I’m easily swept away by uncertainty into a spiral of fear. Fear-created,- heart beating out of my chest- panic. For much of my life, I woke gagging on anxiety most mornings. I woke gagging with dry heaves regardless of whether my life was good or bad. It was worse when things were difficult and challenging. But there all the same. When I became dependent on alcohol for a couple of years before getting sober, it was worse, in part because it was mixed with guilt and shame, in a never-ending hangover, both physical and emotional.
One day, newly sober, though my life was still awash of consequences, I wasn’t risking throwing up in the shower. I began to notice a different relationship to uncertainty. My life in some ways was even more uncertain than it had been before. My spouse and I were separated, living separately under the same roof for a time, with divorce, a distinct probability.
A successful academic career of 20+ years was now at risk. Yet, I wasn’t waking consumed by anxiety. Part of it, I think is that I wasn’t hiding my dependence on alcohol from anyone. I accepted my responsibility for my circumstances, no longer blaming my childhood, a former spouse, finances, etc. I was no longer blaming my irresponsibility on external factors. I became willing to be responsible and accountable.
As I began this reflection, I can still be swept away, caught up in a cycle of fear and anxiety due to uncertainty. But today, I can notice that first short, shallow breath, tightness in my chest and shoulders, and breathe. I breathe slowly and deeply for a few cycles. I disrupt or arrest that insidious cascade of uncertainty-fear-anxiety by remembering to breathe. I still question that it cannot be that simple. But when I pause and when I still my body and mind, I see possibility where a moment before I saw none. Probably most importantly I become aware and I remember that I am not alone.
Breath born in the womb of life
Breath of life as old as time
Of this I do breathe as I swim
In a vast karmic sea
Causes and conditions rise and sink
Giving birth to endless cycles of trying and failing
And of trying without fail
Epicycles of birth and death
The spirit of life holds me with care
Resilience rooted in eons of time
Nourishing my heart body and mind
Reminding me that the fear that I feel
Is too great to try to hold on my own
Reaching for the hand of another
I remember that I need not be alone
No I never need be alone
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.