I was a liar, a cheat and a thief for most of my life, even well into sobriety. I knew the difference between right and wrong, but just couldn’t seem to do the right thing. I suffered overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame over my dishonesty. I stuffed these feelings down with alcohol, drugs, but the anxiety was always there just below the surface, coloring every aspect of my life, making real happiness impossible. I drank against this anxiety for thirty years.

I know today I didn’t have a choice. I had to do all these dishonest things because I was loaded with self-centered fear. Self-centered fear caused me to do whatever I had to do when my security was threatened. I was afraid I wasn’t going to get my share, I grabbed all I could get. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough, so I made up stories to make myself look good. I lusted after money, power and prestige. I did whatever I had to do.  When I’m reacting in fear, I don’t have a choice. I must protect myself at all costs.

A few years ago, I realized as long as fear was driving, I had to sit in the backseat. I had to go where fear took me. Fear took away my ability to choose. I had to drink, I had to lie, I had to cheat, I had hurt the people I hurt. Once I realized I had no choice but to do what I did, I began to let myself off the hook. I dropped the whip of self-hate.

Confronting these fears has been a major part of my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Steps dissolve self-centered fear by bringing my old ideas into the light of forgiveness. As the fear dissolves, my ability to make healthier choices returns.