Fear of death has had a huge influence on my life. I can clearly remember the first time that thoughts of death entered my thinking. I’m not sure what age I was at this time but it was certainly before reaching ten years old. I would lay awake at night terrified and angry at the unfairness of it all. For a few years I embraced Christianity but by the age of fourteen I’d given up on this – it just didn’t make much sense to me. I really wanted to believe in a heavenly afterlife but it just felt a bit unlikely. For a long time after this I felt that Christianity had let me down, and my disappointment turned to anger – I became a punk and would sneer at people who believed in Jesus. The nights lying awake afraid of death returned with a vengeance.
During my early teens I began practicing martial arts and this brought me in touch with meditation and eastern thought. I found a way of thinking that seemed to offer a solution to my fears and best of all the teaching of the Buddha and Taoism made sense to me. Disruptions in my life knocked me off this path and it was then that I found alcohol. Drink seemed to offer an easy solution to life’s worries and for a while it did remove my concerns about death and the meaning of life. This solution was only temporary though; it led to things becoming even worse than ever.
During the lowest point of my addiction my fear of death took a strange turning; I became suicidal. This might seem odd but I realised that it was the powerlessness of death that really worried me; the fact that it all could be taken away at any second. This was the same year when Kurt Cobain committed suicide and to my crazy mind at the time his actions made him a hero – he had taken the power back and given the finger to death. This suicidal time lasted about a year, but somehow I got out of it – many other people didn’t.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to my recovery from addiction has always been fear of death and the meaning of life. I would get sober for long periods of time but then the thought would enter my head, ‘what is the point?’ The things that other people view as success don’t really impress me and just leave me feeling unsatisfied. What is the point of having a nice job, nice possessions, and money in the bank if this can all be taking away from you at any second? These things do not satisfy me for long. When I’m sober I’ve always been able to achieve a lot. I once went the begging on the streets to university and a respected profession. The fear of death though would eventually take away a lot of the joy from my accomplishments.
I finally gave up alcohol for good just over four years ago and things changed. There have been many examples of outward success in my life since that time, but the real success has come from inside. There is often a feeling of peace, and things are becoming clearer to me as time goes by. I now have a definition of success that means something to me. I do not judge my success on my possessions or notoriety but instead on peace of mind and the ability to face death without fear when the time comes – in my view it is only people who have these things that are successful. I have also found that my search to find the meaning of life was going nowhere; the real objective is to find a path that gives life meaning. The idea that I can find some type of ultimate truth seems folly to me now; it is better to choose something that is a bit more practical in nature. I can now respect people of all religions and belief systems; if what they hold true provides happiness in their lives and eases their fear of death then this has to be a good thing.