Getting sober is a significant life change. It’s up there with getting married and changing careers. The decision to get sober affects every facet of one’s life, and as a result, can invoke fear in those who are considering sobriety. In fact, this fear is precisely what keeps people from getting sober, or it may delay the decision to get help for many months or years. Certainly, recovery is not an easy journey, but those who have done it are thrilled and grateful they did. Recovery might be compared to climbing a mountain. Along the way there may be challenges, dangers, and setbacks, but once you reach the top, you feel fulfilled and joyful and experience a sense of accomplishment. For most people, the journey of sobriety is well worth the challenges.
Yet, before one begins and along the way, there may be fear. When a person feels fear, it’s common to not really recognize its cause. The emotion of fear can stay illusive and even unconsciously prevent someone from moving forward. However, when given some attention, it becomes clear that there are many causes of fear. When it comes to recovery, there are different types of fears that get in the way of seeking help. These are:
Fear of Change – Getting sober for most people means finding new ways to cope with life. Recovery will include learning new skills and coping tools in order to avoid using drugs and alcohol as a means to cope. The process of learning new ways to manage emotions and challenges can be an uncomfortable one. Some might fear whether the hard work of change and learning new skills will not be worth the prize of sobriety. However, staying stuck in the fear of change will commonly keep someone stuck in addiction
Fear of Failure – When a person enters recovery, usually he or she has an expectation of sobriety. And its common that a person’s supporters will be happy to know that their loved one is in recovery. However, what if there is a relapse? This might mean a significant disappointment, not only in oneself but also friends and family might feel disappointed. And disappointing others can inspire other uncomfortable feelings. In fact, this might only exacerbate the need to use drugs or drink to feel better. This feeling of failure has affected many recovering addicts. However, it should be noted from the beginning that a person might relapse. On average, a person in recovery relapses three times before they achieve long-term sobriety. And relapse can be used as a tool to strengthen one’s commitment to recovery.
Fear of Success – What if a person actually succeeds in staying sober? What will happen then? What kind of life will a person have? The fear of the unknown – even if it is a positive one – can significantly place burdens upon someone from the start. For other people, the idea of succeeding interferes with their long held belief in not deserving success and well being. And for this reason, they may unconsciously sabotage the success they’ve achieved.
These are common fears that a person might have either before or during recovery from addiction. It’s important to recognize those fears will exist regardless and that the only way to overcome them is to face them. Nelson Mandela once said:
The brave man is not he who feels afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
If you’re feeling fear about getting or staying in treatment, contact a mental health professional to assist you. He or she can help you process that fear and conquer it.
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