When we are consumed by fear, as we tend to be while active in our addictions, it is difficult for us to make adequate room or faith. We learn to function in a state of constant dread; nothing seems stable or certain, and we are persistently concerned that the world will crumble to pieces at our feet. When we operate in faith, we become able to successfully walk through our fears. It is not realistic to expect that all of our fears will instantaneously dissipate as soon as we begin believing in something greater than ourselves. We will always be human. But we become able to successfully walk through them, and do so with dignity and grace. It is often said that ‘fear and faith cannot reside in the same place’. In fact, they can – but a man of faith cannot simultaneously live out a life that is run by fear.
Faith and Men in Recovery
Social constructs pertaining the masculinity and the masculine ideal prevent many men expressing emotions such as fear. From a young age, many men are taught that fear denotes weakness, and that weak men are not truly men at all. Because of this, young men learn to stifle their fear. And in the vast majority of cases, feelings that are stuffed and left unaddressed will fester and fester and grow and grow – eventually overwhelming the psyche completely, and leading to a host of unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as drinking and drugging).
Developing a strong sense of faith gives men in recovery permission to experience feelings of fear, doubt, and insecurity – feelings that our society often encourages men to hide or ignore.
When it comes to developing an authentic sense of faith, the rewards are boundless. Faith allows us to develop a personal identity that is not based on external or material things; status, prestige, property, or possessions. Through faith, we can confidently accept that fact that we are not (and never will be) defined by what we have – by the things that we own or the feelings that we experience. Rather, we are defined by our higher purpose. We are defined by who we are.
What is Faith?
Faith means ‘to unite with’. When we live in faith, we become able to unite with ourselves and others in meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding ways. Allowing fear and anxiety to creep in from time-to-time is natural, but allowing it to wholly consume us and begin dictating our lives will ultimately cripple us, and potentially bring us back to whatever unhealthy coping mechanisms we previously employed. Fear and negativity are closely interlinked – scientifically, in fact. The limbic system, the area of the brain that primarily deals with stress, anxiety, and fear, is often referred to as ‘the emotional brain’. This area of the brain has a great influence on emotions, social cooperation, and memory. When we reside in a place of constant worry or fear, our brain cells actually begin the decay. Our emotional regulation and social skills suffer. Even our memory begins to deteriorate.
When we throw alcohol and drugs into the mix, our limbic system suffers to an even greater degree. When we experience great amounts of fear and anxiety, we may choose to self-medicate with chemical substances. Without realizing it, however, we are exacerbating our emotional instability – increasing our anxieties and further separating ourselves from our true selves and our interpersonal relationships. The very substances that promise us instant alleviation of social anxieties ironically end up pulling us away from every relationship we have ever successfully formed.
It is our human nature to crave positive attention from others – we are designed to form intimate connections. However, negative methods of avoidance will erode our ability to form close, interpersonal relationships with others and with ourselves. It can be difficult to determine which came first – the deep-seated belief that experiencing fear compromises masculinity, or the inclination towards unhealthy coping mechanisms. But one thing is for certain. Drinking and drugging will only magnify the problem, and developing a sense of faith will help to resolve it indefinitely. If you or someone close to you is living in a place of unresolved and stifled fear, there is help available – recovery is possible, as is discovery of one’s true self.
For more information on our program of recovery, please feel free to call us at 561-563-8407.