My Greatest Fear


The title grabbed you, didn’t it?

People always like to hear about weakness, vulnerability, etc. because the common experience of struggle is one that connects the human experience. We understand it. We empathize. Because we all have those moments of fear that grab our hearts.

This past year has been full of so many wins for me personally and professionally. A new job, a move across the country, inching closer to attaining my doctorate, finding my inner athlete, and building a new community in Oregon.

While I celebrated those victories I was ending my marriage. After 13 years of being a couple I finally recognized that my partners’ alcohol addiction was not going to get better.

We tried everything. In-patient treatment programs. Medicine. Monthly medical shots. AA meetings. Therapy. We gave it all we had.

I walked away knowing it was the only way for me to stay healthy and whole.

Despite all of this, my nagging fear plagued me through all of it. The truth is, it rips my heart apart when I feel like I have let people down.

Call it Catholic guilt, “white girl problems”, a solidly Type A personality, etc. but I live my life in a way where I can minimize letting people down. I send out birthday cards a month in advance. I try to respond to calls and emails from loved ones within the same day. I say “yes” as much as possible. I do my best to be a good daughter, friend, and colleague.

And yet, while all this was crumbling around me I felt such profound shame for letting people down.

My failure list included:
My very Catholic, Italian family who were so excited that I (as the only female grandchild) had gotten married in front of our whole family in our neighborhood parish where I had made all of my sacraments since baptism.

My terrific in-laws who saw me as the key to their son’s sobriety. I have always shared such a special relationship with them and my decision to walk away has profoundly disappointed them.

I made vows. I wasn’t strong enough to keep them-I chose to leave. So I certainly know that I let down my partner and all those who witnessed our wedding.

All the female professionals who had ever told me that they admired how I could balance having a partner and aggressive career goals. I feel like I let every single one of them down, too.

I know what everyone will say after they read this–“You have nothing to feel bad about”, “You didn’t let these people down”, etc. I know what they are saying logically makes sense.

But I am still working on that disconnect between my heart and my head.

The one bit of clarity is that I now know is that to have stayed would mean that I would actually be letting myself down. And I wasn’t willing to add myself to the list.

I don’t know what the future holds but I am feeling good, hopeful, optimistic and strong again. I can’t guarantee that my greatest fear will ever truly dissipate but what I know for sure is that I won’t ever let fear prevent me from being happy.

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About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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21 Responses to My Greatest Fear

  1. erinkebert says:

    Incredible. Just amazing. You are so strong, and just remarkable. You have LONG been a great inspiration and friend to me…and I still see that amazing woman–almost more so–through the strength and vulnerability of this article. You are incredible. Parts of me identify with the addict part of this post; and I so deeply admire your ability to see that their recovery is not yours. A hard truth…but wow. You are so courageous. There is no doubt in my mind you will be on the othe side of this–stronger with an incredible story, and that very “AMK” way of encouraging all those around you.

    • Erin, thanks so much for your comments. You have a first-hand knowledge of what it takes to make choices that support your health and wellbeing. I am grateful for you and your support πŸ™‚

  2. Thank you for writing this. You will touch many people who can try to
    accept their humanity. I admire you, your strength and courage .

  3. Thank you fir writing this. Your experience will touch many. I admire your courage and spirit.

  4. THIS: “The one bit of clarity is that I now know is that to have stayed would mean that I would actually be letting myself down. And I wasn’t willing to add myself to the list.” I truly appreciate your willingness to share your story and remind us that strength sometimes comes when you let go as much as it does from pushing ahead.

  5. Thank you for sharing. There is true freedom in voicing your struggles and letting other in on the messiness of life.

  6. Lindsey Marx says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and experiences. You truly are an inspiration to so many. Sending some peace your way!

  7. Mary C. Jordan says:

    Ann Marie, Thank you for writing and sharing. You are courageous, and as always, you are a truly inspirational woman.

  8. Viraj Patel says:

    Ann Marie,

    I am continually humbled and inspired by you and your presence in my life. I thought for a while between sending you a private email versus responding over this blog, but then I realized I was doing exactly what you are talking about in your post- being afraid and feeling guilty.

    My father is a recovering alcoholic- this is something I never talked to my friends about growing up. The first time I mentioned it to my best friend since grade school was when we were 20- almost 5 years into my fathers sobriety. I didn’t even start exploring the impact it had/will always have on my life until graduate school- this journey has been a source of pain guilt and shame I see recurring and becoming more salient at different periods in my life. While my father has been sober for 10 years at this point, he is also a cancer survivor, immigrant, father, brother, son, primary provider for my family, and so much more- I always operate in some sort of anxiety that he can fall off the wagon at any moment. This is also a burden my mother has carried for the rest of her life and definitely feels her own guilt around for many different reasons. While we as a society rarely talk about alcohol addiction, it is even more rare to talk about the impact it has on a family, friends, and community. My cousin also recently passed away at the age of 27 due to physical complications from years of alcohol abuse- nobody even knew how much he was struggling in silence until it was too late. While I am blessed to have a nuclear family where we can talk openly about this journey, and my father has welcomed the support into his life, I have seen and felt the impact alcoholism has on families and communities and there is some sort of recovery process for them as well that can take decades, even a lifetime.

    I am grateful to you for sharing your story and your continued bravery- I know it is not easy to be vulnerable, open to judgment and to admit feelings of guilt or shame…and that it is a personal journey that nobody can dictate your emotions around. I wish you luck on your own continued wellness journey and send all my love to you.

    -Viraj

    • Viraj, you inspire ME with your bravery. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal story. When I first met you I was incredibly impressed by your strength. Now I can see all the ways in which you have had to be strong–for so many. Sending you so much love my dear friend… πŸ™‚

  9. Evan H. says:

    Anne Marie – thank you for sharing this story. You continue to inspire me through your words and actions.

  10. Ciji Ann says:

    Your courage in living & sharing this is beyond words. I wish you all the happiness life can bring AMK. You are a remarkably strong & brave shero.

  11. Dena Kniess says:

    You’re very brave, AMK! I admire you and don’t be hard on yourself :)!

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