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I’ve always been fearless, or so I thought. And as long as I had a drink or a drug in my hand, that was true. Chemicals gave me the courage to do the impossible, such as talking to people, feeling my feelings, asking for what I needed, taking what I wanted, being friendly and sociable, speaking up in a group, or simply functioning in the big scary world. When my chemical support was removed, my courage disappeared. I felt helpless, unprotected, and unable to cope. It’s incredible how easy it is to be strong when you’ve got drugs in your system. At other times, the power of a group made me able to do the seemingly impossible. Sadly, I also did terrible things in groups that I would never have done alone. I dared to hurt people, I said mean things, and I misbehaved — all because the group was behind me.

Courage is a powerful state of being; when used for good, it is an empowering consciousness to behold. I used to think courage was an absence of fear: I held my chest out pompously and claimed to be afraid of nothing. Today I know courage is a willingness to admit I’m worried and then take the action to get through the fear, without the aid of chemicals and without purposefully hurting anyone along the way.

Fear can be beneficial. It can alert us to the dangers that lie ahead. Fear cautions us not to walk down a dark, lonely street alone or not to put our finger in a flame. It also keeps us paying our bills on time rather than running the risk of having no home, phone, or utilities. It supports most of us willing to protect our children and pets in the same way we’d defend ourselves.

Fear can also stand in the way of our happiness, success, ability to love another person, ability to communicate effectively, and ability to practice self-care. It keeps us stuck: we focus on why we can’t do something rather than identify ways to make it happen. Further, the consequences of fear are that our lives are not our own.

Why is fear so powerful? Because we deny its existence. We pre- tend we’re not afraid, even when we are. It’s the only emotion that convinces us that we don’t have the feeling. So the more we deny it, the more powerful it becomes.

Fear shows up in many ways. In Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book, we read that fear reveals itself in one hundred different self-centered forms. So how do we recognize it? Here’s a short list of phrases we use as substitutions for the word fear:

  • I’m nervous.
  • I’m embarrassed.
  • I can’t do it.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I didn’t want to do it anyway.
  • I’m apprehensive.
  • I’m feeling trepidation.
  • I was told I didn’t have to do it.
  • It’s not my responsibility.
  • I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.

Regardless of what we call it, fear, by any other name, is still fear. So how do we walk through fear?

  • Acknowledge the fear.
  • Break the task into small pieces. The easiest way to get through a fearful situation is to break it into smaller, more manageable, and less daunting pieces.
  • Feel the fear and do something anyway. Fear is a genuine human emotion that often surfaces when you’re trying something new and different.
  • Use your faith. If you don’t have faith, use mine or find a friend who will encourage you to take action. Many people say they believe in God, yet they live a life tortured by fear. Why not use God to help you walk through your fear? That’s how my faith has become more robust by turning to God during those challenging times.

This week, I invite you to walk through something you’re afraid to do.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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