Nelson Mandela once said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Fear is a normal part of the recovery process. Making major life changes is scary, no matter how brave you think you are. To move forward, you need to learn to face your fears and take back control of your future.
Common Fears in Recovery
Everyone’s recovery experience is a little different, but the following are some of the most common fears in recovery and what they mean about your journey to lasting sobriety:
- Fear of the unknown. Many people fully acknowledge that they have a substance abuse problem, but they are afraid to ask for help because they don’t know what’s involved in the recovery process. They’d rather stick to the misery they know than face the possibility of making a change. If this describes you, one way to deal with this fear is to speak to the admissions counselors at the rehab programs you’re interested in attending. They can explain the treatment process so you know what to expect.
- Fear of withdrawal. Detox is the first step in recovery, but there’s no denying that withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant. However, they will not last forever, and a medically-managed detox involves taking steps to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.
- Fear of failure. Getting sober is no easy task, and relapse is unfortunately part of the process for many people. It’s understandable to be worried about whether you can stay sober indefinitely, but you can’t let fear about the future keep you from enjoying today. Focus on taking your sobriety one day at a time, and remind yourself that any mistakes you make along the way are not the end of the world.
- Fear of boredom. If you’re not accustomed to socializing without drugs and alcohol, it’s reasonable to worry that being sober means being bored all the time. However, sober socializing is full of opportunities to fit every interest and personality type. It may take some time, but eventually your sober life will be more fulfilling than you ever imagined.
- Fear of losing your identity. If drinking or doing drugs has been your primary activity for an extended period of time, you may struggle to define yourself as a sober person. Take some time to think about the passions and interests you had before you developed a substance use disorder. Or, use your time in recovery to investigate new possibilities such as volunteering or taking up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try.
- Fear of losing loved ones. When you’re in recovery, it’s natural for your relationships to change. You may need to distance yourself from people who are still actively abusing drugs or alcohol. Some people might try to sabotage your recovery efforts due to their own personal issues. Others might not be willing to forgive you for whatever mistakes you’ve made in the past. Losing relationships is painful, but trust that you’ll gain new ones with people who appreciate the hard work you’ve put into bettering yourself.
Facing Fear So You Can Move Forward
Moving forward with your recovery requires facing your fear head-on. Here are some tactics that can help you take control:
- Write in your journal. Journaling can be a great way to better understand your fears, since the act of getting your thoughts down on paper forces you to look at the situation more objectively. A journal is a safe and private place to explore your feelings.
- Talk about fear in your 12-Step group or with your sponsor. When you acknowledge your fear, you take away much of the power it has over you. Discussing your fears in a 12-Step meeting or with your sponsor can help you feel less alone, since it’s likely that others in recovery are experiencing the same fears or have already dealt with similar issues.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness exercises can help you deal with fear by encouraging you to acknowledge, without judgment, fear’s physical effects on your body. Focusing on the sensations and using breathing exercises to calm your mind can allow you to take control of your thoughts.
- Reach out for professional help. If your fear has progressed to the point where you’re experiencing panic attacks or finding it difficult to get through your day-to-day life, this should be discussed with your treatment team. You may have a co-occurring mental health condition that needs to be addressed as part of your recovery efforts.
At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, we’re committed to helping you face your fears so you can move forward with your recovery efforts. Our gender-specific Pennsylvania addiction treatment program includes detoxification, residential treatment, and extended care services designed to support you at every stage of your recovery. If you’re ready to take the first steps towards a brighter future, we can help.