As I stood in the shallow waves at the beach we visited today, shuddering, yelping and squealing each time the sea slapped a fresh piece of skin, it occurred to me how scared I’d become of things over the years.
I was scared of the sea. The waves, the potential currents and rip-tides. I was feeling scared of it all. I was scared of the cold. I was scared in case there were fish or creatures buried in the sand underfoot that might sting me. Earlier in the day, I’d been walking along a high wall and had suddenly become scared of the consequences of falling. There I was, stood looking out to sea, entranced by the beauty of the scene and the thought of swimming around and having fun, yet terrified of hundreds of potential things that could go wrong.
At what point in my life did I start becoming so scared of everything? Some people suggest that this is what happens to people as they age. They have become more aware of potential danger as they have lived life, learnt from their experiences and gained in wisdom. They also become more aware of their own mortality and grow less hardy and more fragile. This makes sense and I suspect there is an element of that happening for me.
But I also think that all the years I was drinking, I was escaping from anything that felt uncomfortable or scary. Alcohol allowed me to run away from fear. If I was scared of something, I could drink and then I wouldn’t be scared of it anymore. In fact, I could become (as I saw it) attractively and excitingly reckless.
I vaguely remember one occasion where I walked along the railing of a high bridge over the river in the town I was living in. It was night, a group of us had spent all afternoon and evening in the pub – we were wrecked and having a great time and no doubt I wanted to show everyone how “fun” and “up-for-anything” I was. So, I walked all the way across the bridge, balancing on a narrow railing, presumably being egged on or discouraged or a combination of the two. I remember that I did it, but I don’t have a clear memory of it. In the normal course of things, I’m terrified of heights but the alcohol had hidden my fear from me.
So, if I spent all those years using alcohol to run away from fear, of course it makes sense that what seem like relatively non-threatening activities that lots of other people are enjoying are causing me to feel fear sensations and face up to them.
Every day I’m learning that there is more and more to look forward to. As a non-drinker, I’m getting to come face-to-face with life, sensations and experiences and to live them in full HD, fully connected and immersed in them. So, feeling this fear of sea, waves and cold didn’t stop me from going in and swimming. And, it was amazing. I swam around and messed about in the waves like a teenager. It was one of those beautiful joyful moments that wouldn’t have been the same without the frisson of fear to step over.
When you feel the fear and do it anyway, you’re truly starting to live and to expand your comfort zone and your potential.
What fear have you felt since you stopped drinking and how did you respond to it?
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