For someone who is addicted, there is a lot of fear about recovery. Even for people who have been in recovery for a long time, they can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Being afraid is quite common in recovery, and most people share the same fears. We’re here to tell you something:
It’s okay to be afraid.
But don’t let your fears stop you.
Recovery is not easy, as it brings forth a number of challenges, and fear can make it even more difficult. The many fears of sobriety are often the reasons why some people don’t want to seek help in the first place. And then in recovery, it is not unusual for these fears to grow and new ones to come.
As your mind clears and you sober up, the fears that may have been hidden in the back of your thoughts will likely become more prominent. This is normal, and a challenge that nearly everyone faces in recovery. Fortunately, this is not a bad thing, as facing your fears can strengthen your newfound sobriety.
However, fears can also impede or sabotage your recovery. This is why it is important to understand them and learn to deal with them. Therapy is a critical component in rehab for this very reason. It is there to help you deal with the challenges you will face.
The Fear of Sobriety
It is normal to fear the unknown, and sobriety can seem like greatest unknown of all. This is especially true if you’ve been using alcohol and drugs for a long time, because substances have become your new norm.
Now that you’re sober, you don’t know what the future will bring, and that is a scary thought for anyone.
The good news is that you are not alone. If you speak up, you will find that almost everyone else in recovery with you has the same fears as you. Of these five common fears, which ones are you thinking of now?
Fear of the Future
Now that you are sober, things will change. How? Nobody knows. Some people see the benefits right away, while others will struggle with a few challenges before they see the light.
If your days revolved around substances before, you may be asking yourself what you’re going to do with your free time now? People with addictions often are too preoccupied with their bad habits to make plans or think about future goals.
You might also think that life will be boring from now on. No more parties, no more going out with friends, no more crazy adventures. If you don’t want this to be true, it doesn’t have to be. Many people in recovery learn to enjoy social engagements without alcohol or drugs. You can too.
Sobriety is far from boring. In fact, it opens up many opportunities. The money you spend on drinks and drugs can now be put into a new hobby. The days you were in bed hungover will be much more productive. There are some people that have neglected school or work because of their addictions. Being free from them will allow you to focus on getting ahead in life.
This is your chance. Remember when, as a kid, you were asked what you wanted to be when you grow up? Try that again.
Recovery will undoubtedly change your life. Even though it doesn’t seem that way right now, it will change it for the better. Being sober gives you a whole new control over your life that you may not have ever had before.
Fear of Abandonment
The fear of losing close friends or even family is a major issue for those in recovery. In fact, many women, for this very reason, are hesitant to seek treatment in the first place. This can be partially true, as rehabilitation will teach you to remove toxic people from your life.
If your social circle is toxic, breaking it is actually important if you’re seeking long-term recovery. Sure, you may have a long history with your buddies and you think you’ll never find fun friends like that again. However, if they have been pushing you to drink or do drugs despite the negative consequences, do you really need friends like that?
Most people in recovery find that for each person they lose, they gain a replacement. Certainly, your current social circle may shatter slightly, but you’ll find that it won’t be tough to make new friends.
Have doubts? For some people, drugs or alcohol have become central to their identity. If that is taken away, who will they be? Perhaps before you were the life of the party and now you think you’ll be boring and boring people don’t make friends.
If this is your fear, you have admitted to using substances to change who you are. You do not need that stress for the rest of your life.
Sobriety will uncover the real you, and that version is far better because it is authentic. It may take time, but eventually you will meet people who love you for who you are. The best part is that these new friends will be for life.
Fear of Facing Challenges
Life isn’t always easy, and as you sober up, you may face the mistakes you’ve made over time. You may also face new challenges. For many people, alcohol or drugs have served as a coping mechanism. So now, you may be wondering how you will cope now.
Furthermore, as you sober up, your emotions may get stronger. Before, you were hiding behind a foggy alcoholic or drug-infected brain. Now you have to face reality.
Fortunately, this is another place where therapy comes into play. In preparation for after care, you will learn how to cope with depression or anxiety without the need for substances. This is also why in Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the steps involves making amends for your past mistakes. The sooner you address them, the sooner they will stop haunting you.
