Running Away From Life

“One may not reach the dawn, save by the path of the
night,” – Khalil Gibran

Fear is a powerful influence in our lives, influencing
more of our behavior and actions than we are consciously
aware of. Fear lies at the heart of the tangled
relationships we have with alcoholics or addicts where
there is so much pain and suffering. We may be afraid
for ourselves, or afraid for the alcoholic/addict, we may
be afraid of the unknown damage that might come,
a repeat of past suffering, or maybe just not knowing
what behavior is coming next. This kind of fear, learned
over time from being close to someone with unhealthy
behavior can be toxic to living happily even when the
danger has passed. In order to get free from the habit
of fear it is necessary to confront it, and that alone can
be terrifying.

Think about an animal when it gets scared. A cat cornered
by something much larger and more powerful
makes itself bigger, hisses and strikes out with sharp
claws. Out in the open the same animal confronted by
a threat might turn around and run to safety, fleeing
the situation entirely. How often do we, habituated by
the fear that comes from alcoholic or addicted relationships,
do the same thing even when the situation is
safe!

I was walking my dog on a trail in the hills near my
home and she was running ahead of me sniffing,
exploring and having a wonderful time. Many people
use this trail so it can be crowded, and though my
dog is big and strong she doesn’t always feel that. In
the opposite direction we were walking a group of
cross-country runners came around the bend. Apricot
was frightened and turned, sprinting ahead of them to
get away. I tried to stop her but she was too scared and
too strong, so she just ran. I ran after her not knowing
if she would hide somewhere along the trail, if she
would come back to me as I was frantically calling her
or what might happen. I was scared, I felt out of control,
and I was acting crazed; I shouted at people on

the trail to get out of my way, I shouted about whether
or not they had seen the dog, which direction she had
gone, I shouted for help finding her. I ran back and
forth through the mile or so of the trail where I thought
she would be and after an hour, despondent I gave
up. As I finally came into the parking lot I was stopped
by a woman who asked me, “did you lose a dog? I’ve
been waiting with her hoping to find her people, she’s
so scared.” And there she was, tied to a bench with
a make-shift leash, sitting and shaking until she saw
me when she started to yelp and cry. We all cried as I
cuddled my seventy pound blocky-headed baby, and
then we laughed to think about how fear could be so
powerful even in a situation that presented no real
danger. She was startled and her instinct was to run
away, a situation that created more stress than if she
had stayed with me!

We all have things that create fear in our lives, and
some of us certainly have more triggers than others.
Maybe you grew up in an alcoholic home where emotions
changed without logic. MAybe you put in situations
where you were physically unsafe. Maybe you
have been in a relationship with someone who can’t
be relied on. There are a million things that create little
wounds that affect how we react to situations that may
or may not actually present danger. Fear keeps us from
fully enjoying our lives and our experiences, it prevents
us from taking chances to grow, it makes us push away
love and friendship and most of the time, like Apricot
we are running away from things that are only a danger
in our minds.

We cannot prevent all pain and for those of us who
have experienced a great deal of physical and emotional
hurt the fear of a recurrence can be disabling.
We have to start by making a commitment to identifying
the fear, once you see something for what it is,
the power to control is diminished. Then we have to
be willing take a risk and try something different than
what we have done in the past. Finally we have to be
willing to learn by looking honestly at ourselves, our
behavior and our lives: what am I doing over and over,
repeating a pattern that has no room for change; what
am I reacting to, is it the facts of the current situation or
the old story in my head; how can I protect myself from
danger without preventing myself from living my life.

Start small but make a commitment to doing something
new and different; the capacity to enjoy our lives
grows as we expand our participation with the world.
There may be something wonderful just around the
bend, sometimes we just have to get through the initial
fear in order to experience it.