One of the most important topics to discuss when getting sober is the aspect of fear. Fear usually dominates the thought process when substance abuse is active. Fear is a prominent part of anyone’s life, and more so for the substance user who feels their very existence is contingent on the ability to get the substance they need in order just to make it through one more day. The user justifiably feels that there are a lot of pressures in their life. The fear is that without their drug of choice they will not be able to handle these pressures, and the truth is they are probably right. They will not be able to handle them until they become part of the world of Recovery.
When discussing fear, the average person will often tell an addict to face their fears, just get over them, or don’t even think about them. For the addict, these suggestions are meaningless and often lead the active user to discount any other advice that the well-meaning participant is giving. The user feels that others are “blind to what I am going through” and that they really “don’t understand me.” If they did, they would understand why “I need my drug of choice to handle the situation.”
The Many Forms of Fear
For the active user, fear can come in many forms. It can be the fear of not having their drug of choice or it can be the fear of being found out and someone making them stop. It can also be the fear of economic insecurity or abandonment of others due to their use and the moral judgment that will come on them from others. An addict usually associates this fear with anxiety and will tell you that their main problem is not the substance that they are using or the amount they are using, but the anxiety that they feel on a constant basis. If not for the help of their substance of choice they would not be able to make it through each day. At this point, the addict has not accepted the fact that there are ways to live without using and that help is available.
All addicts and alcoholics believe they know how to get rid of fear easily. Simply drink or use. Unfortunately, alcohol or drugs do not take away the problems that the addict is afraid of facing. In fact, once they sober up, they often become aware that the problems have gotten worse instead of better. This then leads to more fear and more drug use which leads to more problems. The addict’s “solution” of using drugs and alcohol thus perpetuates the crisis which then justifies more substance use. Recovery helps addicts learn that there are better solutions to managing problems and healthier ways of confronting their fears.
Fear of Recovery
Some alcoholics fear that recovery will work and that they will never be able to drink again. They also may fear that recovery won’t work and they will lose their last chance at a normal life. Those with this thought process end up not committing to either side. They are wanting to stop but do not want to take the first steps. The only way to begin this transition is to start living life one day at a time, letting life happen on life’s terms. As long as the alcoholic or addict does not use or drink, they find that circumstances improve and that they can actually be successful.
Let’s face it, most people who struggle with addiction have had some negative consequences as a result of their use. This is often the reason that they start having the desire to stop. There is a good chance that their life can get no worse than it already is. This is the abandonment of hope that you will someday drink like a normal person and are willing to acknowledge that alcohol has power over you and that you cannot compare it to anything else. This actualization can give a person the ability to put fear aside and just live for the first time in a long time.
Fear Is Not a Weakness
Fear is considered by some to be a weakness. Fear is not a weakness it is a healthy warning side to be cautious. Alcoholics have become engrossed in so much daily fear that they do not know real fear from perceived fear. The real fear is what a frightening experience is. Perceived fear is the forecasting of an uncomfortable situation that you want to avoid, therefore you go no further. Recovery is the recognition of this fear and taking a step forward anyway.
The importance of getting support while addressing the fear of recovery cannot be overstated. Fear can interrupt what you think is or is not the right thing. By seeking help, an addict can get insight into the causes of their fear and can get support from others who can help them become more accountable for their choices. Many people benefit from having a sponsor during the recovery process. A sponsor can help them become more honest with others and themselves and can help them learn ways of overcoming their fears. Yes, we may be afraid to ask someone for that initial help, however, after working with them for a while you will wonder how you ever got along doing it yourself. Letting others help you with your fears and acknowledging those fear is the first step in releasing those same fears.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.