30 Oct Dealing with Fear and Uncertainty in Recovery
In honor of Halloween, this post is dedicated to one of the most frightening four-letter words out there: FEAR. But we’re not really here to talk about ghosts, goblins, and Freddy Kruger. Though monsters and Halloween horror films can spark reactions in us that, on the surface, look quite similar to some of the deeper fears many of us face.
It’s not at all uncommon for human beings to be afraid. Fear is actually a fundamental and deeply wired biological reaction in us, evolved over history to protect us from perceived threats. It’s essentially our “fight or flight” reaction and it sure does come in handy if we’re being chased across glaciers by woolly mammoths. It doesn’t, however, do us much good when it keeps us from following our dreams, or leaving the house when we’re feeling insecure, or putting down the bottle of booze – when, in fact, we’re not actually being chased by giant prehistoric animals. Or Freddy Kruger.
Fear happens to be one of the primary things that drives addictive behavior, too. It’s also a big reason why it can be challenging to give up drugs, alcohol and other compulsive behaviors. We might fear things like financial insecurity, death, our lover leaving us, failure, success, and the list goes on. Drinking, using, and other compulsive behaviors enable us to self sooth and without these, we have nowhere to run. But if you think about it, all of the fears just named have one thing in common: uncertainty.
Fear is a reaction to our bodies wanting us to feel safe. It’s a familiar space and a familiar escape from reality. We make decisions to stay in destructive relationships, jobs that aren’t serving us, and other unhealthy situations for fear of change. The thing that many of us tend to forget, however, is that change and uncertainty are just a part of life. In fact, the only real constant in this world is change. When we don’t accept this, we’re kind of going against the universal flow of life. Embracing change allows us to be free, to stay curious, to let life to surprise us.
Here’s a list we’ve compiled of some things you can do to overcome fear and uncertainty:
- Practice gratitude. While you can’t control every situation that crops up in your your life, you do have power over your emotional attachment to situations. Practicing gratitude for the things that are going well forces you to be present in the here and now. While it’s true that sometimes life dishes out some real doozies, most of the time the things that cause us distress are things that haven’t even happened yet. Keeping a daily gratitude list can be an incredibly effective way to recognize what’s working in your life and what lights you up, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe you had a pleasant interaction with a coffee shop barista, or you saw a beautiful sunset on the drive home from work, or you had an opportunity to be of service to someone in need. All of these things are worth celebrating, and the result can be an instant shift in perspective, keeping you here in the present moment and out of your head.
- Face your fears and learn to overcome them. Fear is frequently defined as False Evidence Appearing Real. While the dictionary definition of “fear” is not an actual acronym, the aforementioned is pretty spot on. Fear is always based in perceived danger or threats, and never real ones. Because the things we’re afraid of haven’t happened yet. We fear the unknown, often based on our past experiences. But guess what? The unknown is where the magic is. Like, how will you ever know if you have a shot with that cool girl you see at the gym every day with the awesome asymmetrical haircut and killer tattoos if you don’t walk over and talk to her? Who’s going to give you a promotion at your company if you don’t work hard and let your boss know you’re interested in an exciting new role? How will you know what it’s like to visit a foreign country if you don’t get over your fear of flying? And how will you ever know how incredible a life free from hangovers feels if you’re not willing to take the first step toward getting clean? Facing fears opens us up to a world of brand new possibilities and fun surprises. Sure, we may not always get what we bargained for, but we’re bound to have some killer wins if we face our fears and allow life to unfold in its own brilliantly mysterious way.
- Meditate. Meditating is a great way to create space for the mind to expand, and also to shift your perspective. Adopting a regular meditation practice can help you to stay present and achieve a state of balance, inner peace, and accept life on life’s terms – some of the keys to alleviating fears. It also helps you more easily adapt to life’s constant and everyday uncertainties. There are many different meditation styles out there. Perhaps find one or several styles that resonate and try making meditation a part of your daily routine. Not only will it help squelch fear and anxiety in addition to giving you a tool to self-sooth, but meditation is a practice that can enhance your recovery tenfold.
- Identify the root cause of your fears. Naming your fears and identifying the root cause of them without judgement is another great way to get present with your thoughts while gaining more acceptance over uncertainty. A helpful exercise can be to list out some of your top fears, identify worst-case scenario outcomes, and to consider how life might look if you stopped letting these fears hold you back. By naming our fears and facing them, we start to take our power back. Once we stop avoiding our fears (remember the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real?), we can begin to move through them. We can also stop fixating on the “what-ifs” in life which are all based stories that we’ve created. Then, we can start focusing on the possibilities that lie outside of the “what-ifs” and outside of these “what-ifs” is where real freedom lies. It’s the space where we get to say “yes” to our goals, hopes and dreams in a world of virtually limitless possibilities.
- Get support. Try joining a twelve-step recovery group, connecting with others and talking about your fears, speaking with a therapist, or all of the above. Connection is powerful. Once you start to recognize the fact that you’re not terminally unique, that you’re not the only person on the planet who fears uncertainty, or struggles with addiction, or battles compulsive behaviors, your fears will start to take on less meaning. We’re all connected to one another by a power that’s so much greater than ourselves and we all have fears. Finding support from others who can relate to our struggles generally means that we’re connecting with people who’ve been through many of the things we also fear. And guess what? They’re here to tell their own tales which means they’ve come out the other side. And they’ve likely grown through the process as well. Psychotherapy can be a beneficial process as well, as it can help give you a better understanding of yourself, what drives your fears, and what your ultimate goals and values are. It often helps you to create a new way of looking at your problems so that you can move toward a solution.
Getting clean allows you walk through your fears – to see, feel, and experience life in all of its glorious ups and downs. While no one ever said that recovery was easy, most people with any serious clean time will tell you that life is one big adventure. And while it may sound cliché, walking through those fears of yours is bound to give you a life beyond your wildest dreams. Because your dreams are limited to your imagination. The universe, however, is infinite – start saying “yes” to infinite possibilities and watch how big and beautiful this world becomes.
So, to all of our fellow scaredy-cats out there, Happy Halloween! Let’s plough through these fears of ours together, one day at a time. And if, in fact, you’re being chased by a lion, a woolly mammoth, or Freddy Kruger, then by all means, RUN! Otherwise, we’ll see you on the other side of fear.
Kembali Recovery Center can Help:
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or other compulsive behaviors, Kembali can help. Contact us today to learn more about our four-week treatment program. All discussions are commitment-free and completely confidential.