Monday, January 13, 2014

The Other Side of Fear

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all the support, love and encouragement I have received since my last post about my relapse.

I'm pleased to report that the saying "feelings aren't facts" is totally true.  My fear of being judged or alienated proved to be ill founded.  If there are people judging me out there they are remaining blissfully silent. 

I am overwhelmed (in the good way) by all the comments, messages and emails. 

When we are suffering, it is easy to feel like we're the only people on the planet. It seems like the bad feelings are never going to get better.  No matter how many times I have said to other struggling people "hang in there, it gets better", it is still very difficult to believe that when it's me who is in pain.

When I wrote about my alcoholism before - from the start of this blog - it was from the relatively safe perch of time and distance.  It wasn't as hard to write about the stigma, shame, regret and guilt of alcoholism with over a year sober tucked under my belt.  For someone who writes extensively about the power of truth and vulnerability, when it came time to share my own without the buffer of time I felt more frightened than I have in a long time. 

I had to wait to hit "publish" on my last post until I felt in my gut I was putting my words out there for my own healing, not because I wanted to dispel rumors or try to project some image of okay-ness that wasn't true.  I had to be sure I wasn't writing for anyone but myself and was able to let go of the outcome.  

I forgot about the power of truth and vulnerability.  Not everyone understands addiction or recovery, but everyone understands suffering and courage.

Because it takes courage to be vulnerable.  When someone speaks or writes their truth - unvarnished and straight from the heart - I feel awe and admiration, and no small measure of respect.  When it's my turn, however, the urge to varnish. minimize or maximize the truth is overwhelming.  

And why do I want to polish up the truth?  Why do I feel this urge to minimize my accomplishments?  

Fear.

Fear of being judged, of course, but also fear of the "who do you think you are's".  

I have learned that fear is at the root of so many deflecting emotions like anger or resentment. Fear is also at the root of pride, envy, perfectionism and shame.  At the heart of it all, for me, is self-centered fear of rejection and abandonment.  

Social media can amplify and exaggerate this fear.  People don't post about their vulnerabilities often.  We aren't practiced in expressing our fears.  When perusing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. we can find ourselves comparing our insides to everyone else's highlight reels.  

What I felt from the responses I received from my last post was relief and identification.  Even people who aren't alcoholics, who aren't in recovery, wrote to me about their own struggles, fears and experiences with falling down and getting back up.

Many, many people expressed that they wish they could be more open about their fears, doubts and insecurities but that they couldn't because of fear of peoples' reactions, of not fitting in and being perceived as weak or inferior.  

There is a chasm between how we feel on the inside and what the world sees, and at the bottom of this chasm is a river of suffering.

Every time we open up and share our truth, our vulnerability, we are building a bridge across this chasm.  In recovery we do this all the time; we open our mouths to save our lives so the chasm doesn't swallow us whole.

I will never be rid of fear, but I am learning to embrace it as a great teacher.  The antidotes to fear are self-love, faith and truth.  When I can face my mistakes, regrets and truths with compassion and love, I can find the strength to build that bridge. The only way fear wins is if I stop trying; if I avoid what is really going on inside and keep polishing up the outside instead.  The shiniest castle built on sand will eventually fall.

My relapse happened, in large part, because I didn't want to face some hard truths about what was going on underneath it all; how my foundation was crumbling as I madly kept on building. 

I can't get well on my own; when I try to fix myself I inevitably make things worse.  Thank you - everyone - for your words of hope and encouragement, but mostly importantly for sharing the vulnerable, beautiful parts of yourselves. When we raise our voices together, fear doesn't stand a chance. 

If you're struggling and have been afraid to reach out for help because of fear, take a deep breath, and speak your truth to a trusted friend or loved one. Or even start by speaking your truth out loud in front of a mirror. Tell yourself what you're afraid of.  Truth shines a light on the things that make us suffer and sends fear scuttling into the shadows.

Let go.  It's worth it.  You're worth it.

And so am I.



10 comments:

  1. You are amazing, lady. You are amazing when you are having a great day, and you are amazing when you are having a terrible day. You are amazing when you are on top of the world... and when you fall down, and make mistakes, and screw up, you don't actually stop being you. Therefore, even in those moments, you are still amazing. QED.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've been "stopping by" every few weeks confident that sooner or later, there would be a new post. I am so happy (and relieved) to see you back. Yes, yes, you are worth it. There is a verse in the Bible that states "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear." In reading all the comments from your post last week, there is a lot of love here. For you. I hope that has driven out a considerable amount of fear! Your example of honesty and transparency once again has inspired me. Today is a good day!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah Ellie, the love you give is equal to the love you live. And you live in the Light of Love and Support-and your blog and other endeavors provide light for others who struggle with their own demons whatever they may be. You are a beacon in the darkness and one of the lights on solid shores of sobriety. We learn from one another and teach in our own turn. Bless you and all that you do. One day at a time, Sweetie, one day at a time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The previous post, and this current post, are powerful words to me. I hide from myself, and your truths remind me that there is a "real" world behind everyone else's "Fakebook" posts. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
    Lee Ann

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am reminded of the MLK, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." Alcohol cannot drive out fear only truth can do that.

    Bravo Ellie

    ReplyDelete
  6. That recessed place which shows fear on your face
    Has been commandeered by a liquid embrace
    The deeper it grows, the darker the shadow it throws
    Yet one quick glance in the mirror and it goes
    You try and catch it alone and afraid
    And fall in pain repeating a helpless crusade
    Screaming in silence you beg for compassion
    Like Gretel leaving crumbs of the soul's last ration
    I hear you and see you, I'm holding you tight
    I'm in this for ever until dusk's last light
    So fight for your life, breakaway and flee
    Your butterfly wings will set you free.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "When we raise our voices together, fear doesn't stand a chance."

    Appropriate for all aspects of life.... Thank YOU!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I suppose fear will always be there. Its a matter of learning how to handle and manage it, and how to have the upper hand over fear. I'm working on it. Give me another 30 more years.

    ReplyDelete