Like other four-letter words, fear is often a seen as a bad word we’re not supposed to talk about. Admitting to fear is a sign of weakness, and we are not supposed to show weakness. However, I find the more I talk about my fears, the less control they have over me. I’m not talking about my fear of clowns or my fear of spiders (fuck both of those). I’m talking about the fears that truly control us.
Fear can be both bad and it can be good. Fear can keep you alive but it can also keep you in a dark hole. Fear, in some form or another, directs almost all of my important decisions. A fear of losing something I need, or a fear of not getting something I wanted- If I respond because something is going to be taken away, or I’m not going to get what’s owed, I am acting out of fear.
For most of my adult life, fear kept me in a bottle. The bottle was my dark hole of a comfort zone. I knew for a long time that drinking alone wasn’t right, that drinking daily wasn’t right. It of course didn’t start off that way, but it sure ended up that way. If I more or less stayed drunk, I didn’t have to face my fears, which were numerous.
Primarily, my fear was that I wouldn’t be accepted. I didn’t know who I really was because I spent most of my time trying to gauge who I should be in order to be accepted. That sparked more fears that people would find out that I was fairly shallow and insecure. My fears kept my mind closed and immature. If I just looked like a tough guy, maybe I was one.
But I wasn’t the super tough guy I portrayed, I quit things when they got too tough. As uncomfortable as that is to admit, it’s true. Fear kept me from asking for help that would let the world know I wasn’t who I thought I was. It turns out that it’s incredibly hard to push yourself mentally when you’re not really sure who you are. Simply put: you can’t put stress on a faulty structure.
However, when the pain and stress got to be too much, I found a strength and a faith I didn’t know that I had. I finally had to admit I had a problem and I needed help. I had to get sober which meant I had to actually ask for help, to show weakness. The fear of showing weakness and a completely sober life terrified me. The alternative though was to continue on as I’d been living, slowly circling the drain. I checked myself into a rehab center and through the process of recovery, I’ve begun to find out who I am and what is most important is that I like who I am and who I am becoming.
That brings me to a completely different kind of fear: fear as a motivator. A new fear now directs most of my life. I fear being in that dark place again. I fear returning to an existence instead of a life. I fear not knowing the world, the people and places in it, and I fear not knowing myself.
And so fear motivates me still. I still do not like getting outside of my comfort zone and sometimes I really don’t want to go to the gym or go to an AA meeting. I’m still not a fan of flying and I still get uneasy meeting new people. But I do these things so that my old fears stay at bay, so that I never return to who I truly was, a grown kid whistling in the dark- portraying everything as fine to the outside world while frightened out of my mind internally.
Fear can keep you in ignorance and in your own little bubble, or it can motivate you to be a better person. Fear strikes all of us, whether we are tough or just think we are. How we use it, whether to our detriment or our benefit is up to us.