When I’d been sober for two weeks, I had my first panic attack. I was in a store shopping with my brother. We had a full cart and I told him that I had to leave. He said that we’d check out and be on our way shortly, and I said I had to leave–“Now!” He thought I was having a heart attack and he sped through the main streets of our city, running red lights to get me home before I expired. I didn’t care; I was too into myself and this newfound fear. It had come out of the blue.
The next attack came three years later. What a shock! What happened to happy, joyous, and free? What was I doing wrong? I was working the AA program. I called my sponsor for guidance and he said, “You’re in luck!” He told me that I had an opportunity to find out even more about myself. After some outside work with a professional and a major Fourth and Fifth Step on fear, a lot more was revealed, about me and about what goes on in this head of mine.
Then this week, over six years into sobriety, another panic attack occurred–a big one. I went to work on a Monday and after two hours on the job I had to go home, filled with fear. Tuesday was the same–two hours into the shift and I was headed home. Wednesday I didn’t even bother driving in. I just gave up for the day, lay on my bed and cried. Racked with fear and depression, I prayed.
Now, one thing I always do at least once a day is ask my Higher Power for courage. I ask and then I wait. . .and ask and wait. So now I asked and I waited.
On Thursday morning I woke up, showered, and prepared myself for the day ahead. On the way to work the feeling of panic started coming over me again. Was I to endure this pain for a fourth day in a row? It had never lasted this long. What would they think of me at work? Then I remembered that I’d been praying very, very hard for something I always prayed for: courage. God’s courage. How did I know I didn’t have it? How did I know that he hadn’t granted my request? Maybe I already had God’s courage! My heart rate slowed as the panic started to flow out of me as slowly as it had started to rear its ugly head. I just kept smiling and saying, “Courage. . . God’s courage. . .” The last mile to work was a comfortable drive.
It worked just like that. If my friends in Alcoholics Anonymous have taught me anything it’s that action will change my thinking a lot better than thinking will change my actions. The action I took was believing that God had given me the courage to face another day of life and sobriety in relative calm.