Getting sober and tackling recovery is huge, scary, and overwhelming for all who take it on. It’s no wonder that the whole process, beginning to end, is wrought with many fears to accompany and contrast the big successes and triumphs. The process of recovery is ongoing, and will be a part of an individuals life for the remaining entirety of his or her days on this earth, and that can seem immense and insurmountable, even despite seeing others succeed and having much help and support along the way.
However, people do recover, and you certainly can, too. On your journey, it’s good to be aware of the potential fears you may encounter so you can be prepared for them and so that you may overcome them with strength and enthusiasm – even in those moments when everything appears to be far more difficult than you anticipated. You are not alone. These fears are common, and almost everyone experiences them. You can face them and succeed. This is part one of a two-part post, so read on to learn about several common fears, and look for Part Two coming up, as well.
Common Recovery Fears
Fear of Being Sober
The first and most obvious fear that people entering recovery often feel is the simple fear of being sober. As someone dependent on drugs or alcohol, it’s likely that you have not spent much time clean and sober and drug and alcohol-free over the past months or even years. It has become normal to you, and as a result, something so different can seem terrifying. Drinking and using drugs is a coping mechanism for many people who are addicted, and when that is removed, you may wonder how you will cope at all.
Luckily, any drug or alcohol rehabilitation counselor or program is very in tune to these feelings and emotions. They are there to support you, especially during your initial transition away from these substances. Many if not most drug and alcohol professionals have been through it themselves, and know how you feel. They can and will offer intensive support to you during this time. It won’t be easy, and you will struggle, but there is nothing to fear. Your first days will be difficult, but not impossible.
Fear of Change
Many people fear change in a wide variety of situations. It is stressful to relocate, start a new job, end or begin a new relationship, or to travel to a new destination – even if it is a planned and anticipated vacation. Any big life change at all can strike fear into the hearts of even the most well adjusted people, and it can be even more distressing for people who are less sure of themselves.
Beginning recovery is a gigantic change. Almost everything about your day-to-day life will change and that is a lot for which to prepare. However, keep your eye on the prize; remember that these changes are absolutely, completely, undoubtedly for the better – and actually are for the best. Focus on a clean and sober future. Even though it will be different, it will be beautiful.
Fear of Missing Out
Before your drug and alcohol abuse grew to where you are now, it’s likely it was also part of a lot of fun times. You went to bars and clubs, concerts, parties, and other events where drug and alcohol use was prevalent. You probably made a lot of friends through this shared interest, and experienced some great laughs while building fun memories. Now that you are no longer using drugs and alcohol, you likely are afraid that you will miss out on all of that. Life won’t be as fun anymore as it once was, and you won’t be able to participate in things you once loved immensely.
While it’s true that you will no longer be able to participate in drinking and taking drugs, it certainly does not mean that all the fun in your life is over. There are people of all ages all around the world who do not do these things (either people in recovery or people who have never used), and they have delightful and fulfilling lives. They are healthy, happy, and thriving – and you can be all those things too. You will find new things you love to do, and you will continue to do many of the things you used to do, too, but you will instead be clean, sober, vital, and fully present to experience them in a new and more wonderful way than ever before.
Fear of Embarrassment
The first step to recovery, as everyone knows, is admitting that you have a problem. This aspect of the process alone may seem terrible and overwhelming and the idea of doing so may have much fear surrounding it for you. Once you admit your problem, you have surrendered. In the moment, you may feel that you have acknowledged that you are weak, and you may feel like a failure in life. You let drugs and alcohol take over your being, and you were not strong enough to keep it in control. Therefore, seeking help and entering treatment may feel like a huge embarrassment for you. You may feel like everyone will know, and everyone will now talk about you behind your back. Further, you may feel that people will pity you, and no one likes that feeling.
Although you are correct in thinking that others will know (some will, and some won’t; who you decide to tell is really up to you) and that those who do know will be thinking of you, there is no reason to be embarrassed. Addiction is common; there are few people who do not know anyone who has been touched by it. Most people view addiction as a disease, and know that your decline was, in many ways, out of your control, and most will celebrate and support the fact that you are taking steps to get better and to break free of your addiction. People care about you and want to see you recover, and many of your loved ones will step up and will become your support system, too.
These recovery fears are shared by nearly all people in pursuit of recovery, so you are truly not alone. Recovery is something you undertake as an individual, but is also something that has been a part of the lives of so many. Support groups and addiction professionals are prepared to help you work through all of these fears. You seemly need to recognize and express them to those around you, and believe it or not, in time, and with some work and focus, they will magically dissolve and disappear. These fears above are only a few of the many fears that individuals in recovery may face; Fear is common in recovery, as it is an emotion that often accompanies change and challenge. Almost everyone encounters at least some fear when taking on a major life transformation of any kind, and getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is certainly exactly that by definition. If you have been a drug and alcohol user and abuser for much of your life, when you pursue sobriety, nearly every aspect of your life will change, and this can be unimaginable, causing deep-seated fear within you.
Even though fear is common, you don’t have to let it consume you, nor allow it to encourage you off your new clean and healthy path. In our previous post on this topic (LINK HERE TO PART ONE), we discussed some common fears of people in recovery, including the fear of being sober, the fear of change, the fear of missing out, and the fear of embarrassment. Now, in Part Two, we continue to examine potential fears and ways to deal with them. In all cases, it’s always best to seek support when you need it. Addiction professionals are all quite familiar with these fears – in many cases they overcame them themselves while recovering from their own addictions – and can help you face them and can teach you to work through them with relative ease.
