Fear is something we all face, some are healthy and some are not. If I allow my fears to run my life this can be debilitating. I look at fear as a chance to be courageous and brave. Not allowing fear to prevent me from accomplishing things I know I’m capable of. Some fears I have are rejection, fear of success, and of being vulnerable. If I allow my fears to run my life I not only miss out on living, truly living, but also on growing to my fullest potential. Facing my fears may be scary and uncomfortable but If I overcome them I not only show myself but others as well that fear doesn’t have to run or ruin your life.
Fear has driven me to walk away from many chances and choices in life and has ultimately given me a much harder life because of it. When I was young, I was a great student who would get straight A’s. As soon as I got a taste of High School, drugs and girls, my grades started to drop. I failed every class, even my PE class. After 9th grade I left and decided to try and go for my GED because of problems going on in my personal life. Although I finally achieved the GED, the fact that it still wasn’t a high school diploma and the grades that I got during high school effected the way I looked at my future. Because of this fear of failure I decided to not go to college and I refused to do anything that had to do with education because I know how it felt to fail that one time as I convinced myself that that would always be my life. This was a huge mistake because it took me a decade to even begin to think of my future again. That fear that I was a failure was a farce and I didn’t realize it until I actually overcame that feeling and took the first step. Now that I have gotten over my fear I can finally move forward with my life which. This is what I am now doing and I am getting good grades in my adult life and finally continuing my education. Fear is the number one showstopper for any one and the only way to move forward completely is to let go.
Throughout life I was conditioned with a plethora of negative traits. I never gave myself the chance to break free from or change the self-defeating behaviors and thoughts that plagued my existence. I was passive, distrusting, promiscuous, selfish and self-loathing to name a few. I had become so used to being a victim of all these deceptive brain messages and seeking relief in immediate, temporary and unhealthy ways that I was stuck in an endless downward spiral which I knew would end in only two ways – death or wanting death. I knew I had to change my ways but I was afraid. I was afraid and uncomfortable at the idea of facing myself and who I have devolved into. I was no man, I was a ghost, a shell of a man. I had to learn how to surrender to something greater than myself – for my will wouldn’t suffice. I had to be willing to humble myself and receive guidance. But that idea seemed so foreign and the thought of change and uncertainty burdened me. I’ve made progress in leaps and bounds however I still find myself afraid of change at times. It can be difficult. It can be uncomfortable to be someone I hadn’t been. Facing myself and others gave, and still gives me fear, anxiety and nervousness but I try to push through it because I know I must have integrity. No longer are the days of being selfish and putting myself and the drugs first. No longer can I use women as a means to a selfish end. No longer can I remain passive when I hear or see things that piss me off. But I couldn’t do any of this without knowing I’m not alone – that I have a purpose and fate I must meet. Of course this hasn’t come overnight or over the course of a year – it’s a lifetime of awareness and mindfulness and today I accept that. Today I accept that fear, change, highs, lows and uncertainty will forever be there, but today I’m not alone.
When there's a poisonous snake in our path, we freeze. When we smell smoke, we run. When faced with danger, fear takes over and we react, desperate to feel safe. It's biological. Primal. But for those of us who suffer from trauma, it's the everyday things – a song in a coffee shop, the smell of rubbing alcohol – seemingly random, common things, convincing our brain and body we’re in danger and there is no way out. But when the worst of our fears are realized, when everything we've counted on has disappeared, something still drives us to try to fix the past or to find our future – when the only thing that really needs our attention is the present and its infinite possibilities. It may be a slow process, but at South Orange County Detox & Treatment I’m slowly undoing all the binds that had me twisted in my trauma, fear, and anxiety. Instead of allowing fear to paralyze me, I’m able to focus on the possibility that I can maybe have a beautiful future. We define ourselves by our actions. But that doesn't mean we have to live by that definition. Coming to that realization means everything to me since I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I can change my own story. I can refuse to accept the way people define me. I can work like hell to escape a bad reputation only to wonder if I succeeded. It can be hard to shake the mistakes of the past, they'll always come back to haunt us. But one thing we never do – we don't stop. We don't quit. We get up and rejoin the fight. I now know what life is about, what is important. I know the reasons why we say do not judge people. I have seen the true power of love. I have seen magic. I have seen what it feels like to be at the end, with nowhere to go, and people thinking you are some monster. It taught me who the real people are that love me, I saw everyone’s true character.
