Step 4: Fishing for Fears

Fear started early for me, as I suspect it does for most people, alcoholic or not. The picture to the left is from when I was 4. Dad was fishing on the Roaring Stoney in Minnesota and caught a Northern Pike. Being completely inexperienced with the sport, he had taken me along for the ride. Once in the canoe, the fish threw off the lure and began flapping closer and closer to me while Dad was tangled in fish line, net, and treble hooks. I can still see the spotted orange flatfish plug with 5 sets of treble hooks. It was scary even before I saw my first mouthful of pike teeth!

We were both barefooted in the canoe and I could see that Pike wanted to use his teeth. With every flop, he was pounding his way towards the front of the canoe and my toes. I started screaming as soon as I saw him and I was standing on the seat ready to jump before Dad talked me down. As soon as we hit the sand, I ran to the cabin yelling and crying (my usual). Mom ran down to the shore to see what had happened, while I locked myself in the cabin with my younger brother – again adding to his life in a positive way. Mom finally got me to quit screaming and unlock the door, promising I was safe from the fish. I had my doubts. I always hated this picture. Still gets me.

If you read the second AA meeting post, you’ll find that my goal was to sit between two women because men and pain were synonymous for me. That’s fear talking.

Using my big fear of men, this is how the columns would work. (Not Scary Fears worksheet in menu bar)

Column 1 (Who or What I Fear) would be men. Pike doesn’t make the list. To be sure, this isn’t going to make sense to a lot of my readers, but trust me. That’s the nature of fear. It does not have to be logical. In fact, most of my fears followed no logic. Some of yours won’t either.

Column 2 (What I’m Afraid Might Happen) would be that they will hurt me, make me feel stupid, or cause me to regret even speaking to them. More logic in action.

Column 3 (Part of Self Affected) Obviously, Self-esteem had been negatively altered from my bad experience with men in the past. My Security was so threatened that I didn’t even feel comfortable sitting next to a guy. And my ambitions had been reduced to a single focus. I just wanted to avoid all men. Being in a room with anyone but my son and a few other close guy friends, was all I could take. I wanted no relationship with any other guys, even business ones. Sex Relations… Need I say more?

Column 4 (What Did I Do?) What didn’t I do to start the fear ball rolling? I consistently responded to bad-guy radar. I’m sure if any of them were not just plain bad for me, by the time I finished working on the relationship with my bad choices, they looked like the villain. If any of you have continually made bad choice after bad choice after bad choice, you know how hard it is to break the cycle.

Column 5 (Simple Character Defects) I was Dishonest with myself in not admitting previous mistakes with men and perpetuating the cycle from one guy to the next. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I’m the fool. No kidding.) Self-seeking, of course. I wanted what I wanted. Sometimes the less it made sense the more I went after it! Fearful...obviously.

How this looks off paper is that I had limited my life to all female contact as much as was possible. My seminar business provided training for health care, which is predominantly female. Even though our training was well received by male audiences, I wouldn’t market to them. Let’s see… my dentist, my doctor, my optometrist, my tax person…all women. You get the idea. Very limiting.

It took AA to change my thinking. I wanted to see men as the enemy. It makes no sense to me now, but back then, before my step work? Sad. The first AA dude that said, “I need a hug” got a quick, Not from me you don’t!  In fact, I would hold out my hand and say, I’m not a hugger! if any man looked like he was about to circle his arms!

I feel kind of badly about how rigid I was. I suppose sometimes I hurt feelings. To be honest, I said that bit about not being a hugger to a fair amount of women, too. It was almost a year before I could hug anyone, now that I think of it. It’s just that when it came to guys, I felt a tremendous, visceral threat.

That’s what fear does. It changes us. Makes us rigid, yet somehow, weaker. After I started softening, one of the really honest women said to me, You were so brittle. Even your laugh hurt.

Men. They were not the problem…

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Yup.