Sunday, October 26, 2014

Post 63

FEAR: Is It Sealing Your Fate?

Here in Midwest USA, we are enjoying the height of autumn: brilliant colors of red, orange, and golden foliage, apple orchards ripe for the picking, cool - yet sunny - crisp days, and fresh pumpkin pies.  The Halloween holiday is fast approaching and little trick-or-treaters dressed in costume will be ringing doorbells with their sacks opened wide for more candy.  It was a favorite holiday for me during elementary school days.  My identity masked, I could sit anywhere in the classroom and celebrate (for a short time) being someone - or something - else.  Rarely though, were my classmates fooled as my height usually gave me away. 

 Most of the spookiness attached to Halloween was in fun and not scary at all.  However, there was a notable exception.  During my freshman year in college, several very creative members of my young adult ministry organization decided to conduct a haunted house tour of their own.  It was just for us - not a public event ... and the only one I knew of in the Toledo area.  Driving past the outskirts of town and down a lonely country road was creepy enough ...  but when we came upon a solitary figure garbed in full-length shepherd’s robe and shadowed face, the fright began.  We knew better to be truly scared – however, the newness of our adventure and the anticipation of unknown happenings stretching before us did give us more than a taste of fear.  We weren’t sure we really wanted to step into this unmet-before arena!        

As I revisit that haunted house experience, I must admit – yes - that even though I knew no harm would take place, there were actual moments of surprising fright.  Then too, there was, indeed, a fear of the unknown as the tour continued.

Likewise, in our journeys of recovery (all kinds), the future – without the companionship of active addiction and/or reliance upon old, familiar coping behaviors – can be seen as a frightening place to enter.

So what are we talking about?  Fear?  Yes.  Courage?  Again, yes.  Actually, it’s about facing one’s fear of re-entry, so to speak, as a recovering person – solely armed with brand new skills and lessons from therapy and/or 12 Step group support.  BUT … why then, the fear? (And it can be sensed as real fear too.)  Once more, and sadly, the terror of facing life without the old companions (addictive/self-abuse responses) can hold back progress in recovery.   

Basically, the flip side of fear is courage … the stepping ahead, the moving forward, the no-turning-back.  In his book, Three Steps to Integrity, the Reverend Dr. Bill Jenkins details an entire section on courage.  In response to the five common fears listed below, I am including supporting thoughts (italicized) shared by Dr. Jenkins, as well as other practical suggestions. 

Five Common Fears in Facing New Life in Recovery

(1)   What will I do to fill my time when I am no longer ________?  I’ll need to find new interests but I don’t know where to begin.  If I have too much free (empty) time, I’ll get bored – and that’s a sure ticket to _____________.  What if I try new hobbies and don’t like them?  What if they’re too expensive?  What if there’s nothing to do, etc., etc.?

Short term goals are often stepping stones, or intermediate steps, toward achieving a long term goal. (WLJ)

Fill spare time with multiple and accomplishable tasks and activities.  Eventually, you will achieve a balance of things to do and enjoy, in your spare time.        

(2)  What if I fail?  Feeling failure will just sink me deeper into my depression.  Then I’ll seek comfort by _________ and then I’ll feel more like a failure.

Courage includes perseverance, continuing to seek a goal in the midst of opposition, obstacles, discouragement and even failure. (WLJ)

If you experience a slip, get back on the one-day-at-a-time wagon.  Return to the ways of recovery (again, take each day as it comes)  – attending support meetings, checking back with the counselor, reading recovery material, and counting on your Higher Power for help.

(3)  I’ll lose my identity … I actually like to/find pleasure in  _____________.  My self –image is that of a ____________; and I can escape to this other “life” and be “myself”.

Plato placed an emphasis on being rather than just doing.  Morality stems from your character identity, rather than being a reflection of the actions alone.  (WLJ)

This is a toughie.  How intertwined we can be with an image we have come to adopt – actions and all.  Has this identity associated with __________  given you a perceived sense of  strength and valor …  helped you to lose shyness and be social and, perhaps, feel glamorous … OR simply enabled you to claim a personal identity when there seemed to be none?

Untangling one’s self from the ___________ identity, in reality, opens the door to hard and consistent recovery work … but it’s worth it!  Find others successfully  in recovery; learn from them; notice how they value themselves AND how they value you for yourself ! 

(4)  I’ll lose my friends … how can I find new ones?

Counselors know from experience that many people are unhappy because they expect their spouse, children, or employer to “make them happy”.  No person or thing can make you happy.  You are the only one who can make you happy.  That can only happen when you have inner wholeness, peace, and integrity.  (WLJ)

The 12th Step in the Gamblers Anonymous Recovery Program (paraphrased) calls for the recovering gambler to pass on the message of hope and help to those in need of recovery from compulsive gambling.  Commonly, we hear the saying that by helping others, we receive more of a blessing than those receiving help.  Service to others plays a significant role in recovery; and working alongside others, in service, provides an arena wherein new friendships are made.

(5)  Can I really lose this FEAR that rules my life?  What if my family never trusts me again?  What if my friends never forgive me?  What if I never get out of debt?  What if I lose my job?  What if I wind up in a treatment center?  What IF?  What IF?  What IF?

A more modern context of courage involves things such as overcoming addictive habits, irrational anxieties, and negative co-dependent relationships. … Dr. Theodore Malloch wrote, “Virtues are seen at their most admirable in adversity, when they seal the fate of the one who has them.  We know this from the virtue of courage…” (Malloch, Theodore R., Doing Virtuous Business: The Remarkable Success of Spiritual Enterprise, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2011; also quoted in Three Steps to Integrity, The ABC Model, William L. Jenkins, Xulon Press, 2012, p.67)

As the expression goes, borrowing trouble describes our What ifs as they project both present and past fears into tomorrow - and the days beyond.  Yes, healthy anticipations and concerns about the future need to be considered and accompanied by appropriate responses.   Worry that never ceases, however, preoccupies the mind … and harbors a seeking of relief, often in unhealthy ways. 

The bottom line to all of the above “fears” is this: Do you allow things you cannot do (out of fear, or for some other reason) prevent you from doing the things you should in order to experience and grow in recovery?

Rev. Janet Jacobs
Founding Director
Gambling Recovery Ministries

For more information on the 12 Steps to Recovery Program, go to

To visit the Christ Ministry Center website, in San Diego, and read further articles by Dr. Bill Jenkins, go to

For more information on problem gambling and recovery issues, visit