Fear is a universal human emotion. When we feel threatened, we get into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. Fear is incredibly high in the lives of active alcoholics and addicts. Fear of failure, fear of others’ opinions, fear of harm and many other fears. Add this to other negative feelings such as shame, guilt and anger, and you have a pretty potent and unhealthy mix. This “evil and corroding thread” is all-pervasive, and they try to numb the uncomfortable feeling with substances, in vain. It returns to haunt them with evermore intensity, and their addiction gets grimmer.
Fear during the pandemic
The prevailing Covid 19 pandemic has only added fuel to fear. Fear of getting infected, of unemployment, of losing touch with loved ones, of not being able to source the substances, of the future multiplies the fear factor and lead to significant progression of addiction or relapse in those already in recovery.
We are reminded of an Indian sage’s response when someone asked him a question, “How do I avoid pandemic?” Forty years ago, when AIDS was spreading around the world. He replied,
′′You’re asking the wrong question Osho replied, ′′ the right question should be: ′” How to avoid the fear of dying caused by the epidemic (pandemic)?” Because it is very easy to avoid the virus, it is tough to avoid the fear in you and the world. People will die more from this fear than from the epidemic (pandemic). There is NO virus in this world more dangerous than FEAR. Understand this fear; otherwise, you will become a dead body before your body dies. It has nothing to do with the virus. The scary atmosphere you feel in these moments is collective madness. It has happened a thousand times and will continue to happen.
You usually keep your fear at bay, but in the moment of collective madness, you can completely lose your consciousness. You won’t even know when you lost control of your fear. Then fear can make you do anything. In such a situation, you can also take your own life or the lives of others. So much will happen in the coming times: Many people will kill themselves, and many people will kill more.
Be mindful. Don’t watch news that triggers fear. Stop talking about the epidemic, repeating the same thing over and over again. Fear is a kind of self-hypnosis. This idea will cause chemical changes in the body. If you repeat the same idea repeatedly, a chemical change is triggered that can sometimes be so toxic that it can kill you. During an epidemic, the energy around the world becomes irrational. This way, you can fall into a black hole anytime.
Meditation then becomes a protective aura into which no negative energy can penetrate. Have a fearless journey of life…”
These words proved to be as relevant in current times as they were four decades ago.
Step 11 of the 12 Step recovery program recommends meditation to maintain sobriety.
Fear is the key
Ironically, it is fear that can be the key to addiction recovery. Fear of losing a job, partner or even life can motivate an alcoholic toward recovery. When self-reliance fails, it prompts fear. If there were no fear, the alcoholic would continue with his or her addictive behaviour without fear of consequences. In the absence of fear, there would be no need for faith. Fear, when replaced with faith, can lead to a rewarding and spiritual place.
One of the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous is: “Fear of economic insecurity will leave us.” (AA, p. 84). It doesn’t promise us money, it promises us serenity. It assures us that the fear will be reduced or eliminated.
The goal of recovery is Serenity. And freedom. We are no longer slaves of alcohol. We have choices whether to go back to a dark place or continue to progress on our path of sobriety.
“Fear knocked at the door; faith answered; no one was there”. A famous quote indicates that fear is an illusion. We create that illusion. The definition of “courage” is “the willingness to do the right thing in spite of fear.” Courage is not necessarily the absence of fear.
In recovery, alcoholics and addicts experience a joyous life without the darkness of fear. If you face a locked door, fear may be the key.