THE FEAR OF…..WELL, SOMETHING - I JUST DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS AFRAID OF
By O. R. Marv
What’s going on family?!? So in case you are unaware we are making a change here at Drunkless in regards to having a uniform topic discussed across the majority of the blogs and podcasts on the first week of every month. It gives us contributors an opportunity to share our own viewpoints and demonstrate how there truly are many paths to the same top of the hill. It turns out that I drew the lucky straw and get to start this new practice off…no pressure, right?
I admit I was a little nervous about being the first one to lead things off, but as soon as I heard the topic I exhaled a sigh of relief. What is the topic for this week you ask?
THE FEAR OF FAILURE
Pretty heavy stuff huh? So why the hell did I almost get excited when I discovered this would by the topic for this week’s Lift Your Spirit post? To say I have some “experience” in the area is an understatement. The fear of well, SOMETHING, dominated my life for well over 27 years.
So…the fear of failure eh? Here’s the thing…on the surface it appeared I was like most people and feared failure. I mean, that’s what I would tell others and myself when I balked at taking a healthy risk or seizing an outside-my-comfort-zone opportunity. It sounds correct doesn’t? Having the fear of failure hold us back from getting out of that comfort zone, leaving us going through the routine of life without ever “swinging for the fences.” I was convinced that’s what I was afraid of…until I had to look at some harsh realities upon returning to treatment after my latest relapse.
It wasn’t the fear of failure that had driven my behaviors. No it was something else. Something far deeper and impactful. Something that I struggled to come to grips with and even protested against for over 6 weeks during treatment when it was brought to my attention.
The fear of failure wasn’t the driving force behind my behaviors and mental state. Oh how I wish it was that simple for me….because it took me nearly killing myself – AGAIN – to finally admit the following:
I didn’t live off of a fear of FAILURE – I lived off a fear of SUCCESS.
Yes – success scared the hell out of me. Now I know that makes ZERO sense on the surface so let’s take a look at my life pattern.
Every few years I would find myself in a great position. Whether that be with academics, a job, a relationship, friends, financially, whatever you want to throw in there….things would look great. Every few years I’d find that everything was on the upswing and I was about to “take over the world.” But then every single time something – or someone - would intervene. I would self-sabotage everything to absolute destruction.
I would tear down the great heights I had worked so hard to build. I would do so by my own hand then sit there befuddled, depressed, asking “What the **** just happened?!?”
This pattern started in my early teenage years and would continue for almost 2 decades.
I was like that farmer at the farmer’s market. I would bring my cart of apples to sell. I would get to the lot at the crack of dawn – the very first person in line. I would get the most primo spot of all and I would set to work. I would set to work polishing every apple to perfection, stacking them up on my cart in a perfect triangle. Every blemish would be hidden, every perfect side facing out. I was set to make a killing once the market opened that day.
But here’s the thing. I would take a step back. I would admire all my hard work. I would even pat myself on the back. And then I would kick the wheels out from underneath my cart and send those apples flying every which way. Every single time I did that.
Now why would any sane person repeat this self-destructive behavior over and over, and over, and over, and over and over again? Exactly – I wasn’t sane!
However this behavior started long before I ever picked up a drink or drug…so it wasn’t just the chemicals causing me to do this. No it was something far more sinister because the drugs and alcohol were but a symptom of something far deeper.
It was the total and utter absence of anything resembling self-esteem, self-worth, or an intrinsic (aka internal) sense of identity.
You see even as a kid I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Even as a kid I felt less than. Even as a kid I used something or someone to identify myself by because not only did I hate myself…I didn’t know who the real me was.
That’s why my first drug of choice was YOUR validation. It made me feel okay about myself…even if that was only for a fleeting moment.
I didn’t know it at the time but the reason why I self-sabotaged everything in my life – and trust me it was damn near everything outside of finally graduating college after a 7 year “scenic route” – was because I had NO self-esteem, I wouldn’t ALLOW myself to have anything positive in my life.
I had such a deep sense of self-loathing that I didn’t feel I deserved to have anything positive. This meant I would ruin whatever good thing I had going for me. The problem was this was on a subconscious level – I wasn’t aware I was purposefully doing this until it was thrown in my face at the behavior modification program I entered in 2013.