More Common Recovery Fears
Fear of Unhappiness
Some people who enter recovery fear that even though they know that sobriety is the best thing for them, they will never be truly happy again. Drinking and doing drugs surely accompanied many great times in your life, and you may be wondering how you will ever celebrate anything again? Will things be completely boring? Will you ever truly laugh again?
Also, you may realize that substance abuse was a form of self-medication. Even though it lead to much sorrow, often took you down the wrong path, and negatively affected your health in many ways, these substances also helped to numb your pain and give you some glimpse at happiness. When drugs and alcohol are no longer a crutch that is available to you, how will you ever reach any semblance of happiness?
Never fear. Although you may, in fact, encounter some violent mood swings in the beginning, in time, your feelings and emotions will level out. The longer you stay sober, the more effectively you will repair yourself internally and the more you will return to normal. It may not work right away, but eventually you will enjoy intense joy and happiness like you have never felt before – and it will be more special to you because it will be real and genuine, rather than artificial. In the mean time, seek professional support to help you work through the flood of emotions and to help you learn first hand what normal actually is.
Fear of Loneliness
Fear of being alone is another major fear of people entering recovery. When getting sober from drugs and alcohol, there is a good chance you will have to move away from some people or entirely leave them behind. Friends who encourage your continued drug and alcohol abuse are of no help to you in your recovery journey, and they can, in fact, quickly put you right back where you started. Further, your substance abuse problems may cause some people to move away from you, leaving you with feelings of abandonment.
The fact of the matter is, when you were an active drug and alcohol abuser, some people may have already moved away from you due to your behavior anyway. In some cases, you may have not even noticed. In other situations, you may have noticed and not cared. The fact that you may lose some friends during the recovery process can certainly be upsetting, but those who truly love and care for you will support you all the way. Further, you will meet new and amazing people not only alongside you in recovery, but you will also likely make new, rewarding connections with others in the greater world now that you are clearheaded and are easier to befriend. Hang in there; there will be dark days, but if you stay the course, you will quickly and surely feel the light as well in time.
Fear of Success
It seems counterintuitive or even crazy to fear success – that’s what you’re after, after all, isn’t it? However, many of us are self-defeating, and don’t believe we even deserve success and happiness. This can result in self-sabotage, putting the finish line farther and farther away time and time again. Doubt against ourselves and our happiness can be very detrimental, but know that this fear is also very common and is natural for many.
To overcome the fear of success, focus must be placed on the here and now. Breathe through your fear and be mindful of the present, while remembering the recovery mantra of staying sober one day at a time. Don’t look ahead far into the future too much. Instead, focus on today, and staying sober today, and not using today, and quickly the todays will add up, and you will be well on your way to success almost without even realizing it.
Fear of Failure
Certainly, the fear of failure is on almost everyone’s minds in all aspects of our lives every day, but it is especially prevalent in the early days, months, and weeks of recovery for all who attempt it. You have accepted and admitted that you have a problem, and that puts you in a very vulnerable and wide-open place. Obviously you are trying to remedy your problems and turn your life around, which is good, but what if you can’t do it? What if you are not strong enough? What if you start using again? What if everyone finds out and you disappoint them? What if you disappoint yourself?
These are all very real and very valid fears. Although you are on the right track and have all the support you need, it is indeed possible that you will fail. At the very least, it is possible that somewhere along the way you will have a slip or even a full-blown relapse. But remember, even those things are not failure. They are just bumps in the road. It is only failure if you give up entirely. If you stand back up, brush yourself off, and continue working on your recovery even after using again, you are not a failure, you are just a work in progress. Keep up the good work.
Fear of Self
The final and perhaps scariest fear you may encounter along the way is fear of yourself. This seems like an odd emotion but it is true for many. This can manifest itself in several different ways. First, when giving up drugs and alcohol, you may be afraid that you are giving up your identity. You may feel that you are no longer the same person without these substances, and if you are not a drug and alcohol user, then who are you? Or, you may be afraid of the person you are inside your head without the presence of these substances. You may be afraid to get you know yourself and to face the demons you have been keeping at bay with your substance abuse. Unfortunately, for 12-16% of people in recovery, addiction is one half of a dual diagnosis, and breaking free of your addiction may mean that you have to begin work on other mental health issues you have been treating, hiding, or covering up entirely while using.
These fears are all valid. However, they are nothing you cannot work through in time and with help and support. As for giving up you identity, you will still be you – in fact, when you are drug and alcohol free, you will quickly become a better version of you. Any fear you have of the you that is inside your head can be worked through and overcome with the help of a professional counselor or therapist, further assisted by habits such as meditation and journaling. If you need treatment for a co-occurring disorder, this is your big chance to get it, and it will be much easier to heal and treat now that drugs and alcohol are out of the way. The fear of self can be a huge thing to overcome, but just like all the other fears above, know that you are not crazy, that even this strange fear is quite common, that you are not alone, and that this too is something you can work through and come out stronger beyond it.
All of these fears are real and due to their reality they are valid. You should never feel silly admitting your fears; in fact, admitting them is the only way you can overcome them. Fear is similar to addiction in this way. You must recognize the things that are holding you back and only then can you work to combat them. Evaluate your fears, list them, think on them, and then work with your addiction recovery specialists to develop strategies to embrace them and then abolish them. This, too, is a part of the recovery journey, for all who attempt a walk on the clean and sober path. You can do it. Good luck.
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