By Holly Whitaker

On January 1, 2013, I rang in my new year in what I’d call the most pathetic state of affairs. I had spent the night before in, alone, opting to forego time with my friends  to instead work, smoke bowl after bowl, and drink. I’d been with my family for the week before and as always, it did me in big time. I had dragged myself back into town a few days before and as I ordered in my standard take-out fare for the evening and called my girls with whatever fucking excuse I could think of, I reasoned with myself.

I was recuperating.

I deserved it.

I’d not being doing it much longer.

Just tonight.

I had work to get caught up on.


I’d been reading some of Gabrielle Bernstein’s work for a time – I’d inhaled her first two books between Thanksgiving and Christmas – and for some reason I felt that she’d be the one to save me. Except…her self-help style wasn’t really made for a capricorn accountant. It was all over the place and lacked regimen. So when I woke up to my NYE aftermath that January 1 and prayed for something to save me (again…) – and opened my email to her newest work (May Cause Miracles), a 40-day step-by-step fear cleanse – I felt my prayers had been answered. I bought the kindle version on the spot. I gave myself one more day of sloth, and on January 2nd I started what would be one of the cornerstones of my healing process and a practice I return to again and again: uncovering my fears.

It was insane… I had spent my entire life literally running from these thoughts…knowing they existed, but never once stopping to actually identify them. They’d come up, and I’d either physically walk away (like I could run from my fucking mind?) or grasp for anything to stop them. Email. Alcohol. Coffee. Work. Chocolate. Food. Gossip. Netflix. Pot. Cigarettes. Shopping. Daydreaming.

I had in fact become so intolerant of my fear based thoughts that they had without me realizing it completely taken over the show.

So on the 2nd of January in 2013 I dusted off my journal, and as Gabby instructed began “witnessing my fears”. I won’t lie…the process was painful, and I spent the entire practice nearly vomiting. I knew I was scared of failing, I knew I was scared of what people thought of me, I knew I was scared of my relationship with alcohol, but until that moment of inventory taking, I hadn’t realized  HOW MUCH I feared these things, how near to the surface they were in my life, how many there were, and how much they directed my life. I was a fear shit show.

We often don’t realize how many fears we have, or how much we allow these fears to run our lives. Because they are uncomfortable. Because they are FEARS. Because it’s just so much more comfortable not going there. Because what can we do with them anyway?

What I discovered that day and what remains to be true is this: What we don’t own, owns us. And if we want to live a fearless, empowered, free, happy life, we must start owning our shit. Because you don’t slay dragons by pretending they aren’t in the cave.


Below is that list from that day. I share it today for a  few reasons. First, to assure you that you’re not more fucked up than I was. Second, to illustrate how severely possible great change is when we are ready to do the work.

Because of all 43, only a handful remain today. And of those that remain today, I’m cool with them. I know they are there, they know I know they are there, and I know they know I know they are there. And when power struggles arise, I always win.


  1. being alone – now and that I’ll end up this way
  2. being judged and what people think of me
  3. being exposed for imperfections – that people will figure out how pathetic I am
  4. Failing at anything
  5. not being able to muster the will to work/do my job
  6. hurting people
  7. not being able to control my anger and blowing up
  8. Not being able to control my behaviors
  9. Not being able to control my emotions
  10. I’ve caused permanent health damage
  11. I have cancer.
  12. I am not taking good care of my cat/I’ll kill my cat
  13. hurting my Mom
  14. not meeting my own expectations and how I will feel about myself when I don’t
  15. not sticking to things
  16. I’m terrified of feeling negative feelings and uncomfortable things
  17. that I have a substance abuse problem
  18. that I’m not good enough
  19. that I’ll never be okay or normal
  20. That I’m just inherently fucked up and different
  21. that I’ve gossiped and it will hurt someone or embarrass me
  22. that I’m selfish
  23. that I’m a bad friend
  24. that I’ll never be happy
  25. I’m not normal
  26. I am flawed and I will always struggle
  27. I’ll not meet my goals
  28. I’m a bad daughter and sister
  29. I’m a bad role model
  30. my life means shit
  31. that I won’t go through with this work on myself or my spiritual path
  32. I’m terrified of being rejected or abandoned
  33. that people won’t value me enough to want to help me or celebrate me
  34. I’m going to kill myself with my lifestyle; I’ll die young
  35. that I’m getting uglier and look old for my age
  36. total lack of confidence to ask for things because I feel inferior
  37. this ever present feeling of not being good enough for anyone to do anything for me
  38. that I have ADHD and will always be a mess
  39. that I am weak willed
  40. that I can’t live without pot or cigarettes or alcohol or binge eating and I will always be this way
  41. that I can’t stand idle time and I always have to drink through it
  42. that my mind will never turn off
  43. sick over how much I hate myself
    This post originally appeared on Hip Sobriety.

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