I have never really cared for this acronym. I have been to a number of meetings lately where fear has been one of the topics. Invariably, it comes up. I can usually see it coming, and I hate hearing it. I am not going to lie, the first thing I do is sit in judgement of the person saying it. “Must be the newbie straight out of the treatment centre” is my first thought, quickly followed by, “heard somewhere along the line you shouldn’t swear at an AA meeting but thinks he/she found a loophole”. Of course, my judgement of others is a sure sign that my spiritual condition is lacking and I realize that. But I also think there is a lot more going on.
First off, why does it bother me so much to hear it? I think there are many reasons for this. For example, I was most likely the guy that said it at one point. But more importantly, I think it describes who I was, and to a large degree, who I can still be, at times. Finally, I think it bothers me because it is an accurate description of how I instinctually want to deal with the problems I face on a daily basis with fear. I think the acronym accurately describes the problem and how I dealt with it as a drunk. It was much easier to hide from my problems and run, either physically or mentally, than to deal with them. That leads to then burying them with alcohol and stuffing them deep down inside, only for them to surface with a vengeance upon sobering up. It can also be how I want to deal with fear in sobriety, but I know that is not the solution either.
Fear is living in the future. It is all about being concerned that the outcome of some future event is not going to turn out how I want or expect. It is about me playing God and thinking I know what the outcome should be; rather than just doing the right thing and leaving the results in God’s hands. It is me playing the director and trying to be in control of the future. Somehow, I think that I know what is best for me, you, and everyone else, and I am afraid that the situation isn’t going to play out how I think it should. When I have fear, I am playing God. It’s as simple as that.
There are two types of fears, rational and irrational. My rational fears are an important part of survival. However, irrational fears can impede my enjoyment of everyday life. In fact, left unchecked, they can literally paralyze me. They are the fears I have to learn to deal with. As an example, if I am standing next to a cliff, I need a healthy amount of rational fear to help me pay attention and not fall off that cliff. But if I am in my house in southern Alberta and I am afraid to leave because I may be eaten by a shark, that is an irrational fear. You see, at my house, I am more than 1000 km from the ocean. Now I realize that that really doesn’t make much sense, but neither do irrational fears. I am full of irrational fears that control and affect my life daily. Of course, most of them are much more subtle than the above example
Mankind is born with three basic instincts for survival. These instincts are social, security and sex. We are social creatures, we need to be with other people, to a certain degree, to survive. We also need security, both personal and financial. we need to feel safe as well as have enough financial security to survive. Finally, sex is required to keep the human race going. The problem with many people, and especially alcoholics, is that we desire much more than our share of these things than are required for survival. When we don’t get them, we tend to react poorly. My reactions usually manifest themselves as one or more of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. What I have come to realize, is that these sins all have a common denominator for me. Fear, pure and simple.
Pride: I am full of fear that I won’t measure up. What if you discover I am not the person I want you to think I am? What if I can’t measure up to the person I want to be?
Greed: What if I don’t get what I know I deserve? What if I do get it? I am still afraid I won’t get more.
Lust: For me, this is all about being loved. It is my insecurities running wild!
Anger: Anger is no more than my pent up fears trying be escape. Anger is Fear with a capital “F”! I can hold my emotions in check, but at some point, I will burst from the seems.
Gluttony: I think this is a more subtle form of fear, but it is the fear of not having enough. It can cause me to over-eat, which is not healthy, of course. But it also tries to convince me to hang on to things I will never need. It is why I am never satisfied with what I have and fills me with this overwhelming desire to gather and save more. In extreme examples, it leads to hoarding.
Envy: The fear of not getting what others have. I am jealous of the things somebody else has, I think that I need to have those things for others to like me.
Sloth: Sloth isn’t just as simple as being lazy. Sometimes that is it, but mostly it is putting off things that I am afraid to do. Maybe I am not sure exactly how to do it, so I am afraid I will look foolish in front of others. I will put things off until the last possible moment, and then rush to complete the task on time.
Prior to getting sober and learning a little bit about the principles of AA, my reaction to fear was to run. Not necessarily literally run from the problem, but sometimes figuratively. I might avoid certain people, places and things, or I might even change jobs. Because you see, when life got hard, I looked for an easier, softer way. The one thing that was constant, however, was that when I had fear in my life, alcohol made it go away. It was my solution. I could either face my problems or bury them deep inside, at least temporarily. But sooner or later, they would re-surface and I would have to bury them again!
So what is the solution? In Step 4, we face our fears head on. We learn that the reason we have fear is that we are running on self-reliance. We think it is our job to solve all the worlds problems. But if I turn those problems over to God, the fear goes away. If I can remember that I am responsible to take the action, but that I am not responsible for the outcome, my fear goes away. I am then reliant on God and whatever will be will be. In fact, there is a simple prayer for fear on page 68 of the Big Book. I ask God to remove my fear and direct my attention to what He would have me be. It is such a simple little prayer but it is amazing what it does to remove my fear.
So if I have to hear the problem in the first acronym above, I would also like to leave you with another acronym, which for me, describes the solution. I just wish it was shared as often as the problem. I already have problems, I need solutions. So next time you have fear in your life try to remember to:
It can really be that simple.