Members of 12 Step recovery programs describe their experiences with "fear" before and during their recovery.
Fear somehow touched about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with fear. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. But did not we often set the ball rolling ourselves?
ABSI 61.1: ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, PP. 67-68
Antidote for Fear
When our failings generate fear, we then have soul-sickness. This sickness, in turn, generates still more character defects.
Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angry when our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not.
We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything than we need, fearing we shall never have enough. And, with genuine alarm at the prospect at work, we stay lazy. We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam.
These fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build.
ABSI 196.1: TWELVE AND TWELVE, P. 49
As faith grows, so does inner security. The vast underlying fear of nothingness commences to subside. We of A.A. find that our basic antidote for fear is a spiritual awakening.
ABSI 196.2: GRAPEVINE, JANUARY 1962
The problem of resolving fear has two aspects. We shall have to try for all the freedom from fear that is possible for us to attain. Then we shall need to find both the courage and the grace to deal constructively with whatever fears remain.
Fear as a Steppingstone
The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear -- primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded.
Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands.
ASBI 22.1: TWELVE AND TWELVE, P. 76
For all its usual destructiveness, we have found that fear can be the starting point for better things. Fear can be a steppingstone to prudence and to a decent respect for others. It can point the path to justice, as well as to hate. And the more we have of respect and justice, the more we shall begin to find love which can suffer much, and yet be freely given.
So fear need not always be destructive, because the lessons of its consequences can lead us to positive values.
Fear of Financial Insecurity
Upon entering A.A., the spectacle of years of waste threw us into panic. Financial importance was no longer our principal aim; we now clamored for material secutity.
Even when we re-established in our business, terrible fears often continued to haunt us. This made us misers and penny-pinchers all over again. Complete financial security we must have -- or else.
We forgot that most alcoholics in A.A. have an earning power considerably above average; we forgot the immense good will of our brother A.A.'s who were only too eager to help us to better jobs when we deserved them; we forgot the actual or potential financial insecurity of every human being in the world. And, worst of all, we forgot God. In money matters we had faith only in ourselves, and not too much of that.
ABSI 112: TWELVE AND TWELVE, PP. 120-121
Losing Financial Fears
When a job still looked like a mere means of getting money rather than an opportunity for service, when the acquisition of money for financial independence looked more important than a right dependence upon God, we were the victims of unreasonable fears. And these were fears which would make a serene and useful existence, at any financial level, quite impossible. But as time passed we found that with the help of A.A.'s Twelve Steps we could lose those fears, no matter what our material prospects were. We could cheerfully perform humble labor without worrying about tomorrow. If our circumstances happened to be good, we no longer dreaded a change for the worse, for we had learned that these troubles could be turned into great values, for ourselves and for others.
ABSI 75: TWELVE AND TWELVE, PP. 121-122
Pride and Fear turn out to be Bogymen
When A.A. suggests a fearless moral inventory, it must seem to every newcomer that more is being asked of him than he he can do.
Every time he tries to look within himself, Pride says, "You need not pass this way," and Fear says, "You dare not look!"
But pride and fear of this sort turn out to be bogymen, nothing else. Once we have a complete willingness to take inventory, and exert ourselves to do the job thoroughly, a wonderful light falls upon this foggy scene.
As we persist, a brand new kind of confidence is born, and the sense of relief at finally facing ourselves is indescribable.
ABSI 261: TWELVE AND TWELVE, PP. 49-50
True Ambition, Pride and Fear
We have had a much keener look at ourselves and those about us. We have seen that we were prodded by unreasonable fears or anxieties into making a life business of winning fame, money, and what we thought
So false pride became the reverse side of that ruinous coin marked "Fear." We simply had to be Number One people to cover up our deep-lying inferiorities.
ABSI 46.1: TWELVE AND TWELVE P. 123
True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the profound desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.
