Could we trace the first moment we became afraid? As individuals we might be able to remember the first time we really felt fear, anxiety, panic, horror, or terror. We can see it in our mind’s eye and even if it was a long time ago, a memory of childhood, we can feel the physical sensations. Fear is something we feel in our minds and in our bodies. Fear can control and torture our spirit, if we let it because fear can be healthy or fear can be unhealthy. The physical and mental response to fear is what keeps our species alive, and helps us live our lives. Our ancestors lived in a healthy state of fear that allowed them to hunt, build, innovate, explore, and reproduce, while staying on the alert for animals, large animals, predators, and other men. Healthy fear helps us stay safe, while also encouraging us to take risks. Healthy fear protects us from risks that are too great. Unhealthy fear can inhibit us from living life fully. Unhealthy fear can prevent us from making meaningful connections. Unhealthy fear can lead us to stay in places or situations we do not need to be.
Learning to differentiate and use healthy fear as opposed to unhealthy fear is part of the process of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Active addiction changes our brain wiring when it comes to fear. We fear the things we shouldn’t, like sobriety. We lose fear for the things we should, like the imminent threat of overdose, losing a job, or losing relationships with people we love. The very instant we make the decision to leave active addiction behind us and embark upon the journey to finding freedom from addiction, we start to use our unhealthy fear in a healthy way, changing it into healthy fear. From that day forward, we are able to look our fear in the face and start making better decisions about what to do with it. No longer are we bound to the jerk reaction of turning to drugs and alcohol to face our fears, run away from them, or ignore them.
Life in recovery is full of challenges, some more frightening than others. As men in recovery, we have lived through some of the worst our lives may ever present us. We could live in fear that it could happen again or live against fear and live a life beyond our wildest dreams. The choice is ours. Recovery gives it to us.