Recently, we discussed the reason we experience a certain sense of pleasure with guilt. Horror movies, thrill-seeking, and adrenaline boosting are guilty pleasures for many people. Fearful things like ghouls, goblins, slasher thrillers, zombie flicks, and haunted houses get our adrenaline pumping. We hate being scared, but we love it so much. Fear is a major factor in the way that we run our lives, both in addiction and in recovery. At some points in our active using, we might have considered ourselves fearless. Other times, we couldn’t remember what a single feeling outside of fear really felt like. Too easily, our recovery can become consumed with fear- fear of relapse, fear of failure, fear of everything in the world we were previously too numb to experience. The Survey of American Fears, produced by Chapman University, compiled what American’s are facing as their biggest fears. Not included were zombies and masked menaces, but contributors to the quality of daily life: corrupt politicians, healthcare, and the environment.
Recovery teaches us how to cope with our fears, build an action plan to work through them, and then confidently go in the direction of our dreams beyond the direction that our fears tried to send us. Rather than turn back to drugs and alcohol, we learn how to have courage. Courage, as Nelson Mandela defined it, is not an absence of fear but the triumph over that fear. Getting over our fears produces a sense of pride and accomplishment, activating our sense of reward and pleasure. Part of the reason we might enjoy walking the line of fear is to more deeply embrace the reward of triumphing over that fear. That reward comes from a stimulated production of dopamine and a release of endorphins. Endorphins are those feel-good chemicals we produce out of energy, like during exercise. Endorphins makes us feel a little more alive, which is why it is a highly sought after natural ‘high’. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a brain chemical that carries a message of pleasure throughout the brain. The prefrontal cortex helps the brain determine how to handle fear, depending on what the fear is.
Fear can sometimes feel like the monsters in our favorite movies. Fear feels like that inevitable doom lurking behind the door creeping open ever so slowly. We know the spook is coming. We might not be aware of what lies ahead. When we scream and jump, metaphorically and literally, we move into action. Whether we run away or run headstrong through our fear is a marker of our recovery. We can learn to be limitless in life and approach our fears with a logical, rational place.
Overcoming your fears is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of asking for help. If you are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, there is help available. Recovery is the unknown, but it is a more worthy journey than continuing your addiction. Tree House Recovery is a men’s residential treatment program in Portland, Oregon, offering long-term care. Creating sustainable recovery through sustainable change, our program teaches men how to find freedom from addiction. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474