I can remember staring up at the night sky when I was 13 years old and feeling so small, like a tiny little ant in the world. When I thought about how big the universe was, I became consumed with anxiety. One of the biggest sources of fear that kept me in addiction for years was something I like to call philosophical fear. Since I was young, I was always a questioner of everything I learned about the world, science, spirituality, and religion.
Right around the time I was being confirmed in church, I was learning about astronomy and the Big Bang theory in an 8th grade science classroom. Suddenly, I began to question our existence and the thought that maybe everything was purely scientific after all. Maybe there was no God? My fear about this topic for me was so strong that I had to share it with someone before it swallowed me whole.
I can remember crying to my mother and confessing my deepest thoughts. She warmly assured me that God had a plan for me, and maybe I just needed to learn more in confirmation class to help me understand more. We grew up going to a Lutheran church and my mom always felt that it was important to have a sense of faith in God. What I didn’t realize was that my questioning nature would follow me into adulthood, through my addiction, and right into my journey of recovery. What I also didn’t realize is that it didn’t have to be a bad thing!
As time went by, drugs and alcohol came into the picture. I soon found myself at a college 500 miles away, feeling homesick, and alcohol was an instant way to cope. I was still battling my own inner demons along with the ultimate questions of the universe. For five more years I plummeted into my own version of outer space. I always made sure to distance myself from reality, but eventually the fear became too strong for the drugs and alcohol to numb out. It quickly became impossible to ignore the feeling of impending doom, and the panic was creeping back in, stronger than ever. I couldn’t keep running and I knew it was time to make a change. I decided to put down the drink and the drug.
This was singlehandedly the most important decision I have made in my entire life thus far. Once I decided to put down the drink and the drug, the world opened with opportunity. I was no longer shackled by my addictions and I was excited to start a new life. I attended AA meetings, spent quality time with family members and started meeting new sober friends and having fun again. I started to appreciate the time I had to connect with people that I would have never spoken to if I hadn’t been sober. On the outside, everything was going great. The world was my playground. I had a job, money, and close relationships with friends and family, but internally I was still a mess. I thought all my fears had disappeared with the drugs and the booze, but they remained. As I began attending more AA meetings, the second step – “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” – reminded me of the fear that plagued my childhood and adolescence. Why are we here?
The day I became sober was the first day I started facing this fear. As I trudged the road of recovery, I had moments in time when glimmers of spiritual magic flashed before my eyes. These were moments I would remember, moments that are engraved in my heart for life. I will always have an image that warms my heart: the smile of my 3-year-old cousin while we danced in the grass on our family camping trip, or the laughter with my mom while we searched for shells on the beach. I never had a moment where I knew for sure that God was listening or trying to tell me something, but I had a moment when the universe showed me that I didn’t have to be afraid anymore, and that is a miracle to me.
Last month, I was laying on a blanket staring at the night sky during a stargazing event. It was the darkest night of the month and you could see every star in the sky. Suddenly the fear melted away. There is nothing to be afraid of, I thought. I decided to change my perception about being a questioner. It is ok to ask questions. Sometimes, I may never find the answers. And that is beautiful. I decided to accept the wonder of it all.