Fear of Facing Reality and addiction treatment

Overcoming Fear in the Early Stages of Addiction Recovery

It is natural to be scared when contemplating recovery; if you aren’t apprehensive, nervous, or downright petrified, it means that you don’t care. Fear is a sign that you are ready to meet the unknown and face life soberly.

Most recovering addicts experience fear when they pass through the doors of a treatment center. It isn’t just one fear; you will have to face quite a few fears as you take your first steps on the road of recovery.

These fears stay with you until you confront them, but luckily, many recovering addicts have faced these same types of worries and can help you. Here are some of the most common fears addicts face in addiction recovery’s early stages and how to overcome them.

Fear of Withdrawal

The fear of physical repercussions when you quit drinking or using drugs is genuine and should not be diminished. The thought of withdrawal symptoms is enough to keep many addicts in the throes of their addictions.

Most recovering addicts face a few days to a week of some terrible withdrawal symptoms, like cold sweats, delirium, body aches, hallucinations, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and high-grade anxiety.

Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and some can even be life-threatening, especially if you have other health issues or have been using drugs or alcohol for a long time. It’s essential to have medical supervision during your withdrawal, and there are tools you can use to help get you through them. Medically Assisted Treatment therapy helps addicts break their addictions with supervised detox that uses medicine to alleviate some withdrawal symptoms.

Along with a team of professionals to supervise you and help you through your withdrawal, there are even MAT implants that can support you over a more extended period of several months.

As you face one of the most substantial fears of recovery – fear of withdrawal – it helps to know that you have support. You don’t have to do it alone, and there is medical technology that can help lessen the physical symptoms. If nothing else, keep in mind that withdrawal is finite; it will end, and you will feel better.

Fear of Change

Addiction is comfortable. In a disjointed way, addicts often feel that drugs or alcohol help them cope with complicated feelings better, but this is a lie that your addiction tells you to keep you hooked.

During addiction, you may feel as if you are in control and taking care of some of the emotional baggage that drove you to drink and use in the first place, but most often, the drugs and alcohol are merely masking the pain.

Everyone is uneasy with change. People like feeling comfortable and familiar with their surroundings and perspectives, and changing those can be terrifying. It is especially unnerving to change yourself. You may feel as if you don’t know yourself well anymore, and the fact is, you are probably right.

It helps to consider that, through recovery, you can evolve into a better version of yourself. Yes, change is difficult, but change is also an integral part of life. In nature, change is constant, and those organisms that do not adjust do not survive.

Try and think about this transformative time of your life as the next exciting step in your evolution.

Fear of Facing Reality

Those who are actively using and abusing alcohol or drugs tend to make messes wherever they go. This could mean physical messes, but more often, this refers to emotional and mental messes.

One of the fears that may be haunting the newly recovered addict is the thought of having to face the wreckage that you may have created while using. You may dread talking to family members and loved ones who have dealt with the difficulties of loving an addict for years.

You may not just be afraid of the pain of facing the repercussions of abhorrent behavior. It may be shame or humiliation of how you’ve acted when high or drunk that you’re scared of facing now.

Many recovering addicts want to put off facing these emotional traumas until they are stronger and, they think, more capable. Unfortunately, this often leaves some of the recovery work undone, and much of the time, this emotional baggage continues to pile up if you ignore it.

Fear of Sobriety

Addicts use drugs and alcohol to cope with trauma, loss, and mental or emotional challenges. Without these crutches to fall back onto, a newly sober person must learn to cope all on their own, and this, for many, is a scary prospect.

Facing issues without drugs or alcohol is uncomfortable and awkward for many recovering addicts. However, as with most things that you are afraid of, once you look at them, really look at them, they tend to be not as frightening.

Being brave is not about never being afraid; it’s about being scared and forging ahead anyway. If you’re unsure how to face reality or feel it is just too overwhelming, try doing one small thing. A small step takes as much bravery as many.

Reach out to someone you think may be supportive, see your therapist, or attend a meeting. Support from other recovering addicts and professionals is essential as you navigate your new reality. They are crucial components of recovery that can advise you to rebuild relationships, confront your traumas, and find new social activities.

Fear of Success

You may not have considered this particular anxiety because it may seem counterintuitive. Many people, especially those struggling with addiction issues, don’t feel they deserve happiness or success in their lives.

An addict may not consciously attempt to self-sabotage their recovery. Yet, feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt can derail even the most substantial effort to break free from addiction chains.

Fear is an emotion that often centers on the unknown. Many fear what they don’t understand, and when you have been actively using and drinking for an extended period, it is hard to imagine life without drugs or alcohol.

Instead of dwelling too much on the future, try and recenter yourself in the present. Look at the present day and what you’ve accomplished thus far, no matter how inconsequential.

Even a small step is a step farther away from addiction’s labyrinth and a step towards a happier, healthier lifestyle. You do deserve success and happiness. Those who love you and worried about you throughout your addiction also deserve to see you happy and healthy.

The Final Word

Recovery isn’t easy. Just like with anything else that’s worth it, it takes time and effort to maintain your sobriety.

Other addicts have trod this path before you and have experienced the same fears and anxieties you may feel. Lean on a recovery support group, like those at Right Path Addiction Treatment Centers, and concentrate on the small changes you can accomplish.

Fear is mainly about the unknown. If you can look at some of your fears straight on and see them for what they truly are, they may not seem so scary after all.


Written by Sergey Zhitar, MD Medical Director

Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.

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