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Seven Common Fears in Recovery (and Why Sobriety Is Still Worth It)

woman in recovery worryingNo one wants be addicted, but every addicted person faces fears of recovery. It’s not easy. It doesn’t matter what your addiction: alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, cocaine addiction or even sex addiction. Addiction recovery is a necessity for addicts who want freedom again, but it’s not a choice that is easy to make. And it isn’t easy to follow through with that choice and get to rehab. One of the most important factors holding people back (and maybe you) from going to rehab is fear. Not all addicts will admit to it, but many of the excuses for putting off rehab can be blamed on fear. But fear doesn’t end with rehab. Fear in recovery is real. Fear of a new life. Fear of being sober. Fear of the unknown.

Here’s the good news: Fear in recovery only masks the real freedom found when no longer enslaved to a substance. On the other side of your recovery fears is a fuller, more meaningful life.

Here are some of the most common fears in recovery and how to overcome them:

1. Fear of Withdrawal

It’s understandable that you might feel fear of withdrawal. After all, you’ve probably spent months or years avoiding the first hint of withdrawal symptoms. You always rush to get that next drink or hit before withdrawal really sets in.

When you stop using drugs or alcohol, you will experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. This can include physical withdrawal symptoms (e.g. aches and pains) and psychological withdrawals (e.g. strong cravings). Many addicts worry that withdrawals will be too painful to cope with. You may also doubt your ability to resist the urge to use again.

If that’s you, no matter your level of addiction, you should consider doing an inpatient medical detox. For certain substances and levels of addiction, this is a medical necessity. For example, severe alcohol withdrawal can be deadly without medical treatment. But even if it’s not medically necessary, it can make a difference on getting you through the detox successfully.

In a medical detox, a specialized drug team will be with you all of the way. They will provide you with round-the-clock care and supervision, ensuring that your physical and mental health is in good shape. Also, your treatment center’s team will be able to provide you with the most effective medication to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be intense, but with the right kind of treatment, you will find it much more manageable to deal with withdrawals than you imagined.

2. Fear of Sobriety

The fear of being sober is a very common fear in recovery. To outsiders it might sound like a fear of success, but the fear of sobriety is more about your feelings without substance abuse. After all, it’s been a long time since you were sober, and maybe your last experiences of sobriety were traumatic. That’s why you started using in the first place.

The truth is, you have been using drugs or alcohol to cope with your feelings and maybe even symptoms of mental illness. If you give substance abuse up, you’ll have to face those emotions and find a new way to cope. That is a very scary prospect. If you have been abusing substances to tamp down feelings, you are in for a boatload of overwhelming emotions as you come clean.

Get over your fear of being sober by facing it head on. Let yourself feel that fear, and you are already on the path to getting comfortable with your uncomfortable emotions. Remember that you will have caring professionals to back you up as you take your first sober steps. You will not be left alone to fend for yourself; you will be guided to use healthy coping mechanisms.

3. Fear of Failing at Sobriety

Maybe you’re ready—you’re practically desperate—to get sober and to change your life. You want to get to rehab. You want the help. But you’re afraid that you’ll fail. You’re afraid of relapsing. The idea of getting sober in rehab only to relapse on the outside is a frightening thought. Again, it’s a common fear in recovery.

What you should know is that almost all addicts seeking help have relapses. Most will stumble, but that doesn’t mean failure. It just means that you have to get up and try again. Working with a support group and a sponsor after you leave rehab is a great way to keep your sobriety intact.

Additionally, pursue an addiction treatment center that prioritizes relapse prevention. This will give you peace of mind. You’ll know you will be taught the tools to prevent a relapse and to deal with one if you do relapse.

4. Fear of Being Judged for Addiction

Addiction still involves a high degree of stigma. You probably feel ashamed about your struggles with addiction. One of your fears in recovery may also relate to thoughts about being judged when you enter a residential treatment facility. This is especially true if you’ve been able to hide your addiction up until now. How will you explain your absence to everyone?

You might even think that addiction rehab is all about shaming addicts with their addiction and trying to force them to quit. Yet, this is far from the way that drug rehab centers actually operate nowadays.

Your addiction rehab team will always endeavor to treat you with respect and without judgment. The most effective addiction treatment requires compassion, warmth and empathy. And this is the approach that your rehab team will take. Drug addiction specialists will always try to instill your recovery process with optimism and hope. They will help you to build self-confidence and allow you to realize the power you have to maintain sobriety.

Remember, an untreated substance addiction will grow. So if you’ve hidden your addiction well up until now, that’s not going to last. Eventually, other people will know you have a problem. Rather than waiting for them to find out after a terrible accident or losing your job, seek help now. You can choose how much to tell them about where you’re going and why. But if you do choose to talk about your addiction, it’s from a place of taking responsibility for it.

5. Fear of Rejection from Loved Ones

Another common fear in recovery is rejection from friends and family. You may think that your loved ones will think less of you or not want to be around you. The truth is they probably already know you have a problem. And if they care about you, they will support your choice to get help. Make a commitment to go to rehab and to get sober and impress upon your loved ones that you will need their love and support. Your true friends will not let you down.

The ones that might are your drinking and drug buddies. Their own addictions may prevent them from being excited about your change of lifestyle. That’s okay. Those aren’t the friends you need to be spending time with right now. However, your choice to get clean may one day be a part of their decision to do the same.

6. Fear of a New Life

Starting a new life can feel scary and overwhelming. Going from abusing drugs to living sober often involves major changes in your lifestyle. This can include moving in a new social circle, taking up new activities and leading a healthier lifestyle.

Maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to make new friends. If you gained many friendships as a result of getting high or drunk with others, you may worry that you won’t be able to form close bonds with others as a sober person. Thankfully, things don’t usually turn out that way. There are many ways to create new friendships without drugs and alcohol. This can include meeting people in support groups, adopting new hobbies, going to classes that interest you and pursuing a new career path.

Alternatively, you may think following a healthy lifestyle will be too challenging. The prospect of changing your habits completely can, indeed, seem quite daunting. However, addiction treatment involves support in this respect. During rehab, you can take up fitness classes, as well as engage in meditation, yoga, cooking, nutrition classes and art. By exploring healthy living during rehab, you will find it much easier to carry on with these positive habits in your regular life.

7. Fear of Losing Yourself

What’s your style? What makes you unique? If you’ve developed an identity tied closely to the drug scene, you might fear losing yourself outside that world. Losing your personal identity is a common fear in recovery. And it’s a reason you may be resisting the idea of going to rehab.

A common misconception of rehab is that by following the rules and going along with the program, you will be abandoning yourself and turning into a mindless drone. This fear in recovery is unfounded. You will change in rehab, but only for the better. Find a facility that emphasizes developing individualized plans that meet your particular needs rather than a one-size-fits-all treatment program. And don’t worry, your tastes and style are not actually tied to drugs. You’ll find your way, and you’ll be even more you without substances controlling your mind.

Fear in Recovery Isn’t Insurmountable

Overcoming fears in any situation is difficult, but when it involves a life change, it can be especially challenging. Face your fears of recovery, and talk about them with your loved ones. Then be prepared to work hard and to have setbacks. You will be ready to start your new, sober life.

Posted on September 16, 2012 and modified on July 15, 2019

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