Of course, this is not always possible. Some mistakes can be apologised for but not undone. But, now you’re a new person, and you have the opportunity to leave the past behind you and start fresh. The world is your oyster.
Fear of Success
Although this seems like a paradox, the fear of success is actually a common fear. Many people in recovery suffer from low self-esteem. This means that somewhere in the back of their mind, they don’t think they deserve a better life.
Negative thoughts like these can come from many places. Perhaps you were raised in an invalidating environment or perhaps your depression is a product of drug and alcohol use. Unfortunately, this thought pattern often leads to self-sabotage. People use it as an excuse to relapse.
No matter what you’ve done in the past, you have to remember that you are now free and a new person. Over time, sobriety will help you see things more clearly. You deserve happiness just like anyone else.
Fear of Failure
Relapse is probably the number one fear for those in recovery. Especially if you’ve had a history of trying and failing at sobriety, you likely worry that you’ll fail again. This fear of failure tends to grow as recovery progresses. As you praise yourself for coming this far, you’re also scared that you’ll undo every effort.
Many people think that relapse is failure. It is not. In fact, it can be a benefit in recovery. It is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and make appropriate amends. Many people relapse during recovery, and those people still achieve abstinence.
Overcoming Your Fears in Recovery
It is important to address these fears as they can make your recovery more challenging. Not only do they cause undue stress, they can be unmotivating and prevent you from taking action to change your life. They can even be an excuse to give up and relapse.
However, facing and overcoming your fears is a large part of recovery and will only strengthen it. If you find your mind occupied with ferrying thoughts, try the following:
Acknowledge Your Fear
Remember how the first step in addressing addiction is admitting that you have one? This is no different than that. By acknowledging your fear, you admit that you have a problem and now you can do something about it. You can’t address your fears if you ignore them.
Focus on the Benefits
A lot of the fears people have in recovery are tied into fears about the future. You don’t know what to expect, who you’ll become, who will be by your side, how you’ll face old or new challenges, and you don’t know if you’ll even recover at all. It may seem cliche, but it is always important to look at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty.
Keeping a positive outlook can come a long way, but now is more important than ever to focus on the benefits instead of the negatives. You don’t know what the future will bring, but it may be a pleasant surprise. You don’t know who you’ll become, but you will likely discover a whole new (and better) you. Maybe you don’t know how you’ll face the challenges that are to come, but even in the worst case scenario, you’ll come out a stronger person. And of course, you don’t know if you’ll relapse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try again.
Whether it is happiness or misery, sharing is never a bad thing. Opening up about your fears can help a lot and is also emphasised in therapy.
Sharing your worries helps unload the tension you hold. If you talk to a trusted friend or therapist, they may even offer some advice that can help.
Speaking out about your anxieties can also help you analyse the situation. Expressing your thoughts out loud and having a conversation may help you become aware that your fears are far more exaggerated in your mind.
Sharing in group therapy can also help you realise that, most likely, everyone in that same room has had, or still has, those very same thoughts. This can ease your anxiety because you will no longer feel alone. Not to mention, people who have overcome these fears can tell you their story and give you motivation that you can do it as well.
Imagine Your Perfect Life
They say that it is not the vacation itself that people enjoy, but the anticipation of one. Planning ahead unleashes your imagination. You don’t know where you’ll go, where you’ll stay, or what you’ll do when you get there. Apply the same principle by imagining your perfect life in recovery.
Who do you want to be when you’re sober? Don’t overwhelm yourself, but do set some goals, both short-term and long-term. Do you want to pursue a new career, do you want to bond with your family, do you want to hike through the Himalayas?
Having goals is highly motivating in recovery, so take some time to think about how your life can change (in a positive way) once you are free from alcohol and drugs.
Fear Not, For Anything is Possible
Whether you are is thinking about sobriety, in recovery, or has been abstinent for a long time, these common fears can come to haunt you. In this moment, it is important to be courageous and not a coward. Face your fears instead of running away from them.
The future may be unknown but it doesn’t mean that it won’t end well. People who have achieved and maintained their sobriety say that it has been their greatest achievement. The ultimate high in their life.
There is nothing more motivating than that.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | July 27, 2021