Fear drives all my character defects, from greed to dishonesty and racism,
but I can use faith to overcome any and all of my fears.
I have faith that the spring will come, and the flowers will bloom again.
What is fear?
Fear seems to be an innate part of the human experience. It is an emotion, and as such, it is not rational. In other words, I cannot reason or argue away out of my fear. It has no existence in the real world around me. My friend Robert once jokingly told me to stop by the store and pick up a bag of fear. It is in between the apples and the oranges, he said. NOT.
Fear, then, exists only in my mind, but like any emotion, it can drive my behavior. I am afraid that I will not get what I want, that I will lose what I have, or that if you knew who I really was, you wouldn’t like me. Fear is the root of my low self-esteem which colors my thoughts and words. I can let fear consume hours of my time, allow myself to be taken out of my serenity, and generate enough stomach acid to power a car battery. But remember what Tom Petty said, most things I worry about never happen anyway.
One of the most important lessons of recovery is that I can control the thoughts in my head, and likewise my emotions. As my sponsor said, I no longer must respond reflexively to what happens in the world around me. This isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of practice. I need to realize that I am not the thoughts in my head. They are only momentary ideas that pop up, like commercials on my TV. They are not commands, and I can choose to ignore them. Being somewhat obsessive, if I decide to hold on to them, well, my car turns into the liquor store all by itself.
The key is to recognize the thought as it pops up. As my counselor Jim told me, I am not responsible for the first thought that pops into my head, but I am responsible for what I do with it. I must recognize the thought as negative or not useful in order to deal with it, which is why I must monitor my thoughts constantly. It’s not as bad as it sounds, it's just a habit that I can form with time.
What is faith?
It’s extremely important to realize that faith has nothing to do with religion, salvation, or cherubs playing harps in the sky. Faith has nothing to do with my conception of God-as-I-understand-Him. It works even if I have no Higher Power at all. Faith is simply what I believe in. It supports me through my day, guides my decision-making, and supports me in times of trouble.
We all have faith in something, whether we recognize it or not. My friend Lexa believes that Jesus is in the Mother Ship hovering over Seattle and will come and get her soon. Jerry, now worth over $200 million from insider trading in the stock market, believes in money. Acquiring more is his goal and the driving force in his life. The more he money he can grab, the safer he will be. His quest for money determines how he behaves in any situation. He is banned for life from the stock market, but a friend now does his deals for him. My friend Kenny believes that the saints will redeem him, sure that no matter what mistakes and misdeeds he commits, he will be saved. He once told me privately that he cheats on his taxes and is very proud of how much he steals from the government.
My definition of faith is much simpler, and it came from my earliest days in recovery. My faith is that prayer works, that prayer changes things. And that the universe is on my side, that no matter what happens, everything will be alright.
In rehab, I was overwhelmed by a resentment against someone who I was sure had ruined my life. The anger was coloring every thought and I could find no peace. Then a friend shared a very simple prayer. “Thank you for taking away my resentment and replacing it with the faith that no matter what happens, everything will be alright.” I told him I didn’t know how to pray and wasn’t sure that I believed in God. He said, don’t worry, just do it anyway.
So I did. In just a week, the resentment wasn’t gone, but it no longer had a hold on me. I could breathe again. I have used that prayer for over twenty years and it has never failed me. I learned I could substitute any problem I had for resentment—anger, fear, the desire to use again, whatever is bothering me at the moment.
Today, I am approaching seventy-three years of age, and although I have had my ups and downs, (some of them pretty nasty) nonetheless everything has turned out okay. I have no doubt that if I live another seventy-three years, that the same thing will be true then.
Many will refuse to believe that everything in their life will work out just fine. Their fear of the unknown keeps them in a constant state of turmoil. They have not had my experience and are stuck in their belief that trouble lurks around every corner. Their faith is placed in negativity and the hurtful nature of life itself. Serenity is not a guest in their house.
But I refuse to live this way. The goal of my recovery is to find a state of serenity and make it my home. After my time in the program, I have faith that my life will get better every day. That no matter what comes down the pike, I now have the spiritual fitness, spiritual tools, and recovery friends so that I can deal with it. Thus, I recommend this prayer for your consideration.
“I thank you for taking away my fear and replacing it with the faith that no matter what happens, everything will be alright.”