Much like most people I was captivated by each one of those characters as they appeared on the screen: wholesome Dorothy, the brainless scarecrow, our tin man looking for a heart, even sweet little Todo tugged at my heartstrings. But if I’m completely honest, even as a child, I judged that poor cowardly lion. Despite the fact that I could totally relate to his fears, I initially thought “oh what a scaredy cat!” As I got older and after watching many reruns of the movie, I realized how unfair that was. Similar to how we may see the cowardly lion as children, people struggle to understand anxiety and how crippling it can actually be for many people.
Working as a therapist I see people from all walks of life battle anxiety. Webster’s defines anxiety as an “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill.” Essentially it is worrying about something that has not happened yet and the underlying assumption that it will turn out negatively. We all struggle with this on some level so it isn’t hard to connect to this feeling. But when it reaches a point where you cannot engage in social situations, attempt any new experience or even leave the house, this is where it’s a little more difficult to relate. The individuals I see in treatment have varying forms of anxiety that can inhibit their ability to focus or even remain in treatment to get the valuable help they need. They are experiencing anxiety and withdrawals symptoms, they are in a whole new environment sharing a space with strangers, and their routines are completely unlike what they are used to back home. So imagine that lion again and those feelings he has when seeing things he’s never seen before and assuming danger where there isn’t. Imagine meeting new people and not knowing if he can trust them or not. I bet you can imagine wanting to run the other way yourself or cower in fear with nowhere to go. In the past, our clients chose drugs or alcohol or both to quell these fears. In treatment they are learning new ways to cope so that they can find the courage to overcome those fears.
In the Faith in Recovery program, one of those ways to cope is prayer. I have seen and continue to see many clients use prayer as a source of support, strength and peace to make it through their toughest days dealing with anxiety. It serves as a way to ground them so they don’t get too caught up in a future that hasn’t happened yet or a past that they cannot change. Through their faith, clients are able to hand their worries over and find comfort in knowing that regardless of the outcome they are able to make it through challenging situations and be a better and stronger person as a result. Combined with other tools we educate them on such as deep breathing, visualization or imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness techniques, prayer gives comfort and calm to those who battle with worried thoughts and provide hope to overcome their fears. No matter if clients are experiencing social anxieties or feel panic over whether or not they can maintain their sobriety for the long term, using prayer continues to act as a tether allowing clients to feel secure in their lives and in their future.
Even now when I watch the Wizard of Oz, I’m still mesmerized at how we are transported to such a colorful world. But now I’m able to see that despite some of the dangers and scary creatures that did exist there, there was good in it as well. I see the hope threaded throughout that film and I can’t help but correlate that with the faith we all need to walk through our lives not knowing what to expect. And I’m also able to see that the cowardly lion IS me…he’s all of us really. And with a little compassion, hope and faith maybe we can ourselves gain the courage he finally “earned” in the end, the courage that lay within him all along.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” - FDR