Every addict I know has a shadow. A dark cloud of fear and doubt that follows even the best of us. We pretend the shadow isn't there, hoping that if we make more amends, master the steps, run faster and farther, it’ll get tired and give up the chase. But, like they say – you can’t outrun your shadow. I didn’t even realize I was living in a state of constant fear & chaos until I came into treatment. With Salina’s help, I’ve taken the first step in breaking the cycle. When we’ve come to depend on a cycle, the thought of breaking it is scary. Even the cycles that cause us harm. But sometimes when we break the cycle, we find something better. Something unexpected. Something we never dared to dream was possible. We find freedom. We find peace. Every addict has a shadow, and the only way to get rid of a shadow is to turn off the lights, to stop running from the darkness, and face what you fear – head on. Sometimes it’s good to be scared -- it means you still have something to lose. Sometimes the future changes quickly and completely, and we’re left with only the choice of what to do next. We can choose to be afraid of it, to stand there trembling not moving, assuming the worst will happen. Or, we step forward into the unknown and assume it will be brilliant.
I used to correlate constructive criticism with judgement. Sometimes, I still do. It is difficult for me to hear the flaws that people point out in me, even if it is for me to grow and not to be harmful. I find it humorous that I am able to criticize others but take offense when it is given to myself. People see a lot of good in me but I also have a lot of things I need to work on. I find it beneficial to be around those giving me constructive criticism. Without it, many of my defects would continue and I would not be aware. My selfishness justifies my attitudes and actions as being correct. I often find myself pushing people’s buttons without intentionally trying to do so. I need to understand that not everybody is the same and that others may react to my behaviors differently. Although my intentions may be genuine, my actions do not always follow which sometimes bothers others. I am trying to change my perspective to understand that anytime constructive criticism is given, I am able to take the opportunity to learn and grow.
Like any good athlete, businessman, or student, one must be able to receive and accept criticism as a tool for growth and progress. Having to truly look at my defects has been tough and uncomfortable, but its been a gift. Having the opportunity to be able to salvage the broken parts of myself is allowing me more peace of mind, confidence, and hope. I am fortunate enough to have the chance of becoming the best version of myself I can be. Being able to not just hear, but listen to the criticism from others has put things into perspective and corrected the prescription of my lenses from which I view the world. It has been helping me not take things so personally, which has always been a destructive force in my recovery. What a difference taking direction can make.
Criticism isn’t always easy to hear. It can be difficult to hear the truth about ourselves in which we do not want to look at. It is vital if we are to change and grow in any part of our lives. One area for myself in which I need to take a look at is how my actions affect others, especially my attitude. I need to be more self-aware of how I treat others. I need to start showing more respect and love towards the people who genuinely love and care for me. It is not always easy for me to trust people, but I have to be able to learn to trust somebody. Being self-critical is also an unhealthy defect that I have created over the years. There are many areas in my life that I need to work on but often find myself being too hard on myself. I need to learn to believe that I am worthy of grace. I am noticing the importance of self-awareness and have begun to construct the foundation needed to correct these character defects that I have been blind to and struggled with over the years. It is better to surround yourself with people who are honest and have your best interest at heart in order to grow and become the best possible version of yourself.
