“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, from 1933 to 1945, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, she was an author, speaker, activist for civil rights, worked to enhance the status of working women (1884-1962)
Wouldn’t we all like to have the easy way out? To be able to know, in our gut, exactly what to do when we face a challenge that comes seemingly out of the blue? It’s actually human nature to look for the quick solution, especially when we’re pressed to make a decision that we feel wholly inadequate and unprepared for.
The problem is that it doesn’t usually happen this way. We aren’t suddenly blessed with the ability to just know instinctively what to do. This can cause us no small amount of concern at times, especially during early recovery when we’re often at a loss to know how to proceed. There are, of course, some words of advice that the long-timers in recovery have found to be time-proven methods for dealing with the unknown.
First, we should take comfort in the knowledge that we always have the support and encouragement of our 12-step sponsor and fellow group members. These are the people who understand exactly what it means to feel intimidated by, confused and afraid of the myriad decisions that we must make as we continue our recovery journey. They know it isn’t easy, and they also know that the words of encouragement that they offer to us will likely be desperately needed.
Yes, we do need encouragement. We do need to know that there are others standing by us, ready with a word of kindness, an offer of support. It also helps to know that we can, indeed, stop to look fear in the face. We can work up the courage to proceed with the work we know we must do, even though we may be afraid that we’re not up to it or lack sufficient knowledge or prowess at doing whatever it is.
We will become wiser with experience. We will undoubtedly face certain situations where we may falter a bit, questioning our own judgment. But we will also learn from our experiences. We all do, whether or not we give ourselves credit.
We should ask ourselves what it is that we’re most afraid of. Then, work on a strategy with our sponsor, and perhaps our spouse or loved ones, for how we can best overcome such fear. Are we afraid of being abandoned by our friends, or of not knowing how to make new friends now that we’re sober? Is it loss of family or job or undergoing bankruptcy that causes us to toss and turn at night? Are we scared that we’re not going to be able to withstand the temptation to drink or use drugs, that we haven’t the gumption or guts to tell our former acquaintances who are still using that we have a new life now and our former life is behind us?
Whatever it is that we fear most is what we have to face. It does us no good at all to dismiss such fears out of hand, or to try to bury them deep inside thinking that they’ll just go away by themselves. They never do. Instead, if we fail to deal with them appropriately, they may just rear up twice as vehemently and cause us to stumble and relapse.
Having a plan in place for what to do in various circumstances is an excellent and time-proven strategy for dealing with these things. Every time that we successfully overcome a trigger situation, when we’re able to withstand cravings and urges, when we manage to navigate a stress-filled day without reaching for the addictive substance that we formerly used to numb our pain, we’re gaining strength, confidence and courage. We are walking the talk, not just talking the talk.
And we will get stronger with each passing day. Count on it.