Life Story

To The Nth Degree

By: Tami Harper Winn

Fear is a battle born relentless emotion. It takes hostages. It respects no boundaries. It feeds itself the carnage of your own imagination. It is limitless. In recovery, for me, it is still very much the red-eyed, jagged-tooth, boogey man under my bed. It can govern most of my decisions both in the light and the dark.


I have yet to figure out how to tame the beast exactly - cure its insatiable need to feast on my insecurities. I haven't yet anyways. I am the type of person who has been gripped by fear my entire life. Like a dotted line, it has routed the very choices that I have made or failed to make.


Some might say that I have a leg up on it by acknowledging its force in my life. In fact, I live by the motto, “that you must do one thing each day that scares the living hell out of you.” Being sober now a few days, I also live by the creed that my actions must match my words.


Those that know me, can verify that I am an extremist. That pretty much covers every part of my life by definition. I’m an alcoholic. By my very nature I test the limits. I take everything to the nth degree.


My drug of choice is “more,” more alcohol, more drugs, more money, more men, insert etc. If it can be taken to the limits I’ll drink it away, smoke it away, snort it away, eat it away, spend it away, drive it away, or screw it into oblivion. There is no part of my life that I don’t go full speed ahead at. So why should fear be any different for me? I find myself running at it full force when I am faced with it today.


When I am tangled up in the ropes of it, wrapped tightly around my neck as it has been this last year, I have no other choice but to fight for my very life. The figurative rope burn snaps me into the startling realization that I am going to die if I don’t do something different. I will die a spiritual death. Nothing is more excruciating than that. For an alcoholic of my type, what that means is that for me a spiritual death underlines the fact that I am going to drink again and for me to drink is to die. That terrifies me more than any other fear today.


Because although life right now may seem a little tough, and even for some outsiders looking in they might say damn right rough, it will never equal the pain of the slow death of my spirit the minute alcohol enters my bloodstream.


So, what does that look like for me today? What does fear look like to the woman who has nursed it her entire life? I have to admit it still looks the same. It’s still hideous and grotesque and eager to devour me if I turn my back on it for even a moment. I have to stay vigilant.

Mirror Mirror on the wall...

Mirror Mirror on the wall...


What do I do with it when I’m faced with it today? Flashlights don’t work anymore. Turning the lights on to dispel the shadows doesn’t work anymore and mommy isn’t there to run to when I get scared anymore.


I turn the beast against itself. That’s what I do. The mirror is my greatest weapon. I face it. I look it in the eyes and take it by surprise. I do the last thing it would expect. I beat fear at its own game by one-upping it. I take it to the nth degree.


As a young child, our plane made a crash landing at the McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada on our way home from Idaho. My fear of flying would keep me sedated on nonstop flights across the country, in need of another to fly with me, especially after 9-11.  It paralyzed me. So, I strapped on a parachute and jumped out of the bastard, literally. I learned how to fly. As I sprouted wings of my own, I had a spiritual awakening from my bird’s eye view. Like angels watching over us, I saw life for what it really was – fragile and vulnerable. In those very moments I saw the beauty in being both. Below me was earth and my family cheering me on. For me there was no heaven or hell. Life was what we made it. I no longer am afraid to fly.

At a very tender age, our family boat blew up in the middle of Lake Mead, Nevada. We were left stranded for what seemed like hours amongst burning debris wading the waters without life jackets waiting for someone to rescue us. I believed we were going to die. My fear of water is as deep as the ocean is. It is as dark and murky as what lies beneath it. So, I grabbed an oar and sat at the front of the raft forging down the class three rapids of the South Fork River in Idaho. I felt the demon rise from within me and drown in the life force beating strong within my chest as I fought those waters. I exercised my right to live free of that fear. Today, I live for the ocean waves lapping at my feet. It is the place I find the most comfort, by the water.


For anyone who suffers from social anxiety they know it can cripple you to the point of cutting you off from the outside world. I suffer from a severe case of it. I didn’t know I had it until I got sober. At least I never acknowledged it until I did. I didn’t have use for it prior. I was too drunk to care. Alcohol numbed that inhibition. I could socialize without fear of judgment or condemnation. I was free. Upon getting sober, in any large group of people I would flee in terror, running until I passed out from exhaustion. It would come out of nowhere. I had no control over my mind or what I did in response to it. I know I looked crazy. So, I said “yes” when they asked me to share my story at public speaking engagements. I even out did that by auditioning for a play and getting the part. There in front of dozens, even hundreds, I can be someone else completely. I do not have to be me even if it is just for that moment. The crowd disappears and all the world falls silent to my words. I am a shining star.  


Recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction is the scariest thing I have had to do. The unknowns are infinite. The variables are innumerable. For me, fear itself is a recovery process too. Yes, it is true. I am an extremist. To some it may look like a fault, but for me, it is a protection devise that once was something that harmed me, and today I now use to save me. I will always take life and all it offers me to the nth degree. I was born for the thrill. Why should my recovery be any different?


~Tami Harper Winn~


The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.