I spent some time with some truly inspiring women a couple of weekends ago, and the subject of fear came up. We talked about how debilitating fear can be – how it can keep us from evolving in our lives and our recovery. We talked about how fear holds us back, and when it does we find ourselves stuck in a perpetual cycle of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
No, we weren’t talking about fear of spiders, ghosts or monsters under our beds! We were talking about the fear of every day living! The fear of holding ourselves accountable, the same way we hold others accountable. The fear of change – of failure – of taking risks – of advocating for ourselves.
It took me another week after gathering with those women and listening to their stories to recognize that my high levels of anxiety lately have been a direct result of my own fears. I’ve been afraid to face the final piece of pesky wreckage that is still hanging around from my past life. The one piece of my life that still seems to be in turmoil.
I was ashamed that I didn’t “have it all together” yet, and feared that if I admitted this to others I would be a failure, or worse, that I might start to spiral out of control.
I was hoping that if I just ignored the problem long enough, it would simply disappear…but that’s not reality. I had to wake up.
I realized that by ignoring my problem, by brushing it under the rug like I used to do with everything that made me feel uncomfortable, a mountain of anxiety was building up inside me. The weight of this burden was getting too heavy and it could no longer be ignored.
Tony Robbins once said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
I wish I could say I’ve learned to choose change prior to the pain becoming so excruciating, but that would be a lie. Sometimes I feel like pain is a necessary component in my journey to a better life…
Let’s just call this particular behavior “Character Defect #121!”
Bah dum chhhhh!
So…as usual, I allowed myself to get to the point where I finally threw my hands in the air and screamed, “Ughhhh!!! I cannot live like this anymore! I need to suck it up, act like an adult and get my shit together!”
Now, let me tell you what happened when I faced my fear…
The problem was “debt” and the solution was consolidation and a…wait for it…BUDGET!!!
I understand that paying bills is an adult responsibility shared by billions, however, my debt was overwhelming. We are talking about a previous life filled with rehabs and treatment and hotel rooms and vodka bottles and unemployment and motel rooms and medical bills and legal fees and more vodka bottles and…well, I think you get it!
I also understand that my debt is my responsibility, and that I need to hold myself accountable for it. It’s just difficult for me to accept that the bill collectors don’t know what I have been through personally – so I was allowing myself to be shamed by strangers who knew nothing about me, when I was already doing a pretty good job of shaming myself.
I paid what I could for a long time, then I woke up one day everybody wanted their money back immediately. They were sick of waiting for me to grow up and you know what? So was I…
I have learned to forgive myself for the things I didn’t know before I learned them. I spent a decade of my life in a black hole of addiction. I never matured emotionally, let alone financially. I was a sick person, not a bad one. I got sober at 30, I’m now 34 and I am still cleaning up the wreckage…but I’m doing it! One day at a time.
Let me tell you something I learned throughout this process. I understand why people who are in debt sometimes fall into a deep depression. I can understand why some might even make the choice to end their lives. I’m not saying that it’s right or that I was at that point myself, but I understand the overwhelming sense of utter failure and despair that comes with the realization that you have $1 in savings, a family to take care of, a house to keep up, cars that keep breaking down, a child who will undoubtedly need braces in the near future, a goal of helping said child pay her college tuition, oh and maybe retire someday! It’s emotional and exhausting and in the moment it feels like there is absolutely no way out.
Here’s the thing, I thought there was no way out of my addiction either and what I learned from that experience was that all I needed to do was ask for help and I would be provided a number of different, very reasonable, solutions that I wasn’t capable of seeing on my own.
So, once again I humbled myself and asked for help. I asked for guidance on a subject that I always thought was so cut and dry. I asked for help, and just like that, a fresh start was born.
From the moment I got into the solution -instead of obsessing over the problem – I felt immediate relief! The tension in my shoulders dissipated, I stopped clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth, my breathing returned to normal, the pit in my stomach seemingly evaporated and I was finally able to sleep through the night again!
Listen, just because I cleaned up my life, does not mean I magically became perfect or that my life has become problem free. It doesn’t mean I have done away with all of my unhealthy behaviors either! I continue to work on myself daily. It is a daily battle at times. I continue to make mistakes – lots of them! The difference today is that I always learn from them and I NEVER drink or use over them.
I’m sure there will be plenty more obstacles in the future that will fill me with fear, but every time I make it through another challenge I feel myself getting stronger, more confident and more assertive. I might even be a little proud of myself too!
Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today.
In this moment, I am no longer afraid.