Being open minded to criticism has always been a difficult concept for me to accept. Stubborn in my ways, I often found myself not willing to learn from the advice given to me by others, especially when I felt I was right. I always felt that it was the father’s role to instill in their child the appropriate behaviors ways of doing things. Because the majority of my childhood lacked guidance, I developed a sense of untrustworthiness and vulnerability in regards to what others thought was best for me. I felt that having to accept criticism was a sign of weakness. Still to this day, when others seek to give me criticism, I revert back to my ten- year old self. I find myself continuously reliving my childhood wounds. My stubbornness in terms of criticism shadows my true feeling of fear. Through self- discovery over the years, I have learned that I truly crave and yearn for criticism and guidance more than anything. That being able to accept constructive criticism is a personal form of growth. I have trouble expressing my desire for it though because of emotional stage it puts me in. Emotionally, mentally, and physically lost and not feeling good enough. Because of this, anytime I am given criticism I tend to take things extremely personally. I tend to believe any remark or advice given is a degrading judgement or personal attack against me. Thus being said, I created unhealthy, codependent relationships that created a false sense of guidance without being directly criticized. I have always had leadership qualities but never asserted myself to lead. I have always felt comfortable and the need for somebody to show me the way. The irony is that I am often unwilling to listen to them. The hardest thing about living a life in recovery for myself is being able to understand and accept that my way of thinking is what led to such a destructive path of behavior. I still find it extremely difficult to put my faith in others. I still find it difficult to believe that somebody’s criticism can be given solely for me to better myself. Eventually, if you are fortunate enough to have been blessed with the gift of desperation, your own words will lose all meaning and you will be forced to listen to what somebody else has to say. As Winston Churchill once said, Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
A couple hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin shared with the world the secrets of success. “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” This is the man who discovered electricity – you’d think more of us would listen to what he has to say. I don’t know why we put things off, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of rejection. Sometimes the fear is of just making a decision, because what if you’re wrong? What if you’re making a mistake you can’t undo? I’ve been an oppositionally defiant, stubborn, procrastinator my entire life. I’ve always been resistant to criticism and feedback from others – which is unfortunate, because I’ve probably made more mistakes than most. No matter how constructive, criticism used to quickly put me on the defense. In the past when I was criticized, I’d often feel personally attacked. But by immediately reacting, I was doing myself a disservice and was unable to gain valuable insight into possible flaws and areas where I could improve. Thanks to Salina’s guidance, in sobriety I’m much more open to differing perspectives & criticism from others. Now I’m able to recognize that we all make terrible mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we’re terrible people. We screw up. We lose our way. Even the best of us have our off days. Still we move forward. And it turns out sometimes we have to do the wrong thing. Mistakes are painful, but they’re the only way to find out who we really are. Sometimes we just need to shift our thinking. Get a new perspective. But you can't always see that you need a new perspective because, well, you need a new perspective to see that. It's complicated. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that it only takes one person, one moment to change your life forever, to change your perspective, color your thinking. To force you to re-evaluate everything you think you know. To make you ask yourself the important questions: Do you know who you are? Do you know what you’re doing? Do you want to live this way?
People are really romantic about the beginnings of things. Fresh start, clean slate, a world of possibility. But no matter what new adventure you're embarking on, you're still you. I bring me into every new beginning in my life, so how different can it possibly be? It's all anybody wants. A clean slate, a new beginning. Like that's gonna be any easier. Ask the guy pushing the boulder up the hill. Nothing is easy about starting over – nothing at all. I think that true growth and change is less of an event, and more of a gradual progression of ups and downs. There’s a stage you go through in childbirth, and it’s the toughest part. It’s called the transition stage. You’ve been pushing so hard and for so long. You’re exhausted, spent, and there’s nothing to show for all of your effort. During this transition stage it feels like you can’t go on, but it’s because you’re very nearly there. Transition is movement from one part of a life to a whole new one. And it can feel like one long, scary, dark tunnel. But you have to come out the other side, because what’s been waiting there might be glorious. Early recovery is a lot like this transition phase. It can be scary to be criticized and find out you've been wrong or made a mistake. But we can't be afraid to change our minds, to accept that things are different, and that they'll never be the same – for better or for worse. We have to be willing to give up what we used to believe. Because the more we're willing to accept what is and not what we thought, the more we are able to grow as individuals.
The early bird catches the worm, a stitch in time saves nine, he who hesitates is lost. We can’t pretend we haven’t been told. We’ve all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasting time, heard the damn poets about seizing the day. Still, sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes, we have to learn our own lessons, we have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore. Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin meant; that knowing is better than wondering. That waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst, most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying. We screw up. We lose our way. Even the best of us have our off days. As long as we admit when we’re wrong, learn from our mistakes, & remain open to constructive criticism...then still, we are moving forward.
Altruism is made up of the small decisions we make to put others before ourselves. This is vital for my recovery if I am going to maintain my sobriety. I always try to think of others before myself but addiction is a selfish disease. Practicing the principle of selflessness in my life has not always been easy, but is definitely worthwhile when I see the benefits of a selfless act. If we all tried to be more generous with our time, love, and compassion, the world would be a much better place.