Everyone is afraid of something but overcoming fears in recovery can mean the difference between life and death. We know that sounds very broad and exaggerated but it’s true. In 2011, 21.6 million people needed treatment for addiction and only 10 percent received some kind of specialty treatment. In contrast, more and more people are dying every year due to overdose or other reasons related to substance misuse.
This can largely be attributed to fear and more specifically, the stigma of addiction.
Stigma is a public health issue — it contributes to high rates of death, incarceration, and mental health concerns among dependent population. 1
How to Overcome the Most Common Fears in Recovery
We cling to our fears because it makes us feel safe. However, the longer you hold on to your fears the longer your addiction can keep it’s hold on you. If you’re ready to face your fears – great. If you’re not, that’s okay, too. No one can convince you that you shouldn’t be afraid. You have to do that. What you can do right now is gain a better understanding of your fears and how overcoming them can bring you one step closer to long-term recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Let’s dig in.
Note: You can overcome your fears and reach addiction recovery. But you can’t do it alone. You’re going to need support from other recovering addicts and a strong addiction treatment program.
Fear of Drug or Alcohol Withdrawal
Withdrawal (or being “dope sick”) is not a pleasant experience. In fact, it’s reputation for being so unpleasant is what keeps many people in active addiction. For most people, it’s a terrible stretch of days filled with a myriad of withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms like nausea, cold sweats, delirium, vomiting, muscles cramping, as well as anxiety and/or nervousness. Just to name a few. You lose control over your body. All you can think about is dope, how you can get it, who you can get it from. Dope sickness challenges your entire self, physically, emotionally, and mentally. You’re not going to feel great. But here’s the thing, you don’t feel great in active addiction either. Sometimes things have to get a little worse before they get better.
How to Overcome Fear of Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol abuse is depicted in the media in the form of horror stories that can make you feel like you won’t be able to handle it. While we aren’t saying it will be easy, with the help of a medically supervised detox, the most difficult withdrawal symptoms will be eased. Besides, most symptoms last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours (although some, particularly with opioid withdrawal, can last up to one month). It might seem like a lifetime to you now but once you’re done you’ll realize that in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that much time.
Fear of Wreckage
After you break through the dope sickness, there is an array of emotional challenges that will follow, including facing the wreckage that your addiction left in your wake. The people that you hurt, the questionable things you said or did when you were high, the emotional baggage that you now carry is so apparent. It’s staring you in the face and it’s not easy to look at. The more you push it off and think, ”I will just get to it later when I’m more ready” the more it just piles up.
How to Overcome Fear of Wreckage
The silver lining here is the calm after the storm. Think of it this way, you can start again – fresh. Life has handed you a clean slate that you can start over with and build the life you have always wanted.
Fear of Change
In your addiction, you were comfortable – it was familiar and felt like home. You used so that you could live from day to day and in your mind the drugs helped you to stay sane. Now, without it you inevitably have to accept that change is in order. Change is scary for anyone, addiction or no addiction, but change can be good. People live their whole lives without accepting it, but the longer you hold back the longer you stay right where you are.
How to Overcome Fear of Change
Since change is intangible, you can’t see it or touch it, which makes it even harder to believe in. Try to create a vision for the change you want to see in your life. Write in a journal or create a visual mood board that you can see and reference every day to remind you of what you have to look forward to.
Fear of Loss
Giving up your addiction can feel a lot like losing a friend or breaking up with a boyfriend. Albeit, a co-dependent and toxic friend, but one that has been there for you nonetheless. You did everything together, and nothing apart. You also have to learn to live without your IRL using friends. Learning to live without your addiction is scary for this very reason and is one of the biggest reasons that addicts fear getting better.
How to Overcome Fear of Loss
Any friend who ditches you or gets mad at you just because you want to go sober or clean, isn’t a friend worth stressing over. It will be sad to lose your friends and your addiction. However, what you will get in their place is so much more rewarding. The more room you make for healthy and happy relationships in your life, the happier you will be.
Fear of Feeling
Your emotions and pain have been numbed. Anything that ever happened to you, you just drank, shot, and smoked it all away. Take the drug and alcohol abuse out of the equation and all these feelings start taking over. The more you sober or clean up, the more the feelings you feel and it’s overwhelming to say the very least.
We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions. ~ Brené Brown2
How to Overcome Fear of Feeling Again
It’s going to happen and you can’t stop it. You are stronger, braver, and smarter than you think you are. Just feel the feelings and take a step forward anyway. Reaching out to a support group, counselor, or sponsor can help you navigate these feelings without compromising your recovery.
When you share, you can help someone who is in a dark place find the light to their path of recovery. If you are in recovery, we want to know about your experience with fear and how you overcame it. Share with us in the comments below.
If you or a loved one is ready to conquer fears in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, call 818.666.3083 today to start your path of recovery.