When fear controls us

I’ll be honest. I grew up in a dysfunctional and, often times, violent home. While I’ve found ways to cope and forgive, I’ve also developed an unhealthy relationship with fear. Over the years, I’ve let fear hold me back. I’ve let fear have more control over my life than I should have.

For me, fear of confrontation is a very real, almost tangible thing. As a child I learned that pleasing people and keeping the peace was the easiest way to avoid unpleasant situations. This is why I’m naturally an enabler. As the parent of an addict, I’ve had to learn to fight my natural inclination to give into their requests. I’ve had to face my fears and tell them no.

Years ago, when I was first going through parenting an addict with Laura, my friend Jake asked me “what are you afraid of?” when I told him he asked me to get more specific. He told me to break it down, go deeper, figure out WHY I was afraid. Let me give you a little example…

Laura asked for money. I’m afraid to tell her No. Why? She’ll get mad. Why am I afraid of her getting mad? She might walk out and I won’t know where she is. Why does that scare me? She might get hurt. She might think I don’t love her. Other people might think I’m not a good Mom.

Why am I afraid of things that are clearly outside of my control? Every scenario, when I broke it down and made myself really look at exactly what I was afraid of, I realized my fear was loss of control. What I’ve come to realize is that most things in life are not within my control. I have what I’ll call a “sphere of influence” and that’s about it. I am NOT in control.

So how have I learned to find peace and calm amidst the chaos? People kept telling me “Give it to God” and I honestly tried but it just wasn’t working. Then one day I had a little epiphany. I realized that by trying to give it to God, I was still trying to be the one in control. That day I prayed and asked God to please TAKE it from me. That made all the difference in the world.

There’s something very comforting about knowing I’m not in control. It relieves me of a responsibility that I was trying to carry, a burden that is not really MINE to hold. It’s been 8 or 9 years now but I still remember word for word a text message I found on my phone one morning that said “Remember to take life on life’s terms today. You are not that special or that important.” Taken out of context it sounds kind of mean but understanding exactly what it meant, it’s reassuring. It feels good to let go of a responsibility that is not my own.

This morning we drove around looking for toilet paper. All the shelves are empty. We all seem to be living in fear of a virus and/or quarantine. Why are we letting fear control us? Why does stocking up on toilet paper and ramen noodles give us an illusion of control? I’ll deal with the things that are inside my sphere of influence. That’s all I can do.

I know I have plenty of critics who would say “What are you, stupid? Do you just sit around and pray and expect everything to be fine while you do nothing to control your circumstances?” That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying it’s important to realize our limitations and accept boundaries. Do what we CAN do and then rest and let faith pick up beyond that.


  1. I suffer from fear of losing control also.

    The moment I try to be in control is the moment I’m out of it.

    I had to learn to balance my understanding of life to realize that life is uncertain.

    I’m a recovering addict who’s living one day at a time.

    Great article!


  2. I think those of us with 12 step experience are really appreciating every slogan that we might have thought was simplistic when we first heard it. “Life on life’s terms.” “One day at a time.” The Serenity Prayer. Much of the world is having to acknowledge lack of control for the first time. We are seasoned veterans.


  3. F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real, Fear Everything And Run, Feel Everything And Recover. You are never alone, you ALWAYS have a choice. What people think of you is none of your business. With a mustard seed of faith, anything is possible. When you ask G.O.D., you are asking for Good Orderly Direction….Being willing is all God asks from us.

    Dear God, please help me to recognize
    the truth about myself,
    no matter how beautiful it is.

    Alan Cohen

    You are a beautiful child of God, an amazing person of worth and you always deserve better!


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