After I sabotaged things I would sit there in self-pity. I would sit there in self-pity and play the victim in my head so I could then feel entitled to do whatever the hell I needed to do to make myself feel better. Things that were totally against the morals I was raised on, so I needed to feel justified enough to do those things even though deep down I knew they were wrong.
I kid you not, every single time I gave into one of my addictions there was a small piece of me I had to quiet with the immediate gratification. Whether this be drinking, drugging, sex, etc. I was purposefully ignoring my conscience. The problem was, the more I did this, the more it took to quiet the part of me protesting.
Similarly, the more I fled from success, the worse and worse my self-sabotage became. It’s amazing I never struck myself out, killed myself, or physically injured someone (trust me I caused my fair share of emotional damage while I was out there ripping and running).
And again…I was unaware I was afraid of success….I thought I was like everyone else and merely afraid of failure so I just couldn’t understand why “the other shoe always dropped” whenever I bet on myself. Every single time I bet on myself things would go great at first, and then I would come up with snake eyes. I was convinced I had the worst luck in the world which only reinforced my victim mentality.
I struggled with my mental, emotional, spiritual, and consequently physical health on a daily basis. Again…I am truly grateful I made it through that time period without blowing a hole in my head. During that time I was too afraid to live yet too scared to kill myself.
And it all stemmed from having zero intrinsic identity, zero self-esteem, and zero self-worth. THAT was why I needed validation from others at a young age to fill that void. THAT was why I used my addictions to make myself feel a little bit better about myself. THAT was why I was afraid of success.
I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t worth it. I was garbage. Complete, utter, unequivocal garbage. How could anyone love me? How could anyone trust me? If I’m really being honest why should I ever enjoy success when I wouldn’t piss on myself to put the fire out?
That was the anguished lens through which I viewed myself for well over 27 years. And thankfully…I finally did something about that. Something in me finally snapped and it snapped in a good way. I found my GOD – the Gift Of Desperation – on June 22, 2013. I found myself completely surrendering to the program of 12 step fellowships and became willing to truly go to any lengths to get and remain clean and sober.
NOTE: I recognize not everyone in Recovery attends 12 step fellowships as like I said, there are many paths to the same top of the hill. I just know for me I needed to turn my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power of my own understanding by living a spiritually based life that I found through working the 12 steps of two anonymous fellowships.
Now I am not saying I found my self-esteem and self-worth on that date. No, that happened much later…but that day was the turning point when I realized I didn’t know who I was, that I was scared out of my mind with what would happen if I was left to my own devices any longer, and that I needed a spiritual experience to change how I viewed myself.
After lots of hard work, and potentially a miracle, I have changed how I view myself. I found my own intrinsic identity which has resulted in me finding something resembling self-esteem and self-worth. Those three blessings I’ve received in my Recovery literally changed every single aspect of my life, and for that I am grateful.
The fear of success was lifted and thankfully the fear of failure didn’t replace it. How do I know? Last July I found the courage to take that “swing for the fence” and I quit my corporate day job to start my own company. I didn’t (and still don’t in some regards) know how to do everything I needed to do…but I knew I had found my life’s purpose and I wasn’t going to be too timid to pursue it.
Am I rich and famous? Absolutely not. Hell, most months I am barely pay my bills but you know what – I don’t care because I love what I do and when I bet on myself this time I knew “that other shoe” was NOT going to drop. For the first time in my entire life, betting on myself was the correct thing to do. Hell, betting on myself was the recovered thing to do.
So…no longer does the fear of success run my life, and thankfully the fear of failure never reared its ugly head. That’s not to say I am immune to either of those things appearing in my future.
But so long as I take care of my side of the street….so long as I keep doing the next indicated step….odds are they never will. I am only responsible for the effort, NOT the outcome.
I find great comfort in knowing that. I hope you do too.
I hope my story might have resonated with some of you and that it may have brought something to your attention the way it needed to be brought to mine.
I pray you find what your deeper issue is that led you to needing drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, etc. I pray that you find what I have found and that you don’t have to be dragged through all the pain and suffering I dragged myself through before I finally became willing to put down the shovel.
Clean, sober, and free – that’s what I am today – I hope you are too.