ABSI 46.1: TWELVE AND TWELVE PP. 124-125
Fear as an Opportunity
When fear persisted, we knew it for what it was, and we became able to handle it. We began to see each adversity as a God-given opportunity to develop the kind of courage which is born of humility, rather than of bravado.
ABSI 91.1: GRAPEVINE, JANUARY 1962
Fear no Evil
Though we of A.A. find ourselves living in a world characterized by destructive fears as never before in history, we see great areas of faith, and tremendous aspirations toward justice and brotherhood. Yet no prophet can presume to say whether the world outcome will be blazing destruction or the beginning, under God's intention, of the brightest era yet known to mankind. I am sure we A.A.'s will comprehend this scene. In microcosm, we have experienced this identical state of terrifying uncertainty, each in his own life. In no sense pridefully, we can say that we do not fear the world outcome, whichever course it may take. This is because we have been enabled to deeply feel and say, "We shall fear no evil -- Thy will, not ours, be done."
ABSI 166: GRAPEVINE, JANUARY 1962
I was Afraid
... But then I thought, well, now wait, how will I feel next Tuesday? How will I feel next Friday, if I make it Friday? How will I feel next Saturday morning? I never knew. I was afraid to set even one day aside. I could never be sure I'd have a clear head and hands that were willing to do some work. So I never did any volunteer work. And I felt depleted, whipped. I had the time, I certainly had the capability, but I never did a thing.
I am trying now, each day, to make up for all those selfish, foolish things I did in my drinking days. I hope that I never forget to be grateful... Fear of Fear
Group's Fear of Relapses
An early fear was that of slips or relapses. At first nearly every alcoholic we approached began to slip, if indeed he sobered up at all. Others would stay dry six months or maybe a year and then take a skid. This was always a genuine catastrophe. We would all look at each other and say, "Who next?" Today, though slips are a very serious difficulty, as a group we take them in stride. Fear has evaporated. Alcohol always threatens the individual, but we know that it cannot destroy the common welfare.
ABSI 154.1: A.A. COMES OF AGE, P. 97
"It does not seem to pay to argue with `slippers' about the proper method of getting dry. After all, why should people who are drinking tell people who are dry how it should be done? "Just kid the boys along -- ask them if they are having fun. If they
are too noisy or troublesome, amiably keep out of their way."
ABSI 154.2: LETTER, 1942
Fear of the Alcoholic Stigma
How Much Anonymity?
As a rule, the average newcomer wanted his family to know immediately what he was trying to do. He also wanted to tell others who had tried to help him -- his doctor, his minister, and close friends. As he gained confidence, he felt it right to explain his new way of life to his employer and business associates. When opportunities to be helpful came along, he found he could talk easily about A.A. to almost anyone.
These quiet disclosures helped him to lose his fear of the alcoholic stigma, and spread the news of A.A.'s existence in his community. Many a new man and woman came to A.A. because of such conversation.
Since it is only at the top public level that anonymity is expected, such communications were well within its spirit.
TWELVE AND TWELVE, PP. 185-186
Speak Up Without Fear
Few of us are anonymous so far as our daily contacts go. We have dropped anonymity at this level because we think our friends and associates ought to know about A.A. and what it has done for us. We also wish to lose the fear of admitting that we are alcoholics. Though we earnestly request reporters not to disclose our identities, we frequently speak before semi-public gatherings. We wish to convince audiences that our alcoholism is a sickness we no longer fear to discuss before anyone.
If, however, we venture beyond this limit, we shall surely lose the principle of anonymity forever. If every A.A. felt free to publish his own name, picture, and story, we would soon be launched upon a vast orgy of personal publicity.
ABSI 278: Grapevine, January 1946
Overcome Fear with prayer
Use Daniel's prayer of denial (of fear) to overcome fear.
Most of the extracts above originate from Alcoholics Anonymous, the original 12 Step recovery program. Extracts from A.A. literature are reproduced here with the permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.