When I first quit drinking, I read a blog written by a bloke who'd been sober for about a year (which seemed, back then, like an impossibly long time). He said that the two books which really helped him were Jason Vale's 'Kick the Drink, Easily', and Susan Jeffers book 'Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.'
I understood the Jason Vale recommendation: he is a God, and should be knighted for services to over-enthusiastic drinkers everywhere.
But Feel The Fear? I'd heard of this book. It was a best selling self help tome, published twenty five years ago, but I really couldn't see the relevance. So I rather dismissed this recommendation, assuming that the blogger had terrible mental health issues.
But now I get it. Now I realise that fear, and it's lesser cousin, anxiety, are my biggest triggers. So I read the book.
Yesterday I came this close (holding thumb and forefinger a millimetre apart) to pouring a drink.
This hasn't happened to me for months. I've had bad days. I had glums and PAWS (see Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms). I've had days when I've been really, really fed up about not drinking and thought 'why me? What's the point, anyway?' etcetera. But I haven't had to physically sit on my hands to stop myself throwing in the towel. Not for a long time.
So why yesterday?
Well, about a year ago I started writing a novel. Nothing super literary and clever. Just an adventure story for teenage girls, featuring a kick ass heroine (who doesn't drink, obviously).
I think it was writing the book that made me want to quit drinking. I realised that I really wanted to make something of my life, which wasn't going anywhere.
I finished the book at the end of February, then quit drinking. Since then I haven't even looked at it - I've just been focussing on the blog, and on staying sober.
Then, yesterday, I dusted off the manuscript, and re-read the first few chapters. I'd resolved to enter it for a children's book award for unpublished authors. This meant (for the first stage) submitting a one page synopsis and the first 3,000 words.
I was terrified. I feared re-reading it and discovering that it was completely crap. I feared rejection. I feared having my dream stomped on.
And I really, really, really wanted a drink. To take the fear away.
So I re-read some of Susan Jeffers book.
There are many people who swear this book has changed their lives, and I guess they all take away something slightly different.
The main lesson I took from it is that the only thing to really fear is doing nothing.
I had got used to hiding in my protective bubble. What I hadn't realised was that it wasn't actually a cosy bubble, but a rut. And I was stuck in it. Because avoiding fear means going nowhere.
Here are the five key lessons from the book:
1. So long as you continue to grow, you will always feel fear. No fear means no growth.
2. The only way to properly get rid of fear is to go out and do 'it' (whatever it is that you fear). Then 'it' won't scare you any more.
3. There's no point delaying until you feel better/stronger, because you'll never feel better/stronger until you do 'it'.
4. Everyone else is scared too.
5. Pushing through the fear is less frightening than living in a state of helplessness.
Susan tells you that you have to think of the worst that can happen, and realise that you can cope. And I realised that the worst thing that could happen to me, in this case, was that the book would not win the award, and never be published.
But, hell, that's where I am anyway! If I carry on doing nothing because I'm too scared then, obviously, nothing IS going to happen!
So I entered the book for the award. And I have two more awards with deadlines coming up that I'm also going to enter.
And I didn't have that drink. And today I feel stronger. And less scared.
So, my friends: Feel the fear, and do it anyway!
Love SM x
Related Post: Anxiety and Courage