One of the most prevailing emotions during this pandemic is fear. The threats that seemed so abstract before are now fully realized and real. People are afraid of the virus, afraid of each other, afraid of running out of food, supplies, and some are afraid of losing their homes. And then some people seem to be inspired by fear and are spreading even more of it with many dodgy conspiracy theories. It’s hard to ignore all the negative information that comes at us, whether it’s from regular media or social media.
Naturally, fear is a necessary emotion as it helps us to avoid danger—it prevents us from doing things that put our lives at risk. A healthy dose of fear is good. But too much fear can be especially damaging. People in recovery are familiar with the destructive quality that fear can have; we are familiar with its paralyzing hold if we give it too much room. For many of us, it was fear that kept us addicted. We were afraid of everything and ran away from reality the fastest we could. Becoming sober was an act of enormous courage. I would never say that I’m thankful for having been addicted to alcohol, but I am thankful for all the lessons that recovery has taught me. It was in recovery that I learned that a lot of the things I was afraid of were manageable. Facing my reality seemed difficult at first, but with time being pragmatic and open to the world became my strength. And becoming sober allowed me to gradually overcome my biggest fear, which was to be close to people. Because of my history of relinquishment and shame about who I thought I was, I hid from people—as in hid my true emotions. I was playing different roles to fit in, but so much of it was pretending. The truth was that I had a shaky identity and didn’t truly know myself. Sobriety and recovery gave me back my identity, and I improved my connections with people.
Today, as we all go through this collective crisis, it is more crucial than ever before to try to get a grip on fear. No, there is no way to eliminate fear as the threat is genuine, but there’s a way for us to minimize how much it affects us. Asking ourselves: “Is this a healthy fear?” “Is this realistic?” What is my evidence?” “Is this fear useful?” and just generally being inquisitive about our own mental processes can be one way to control how much fear do we want to dominate our lives. This is a challenging time, and by worrying about things that aren’t an actual threat, we feed the fear and make it grow larger. That is entirely unnecessary. Anxiety consumes a lot of energy that we could use instead of trying to come up with ways to keep ourselves busy and distracted as well as calm. I have hope that we will recover from this. And as Canadian politician Jack Layton has said on his deathbed: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
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