Learn About the 4th Step Part 2

4TH Step: FEAR

At both GateHouse Treatment and GateHouse Sober Community, whether their rehabs in New Hampshire or the South Florida drug rehab, you will find a 12 step plus approach. Be it a drug treatment programs or an alcohol rehabilitation center; this modality is a blend of clinical services and 12 step immersion. From detox to all the way to the end of clinical services in an outpatient treatment center all staff members work to support the same goal and return to health of the client. All forms of transitional housing that follow like a halfway home, sober house, men’s sober living, or women’s sober living are where a recovery program for the true sober life is intentionally designed to blend clinical services with spiritual practices that work harmoniously. Speaking of “work” the first actual work in the program of the 12 steps is the 4th step. Therapists, doctors, nurses, techs, and all staff are supporting the client to acquire the skills needed to find the right sponsor and get to this point in recovery. Until then we are not, “in the program.” Here are a brief overview and summary of the concepts of the 4th step.

Fear. We all have it. Sometimes it rules us; sometimes it’s not present when it should be. Addicts tend not to fear what they should and fear what they shouldn’t. Invite us to the rough part of town to walk down a dark alley and find a stranger to buy an unknown substance from, then put it in our body by way of pipe or needle, no problem. Tell us to walk up to a stranger of the same sex and ask for their phone number because we need some help and well, you know. No way.

Fear is always going to be present in our lives. A wise approach would be to get to know it, learn how to become intimate with it as opposed to running from it or denying its existence. So let’s take a closer look. What is fear? Fear is our concern that something in the future is not going to go well. Sometimes our fears are of things that are real, other times not. Sometimes it springs us into a self-protective action when none is needed or paralyzes us when something must be done. What is consistent about fear, is that it always pertains to the future. Resentment is always about the past, fear is always about the future, while anger and depression are in the present.
Every life has themes on fear that seem to be similar for many of us. Fear of getting old, dying, getting sick, being alone, rejection, intimacy, success, and failure, to name a few. Familiarity with fear will teach us to when to protect ourselves and when to take risks. A fear of death can be so overwhelming that it unhealthily keeps us from leaving the house, or it may be milder and not allow us to go parachuting with our friends when statistically speaking parachuting tandem with an instructor isn’t nearly as dangerous as getting in a car. It can also be the motivator to eat healthily and exercise.

Fear in our lives, and how we can realize it through the 4th step

Some of these fears may also be paradoxical. Fears of success and failure, or intimacy and being alone, seem to have an intertwined nature. An addict does incredibly well at work, then gets cocky, or complacent and self-destructs. They then lose that opportunity and crash only to get more severe and skyrocket to the top somewhere else later. This produces a series of excellent starts, followed by no finishes. It can be very disheartening. Some of our lives have been a series of excellent starts, but no finishes for literally decades. What is that but a cycle of fear of success and fear of failure taking hold of us?

In another case, we finally find someone we feel we can love and appreciate, and they adore us likewise. So what do we do, go out and cheat, or get distant with them? The fear of being alone pushes us towards them. The fear of intimacy repels us from them all the harder, the closer we get. What if they get too close and see something in us that we feel will have them reject us? So we sabotage. Weaving from one side of the road to the other, we can’t seem to find comfort in the middle way of life while these fears push and pull us. Until we can see them, we don’t have a shot of making better choices. They choose for us.
There must be a better way. How do we learn from fear? Start by not running. Then classify what we are looking at. There are several ways to classify fear. The first way is to look at fear as healthy or unhealthy. This view looks at fear as it is related to danger. A healthy fear warns of a real threat. An unhealthy fear screams about a circumstance that is likely not real, and indeed not dangerous. Healthy fears were put in place as a warning system. If you were standing in front of a lion and had no response to fear, something is wrong. In the same manner, if a person is deathly afraid of clowns that would be unhealthy. One presents a danger, the lion, while the other, the clown, does not.
After being given the tools to decipher between healthy fear and unhealthy fear the next step is to determine what action, if any to take. Here is a formula of questions to ask when fear begins to overtake us.

    • Am I in any present danger? (healthy fear or unhealthy fear)
    • If no, it’s God’s business. Pray for the removal of the fear and turn your attention to something more useful.
    • If yes, it’s your business. What can I do? Then do that!

How can you get through fear?

It turns out that while faith is relevant, the antidote to fear is courage combined with action. It’s either F.E.A.R. – False Expectation Appearing Real or something we have to to do something about it. If we can’t do anything about it, FAITH and the action of no action is what’s called for. If we can do something about it, COURAGE and the designated ACTION necessary are the answer. Hence the Serenity Prayer.

When categorized or looked at differently, most of us by step four have addressed the God issue head-on. We believe in Something. When pressed we would usually agree that the Power we are looking to build a new relationship with is at least two things. All loving and all-powerful. If we are not at least willing to believe that we may want to revisit step two. Assuming that we think God to be all loving and all powerful than our fear must be that of a child doubting something of a parent. Maybe God is all loving, so He wants the best for me but not, so He can’t make it happen. Or perhaps God is all-powerful, but He is indifferent to my needs. Either way, all fear must boil down to a God missing one of those two. If He loves me and can do anything, then what do I have to fear? Chances are if we look back on our lives, we have survived some seemingly unsurvivable odds. We were loved then by an Omnipotent Being in the Darkness as much as we are loved now by that same Being while walking into the Light.

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