Since I have been in recovery (and before my drinking took its dark turn), my dream has been to travel the world year-round. Or at least to take a long sabbatical from my job to travel for a few months to dip my toe into this type of lifestyle. At times, the dream feels more like an urgency, like I wasted so many years of my life being drunk and chasing booze, boys, security, things that I thought would fix me or make me happy (surprise – none of them did). So, I feel like I need to seize this opportunity while I am still relatively young, single, and in good health. My passionate self argues with my practical self that life is short, it’s just money, there will always be more money to be made and more jobs to be had, I need to make up for lost time, and I should do what truly makes me happy. I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN ALL THE TIME! But my practical self hits back with the realities of not being independently wealthy, being on my own financially, having a job and financial responsibilities, needing to maintain a 401k and health insurance, and all the other boring stuff that comes along with being a responsible(ish) adult member of society. BLAH, SO NOT FUN!
I could list off a whole slew of reasons why I have not quit my job to follow my passion to travel the world full-time. But really, the reason is quite simple. It all boils down to FEAR. Fear of financial insecurity (my biggest fear in life). Fear of being unemployed. Fear of being unemployable if I left my career. Fear of going broke. Fear of getting stuck somewhere. Fear of being old and sick and having no retirement fund. Fear of being away from my sober community. Fear of being away from my friends. Fear of what others will think. Fear of making a huge mistake. But I also battle with the fears of not following my passion. Fear of regret. Fear of dying and not getting to go all the places I want to go. Fear of feeling stuck in life. Fear of what others will think. Fear of being boring AF. Fear of leading an ordinary life. Fear of missing out. Fear of not being happy. Fear of never feeling truly fulfilled. Rolling this conundrum around in my brain for months and months has inspired me to write a thing about fear…
It was a real slap in the face in sobriety when I realized a huge truth about myself – that my 33 years of existence had been permeated with and often ruled by fear. If I was a rapper, my anthem would have been F.R.E.A.M. (and yes, I would have been the world’s worst rapper, but you get my point). I love to play the tough guy. Even to this day, I would have you believe that I’m not scared of anything and couldn’t care less what other people think of me. When people show concern for me of any type, my favorite responses run along the lines of: “I’m good,” “I’m fine,” “Oh well,” “Fuck ‘em,” or “His/Her/Their loss!” or some variation of these canned cop outs. I try to pretend that the tragedies of my past do not affect me today – and to be clear, they do not rule me like they used to when I was in active addiction, but my past is still a part of me and does bubble up to the surface from time to time. To this day, even with over five years in active recovery, my kneejerk reaction is to recoil from feeling my feelings, and I feel SUPER uncomfortable making myself vulnerable in front of anyone. But I doubt I’m fooling anyone. The truth is, to some extent, I am still riddled with fear in some areas of my life. And my modus operandi is to overcompensate with bravado and deflective humor. High five if you can relate to any of this!
Before I got sober and started my recovery and pursuit of emotional sobriety, I lived my life according to the following tenets. And I apologize in advance to anyone who doesn’t like the f-bomb. But all the fear acronyms I know contain one, so:
F.E.A.R. – Fuck everything and run: run awayyyyyyyyyyyyyy, as far and as quickly as possible. The problem won’t keep up with me!
F.E.A.R. – Fuck everything and rage: get angry at the problem or the people, beat it (or them) into submission!
F.E.A.R. – Fuck everything and rest: procrastinate, let the problem paralyze me into inaction. If I wait long enough, maybe the problem will eventually just go away…
Or if you live in Boston, like me: F.E.A.H. - Fuck everything and hide: bury my head in the sand. If I can’t see it, it can’t see me, right?
Looking back, it’s so clear to me that I was scared of everything back then, but at the time, I just couldn’t see it. And it’s not my fault. It is a very human thing to be scared of things sometimes. But when it ran my life and my decisions, it became problematic and even debilitating for me. At best, I was defensive, overly egotistic, took no risks, and stayed in my comfort zone in all areas of my life. At worst, I lashed out, mostly at those closest to me, and sometimes at unlucky innocent bystanders. I refused to face things, which never made them go away, and often made them even worse (hello, not paying bills and getting my electricity and cable shut off every other month – even when I had money in the bank to pay them). I lied, cheated, stole. And I didn’t know how to cope with anything, so I drank myself nearly to death, all so I didn’t have to face my fears and deal with my life.
Today, of course I still experience fear, and I believe I always will to some extent. But the big difference for me, and I only learned this in recovery, is that I don’t have to let fear win out. It is my choice today whether I let fear control my actions, because I am not a victim. Not by a long shot. In my second year of sobriety, I was having dinner with a friend in recovery, and I was going on and on about how I was scared to break it off with my long-term boyfriend and proceeded to list off all the reasons why I was scared to pull the trigger. Finally, he just looked at me and said, “What if you just do it scared?” MIND. BLOWN. I love this because it gave me permission to still be fearful, but it did NOT give me permission to hide / run / rest / rage. I could still take action WHILE being scared, which was a totally new concept for me. And it seemed doable. And I did break up with that boyfriend, and I did it scared, and guess what – I didn’t die. I walked through the fear and became stronger because of that experience. And I can pass this example on to women who I try to help with their sobriety. Today, when fear pops up in my life, I try to remember a time when I faced my fear and dealt with it head-on and how I felt afterwards. And I try to really visualize what it would feel like to be FREE of the fear. And the truth is that I always feel better just dealing with it, even if the outcome does not align with my wishes. And that is a huge milestone for me. For me, it all boils down to having a deep-seated belief that I am going to be okay no matter what, as long as I don’t pick up a drink or a drug. No matter what. And I NEVER felt like I was going to be okay when I was in active addiction. And to me, THIS is absolute freedom.
So back to why I feel like I cannot pursue my dream to travel the world full-time…it’s the fear of financial insecurity that is really holding me back. I am not from a wealthy family by any means, and both of my parents passed away years ago. I have no financial safety net. If I somehow get into a jam and need someone to bail me out financially, I’m screwed. I would have no one to go to for help. It’s all on me. And that scares the shit out of me. It really does. If I think about it long enough, I get a pit in my stomach and start playing out every bit of wreckage of the future I can possibly imagine. And I go there in my mind, despite the fact that I have a great career, a savings account with money in it, health insurance, and a 401k – all things, by the way, that I would absolutely not have right now if I didn’t get sober. So I guess you could call my fear a bit irrational, but it is a real fear, nonetheless. I’m at a point in my life where I can finally see a career path laid out before me, and I know there is potential for growth. So I don’t just want to walk away from that unless I’m sure. But will I ever really be sure about anything? I constantly go back and forth over whether the idea of quitting my job to go travel is just foolish and irresponsible, or if it is the single greatest idea I have ever had. And I don’t think I’m going to come to a resolution to this today, and that is okay. It is a huge decision. And a decision that I have the luxury of making only because of my recovery. Another great piece of advice that was passed down to me is that when I don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.
Thinking too hard won't help me figure it out. It will just make my brain all hurty.
So, the good news that I will leave you with is: today, because I am sober, I have options, and SO DO YOU. Through my recovery, I am not a slave to fear anymore. I am not shackled to a bottle or a barstool or my couch or my disease. I have the FREEDOM to do whatever it is I choose in the end. I have tools to help me to face my fears and walk through them, and it really does get easier with practice, as irritating as that may sound. And today I know that no matter what, I am going to be okay at the very least, and most likely, I will be way better off than just okay. Do it scared. I promise, it will get easier.