first time in a long while, I felt everything.
Often, I didn’t know what I was feeling. Sometimes they weren’t feelings at all, they were judgments like feeling unworthy, not enough, weak, fake, irredeemable, unlovable, etc. It took time, patience, professional help, honesty with family and friends to get beneath all of the self-judgment to become aware of the actual emotions.
There are several representations of emotions, varying in number from 5-10. This wheel of emotions is one example. Fear, anger, happiness, and sadness have felt primary to me. Over time, I’ve noticed fear as the most significant. In fact, it is so strong that it often precludes me from feeling others, such as happiness that I so desperately sought. With time, willingness, and courage, especially with meditation and mindfulness, I am able to get beyond the judgments to find what is at the heart. It is often unfounded and irrational fear.
Now I have tools and practices that help me see fear for what it is, and ultimately to actually feel a multitude of expanding emotions.
What Are You Afraid Of
What are you afraid of I asked myself
The hungry ghosts that wake you
In the middle of many a night
Stealing sleep night after night
Is it the old wounds that itch
That never quite healed
Is it the greatest fear that’s always there
Knocking waiting lurking just outside the door
Begging and demanding full attention
A constant reminder that you are not enough
Never enough not now not then not when
No matter how hard you might try
Is it that the shadows in which you hide
Cannot protect you from being seen
Naked and vulnerable to a too cruel world
Judging you for what you are
Judging you for what you’ve never been
And judging you for what you’ll never be
If you are like me it’s all of the above
When I’m alone there in the dark
It’s only when I seek the light
Look in the mirror smile and see
Opening my heart holding it in my hands
Like a proud parent for you to see
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.