The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that “[t]he greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, anger, and fear.” (pg. 145) It’s a tough point to argue as many of us turned to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with fear. However, I would extend the scope of that comment by saying that one of the greatest enemies of all people, alcoholic or not, is fear. And I’m not referring to the big, oppressive kind, either. Rather, I mean the small, everyday kind that ruins a life slowly by increments. Think of the pay raise you left on the table because you were too afraid to ask. Or the relationship that never began. Or the one that went on far too long. It’s fear that’s keeping us from the lives we want to live. Fortunately, in recovery, we learn the skills to cope with fear and we would like to share some of those with you today.
A Residual Reaction
It’s is helpful to remember that fear is an instinctual part of being human. Had it not been for healthy feelings of fear, our species wouldn’t have lasted very long. However, it is a base emotion, devoid of nuance. Remember that you have the power of rationality to assess the actual danger and respond appropriately.
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If you seem to be prone to fear and anxiety, you might want to take a look at what you’re consuming. In recovery, folks often turn to substitute chemicals in an effort to fill the absence of their drug of choice. The most common substitutes are caffeine, nicotine, and sugar. All three increase the heart rate and can easily exacerbate anxiety.
Get a Second Opinion
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues and a leading reason why people seek professional help. Often, intense fear around particular things or situations points to unresolved issues from the past. A therapist can help you get to the bottom of these issues and plan strategies to help you work through them.
Rechannel Your Energy
I would often see examples of this one during my high school sports days. A particular player, who I knew to be suffering with a case of the nerves all week, would show up on game day amped and focused. When I asked what happened to the fear and anxiety, they replied, “I just pretend that that queasiness is excitement for the game and it helps me get ready.” I had to admit, it wasn’t a bad idea.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
While rechanneling always sounded like an interesting approach, it’s mindfulness that has become my go-to tool to combat fear. This shouldn’t be surprising. Take, for example, some of the strategies for combatting a panic attack. Many approaches involve some kind of exercise that includes slowing and concentrating on the breath. Another popular tactic is to take note of five things you can see around you, followed by four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. These strategies are designed to get you out of your head and into the present moment. This is the textbook definition of mindfulness and I can’t recommend it enough.
Ocean Recovery has been successfully treating substance abuse and eating disorders since 2002. If you or someone you know is struggling with their substance use, please don’t hesitate to give us a call today. We offer individual and group counseling sessions, CBT, DBT, nutritional education, and much more as components of our holistic approach. Call now and start building your foundation for success.