Before recovery, I was afraid of everything. My fear caused panic attacks, melt-downs, and serious health problems. This week, I faced one of my biggest fears yet and lived to tell about it.

My Deep Fear Skewed Reality

I still sleep with a blanket over my head to keep spiders from crawling on or in me in the middle of the night. I don’t close my eyes in the shower. I’m sure spiders are lurking behind shampoo bottles, just waiting to pounce on me. I love tomatoes, but I don’t grow more than one in my garden because of those horrid black and yellow garden spiders. I won’t go into a basement without a hat. All of these fears and resulting choices are driven by one unlikely scenario. What if a spider drops on my head and gets tangled in my hair?

Logically, this much fear over a small spider seems ridiculous.

Fear Isn’t Logical

Last weekend, my small family traveled north to ride out Hurricane Irma. My cousin Greg welcomed us in to his lovely, magazine-worthy home. The crowning jewel is Greg’s backyard. His deck is an outdoor living, framed by soft curtains and flower boxes. A sectional sofa with lush pillows surrounds a fire pit. Strings of mason jar lights bring the indoors out. A hammock sits just beyond the deck, positioned to enjoy stunning Smokey Moutain sunsets. It was paradise marred by one huge flaw.

I saw her the first night, but I was too tired and polite to say anything. There sprawled out on one of my cousin’s designer pillows was this monstrous spider. She was as big as a quarter and probably eats small children for breakfast. I assumed she was just passing by.

The next morning, while I enjoyed my coffee on the deck, the spider came back. This time, my husband heroically tossed her to the back yard. In our own home, this spider would die or we would move, but I was Greg’s guest. Later in the day, when I mentioned the spider to Greg, he said, “Oh, that’s Henrietta. She eats all of my bugs.” Greg is a gentle soul who loves animals of all kinds. Of course, he would welcome with a spider.

The next morning, Henrietta was practically sneering as she sat down beside me.

My Recovery Is All About Facing My Fears

Aracnaphobia isn’t the only fear I brought into the rooms with me. Before recovery, I was also afraid of:

  • Heights
  • Parking garages
  • Getting yelled at
  • Being wrong

I’m not alone. Fear is extremely common for Adult Children of Alcoholics and victims of abuse. Psychology Today explains,

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.

Fear kills joy, peace and freedom. Fear keeps me oppressed and hopeless. I refuse to live like I used to. As silly as it sounds, I made an emergency plan for Henrietta. I told my family what I needed. I set boundaries. Even for a spider. Though she is a small threat, Henrietta has a lot in common with addiction. I have no control over her, but I can control my response to her.

Henrietta Isn’t My Last Fear

Traumas and bad experiences still trigger a fear response in me. My gut reaction is still to people please, manipulate, or control the situation. Hurricane Irma and Henrietta exposed more fears I need to tackle, but I’m not where I used to be. I’ve conquered a lot of fears and found a lot of freedom. More fears are yet to be faced and more victories lie ahead.

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Pam Carver

Pam is the author of two books: Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps. She's also a contributing editor for Reach Out Recovery. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.

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