A whole new, healthy, calm, productive world awaits those who find their way onto the road of addiction recovery, right? Ideally, yes, but in reality that road is not always a smooth ride. Insecurity, anxiety and fear can create obstacles that must be identified and dodged, if long-term sobriety is to be won, or recovery can be quickly derailed.
Just the idea of walking through life without the numbing crutch of drugs or alcohol can be frightening to many in early recovery. A chemical crutch provides what seems like a safety net when difficulties arise. The thought of facing those difficulties substance-free can be very scary.
The emotions that often initiate a drug or alcohol habit include insecurity, anxiety and fear. Social anxiety, in particular, can cause all three of these feelings. Social anxiety disorder often exists side-by-side with a substance disorder, because the drug or alcohol of choice mollifies the negative emotions experienced in social situations. This is an example of why dual diagnosis and treatment of both conditions is so important to long-term success.
Common recovery fears
Some of the common fears of sobriety include:
- Fear of the unknown. Having identified oneself as an addict for a period of time has become familiar territory. It can be difficult to imagine life as a happy and sober person after spending so long in the clutches of dependency; life centered around the next hit or drink was somehow comfortable and confining at the same time. Sobriety feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable
- Fear of losing relationships. Making the commitment to sobriety requires a hard look at the people in one’s life. Typically, by the time people have become dependent on drugs or alcohol, they have surrounded themselves with like-minded people. These toxic acquaintances support self-destruction through substance abuse and can no longer be a part of the recovering person’s life. This can be a difficult transition emotionally, no matter how disordered the relationship was
- Fear of boredom. Becoming accustomed to the party scene or a perpetual buzz can distort reality. The memory can play tricks on people by propping up their imagination with false images of life as an addict. Someone newly sober might be fearful that life without drugs or alcohol will be boring and unsatisfying
- Fear of life. As an addict, real life obligations were often ignored, or handled by a spouse or parent. Newly sober, the realization of financial obligations can cause anxiety. Fear of not being able to find employment or to meet obligations is common after addiction has caused job loss and credit devastation
- Fear of failure. After all the hard work to get sober, nagging doubts might suggest that sobriety cannot be maintained, or that it is impossible. Fear of letting down loved ones who have been supportive and hopeful about the addict’s recovery can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some view remaining sober as difficult work and wonder whether they have the ability to persevere
- Fear of success. On the opposite side, some in recovery might fear succeeding and can subconsciously self-sabotage. These feelings are rooted in low self-esteem and insecurity; the newly sober individuals feel that they do not deserve to succeed and have a happy, fulfilling life
Effective coping techniques
Because these fears and concerns are so common in addiction recovery, active participation in an ongoing, continuing care program is important. Participation in a 12-step program, and the fellowship it provides, is a key element in post-treatment.
Attending group or individual therapy is also important, because it gives the newly sober person a safe place to share fears and other emotions and experiences relating to early recovery.
Learning relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga, can help mitigate anxiety and fear when they rear up.
Journaling is effective in digging deep into one’s psyche to seek the source of many common fears and insecurities, which can later be discussed in therapy.
Yes, the road to recovery is littered with potholes but, by employing some offensive coping techniques, they can be avoided and the journey to renewed life can continue undeterred.
Sovereign Health of California is an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider, offering several locations in California as well as centers in Utah, Arizona and Florida. For more information on drug and alcohol addiction and treatment, please call (866) 819-0427.