To people who have never struggled with addiction, the idea that anyone would fear sobriety might seem odd. Isn’t it abundantly clear that substances are the biggest barrier to an addicted person’s happiness? Why don’t they just stop using?
Not That Simple
Addiction is a disease, and to go through detox and then learn to sustain recovery can feel intensely overwhelming. Major life changes are required to go from active addiction to successful recovery, and the fear of change can make the process even more difficult.
In his blog post on Psych Central, Dr. David Sack lays out some common fears that people who are addicted might experience about recovery:
- Never being able to drink/use again – With addiction, substances are integral to your routine. Sobriety will require a complete restructuring of your life, and that is pretty terrifying. This is why “one day at a time” is such a common recovery mantra. Getting through one day feels more manageable than staring down years on end.
- Failure – Relapses are common in recovery, and the threat of relapse can be frightening. Relapse can feel like failure and make the whole sobriety goal seem hopeless. It helps to think of relapse as a learning opportunity–a chance to check in with yourself and, ideally with the help of a treatment center or therapist, create a better recovery plan.
- Success – When a person doesn’t believe they deserve success, they tend to self-sabotage. Fear of success can lead to relapse. This is why continued therapy and support throughout the recovery process is essential.
- Rejection – A person who is beginning their recovery journey may be afraid that they will lose the people they consider friends because those “friends” are still actively using. They may also fear having to face the ways in which their addiction has damaged relationships with family or friends.
- Loss of Identity – Leaving substances behind may feel like a person is leaving behind a part of themselves. A person who spent nights out partying and using substances may have to redefine how they have fun, who their social network is, and what they value. They may not be sure who they are without their drug of choice.
How to Help
By understanding that recovery can be scary, you are better able to support people you care about. This alone is a valuable gift. If you would like to do more to support a loved one who is fearing life in recovery, our partners at The Ranch at Dove Tree offer the following suggestions:
- Help them determine/remember why they want to be sober.
- Be ready to listen.
- Support them in getting professional help, not just for the addiction itself, but also for any underlying issues, such as trauma, physical pain, or unmet mental health needs.
- Help them build a strong support system of people who will love them but not enable them.
- Encourage them to name their fears and then process those fears in a recovery group, with their sponsor, or in therapy.
- Give them hope. The Huffington Post posted the first hand account of a person in recovery. She says, “I love the person I am becoming. It’s a process and I am far from perfect. I make mistakes but today, they are my mistakes, not alcohol’s. And since alcohol is no longer my solution, I know how to deal with my mistakes and make them right…I am comfortable in my own skin. I can talk to anyone about anything and not break out into a mad sweat…I experience feelings in all their sadness and in all their glory. I am content and I have peace. I live simply. I surround myself with positive people who actually love me for me, flaws and all.”
We Are Ready to Help
If you love someone who seems to fear getting sober, we understand. Safe Harbor Recovery Center welcomes guests from all walks of life. We are ready to help you or a loved one overcome your fears and begin a journey to a joyful and healthy life in recovery.