“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” ~ C. Joybell C., poet Even when a person has made the conscious decision to seek help for their substance abuse problem and enter a professional drug treatment program, they still probably are filled with anxiety, confusion, and no small portion of fear.
Substance Abusers and Fear
Addicts and alcoholics are intimately familiar with fear. Many people who abuse drugs or alcohol do so as a means of self-medication, to quiet their fears – fear of inadequacy, fear of unworthiness, fear of embarrassment, fear of abandonment, just to name a few. It is human nature to fear the unknown. For a large percentage of individuals just starting out on the road to recovery, sobriety is uncharted territory. They have been lost to their addiction for so long that they can’t remember what it’s like to be clean and sober every day. And so, they’re afraid.
What Does Fear Mean to Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics?
There is an acronym for the word “fear” that is often used in 12-Step recovery fellowship groups –
- “Forget Everything and Run” – This might be exactly how a newly-abstaining substance abuser might feel early in recovery. When they sit down and try to contemplate a life without drugs or alcohol, it’s almost impossible for them to visualize. It’s all just too strange.
And, when they learn more about the recovery process and the difficulties and challenges they may have to face, it can be overwhelming. To their still-fragile minds, it’s a lot easier to just give up and go back to the familiarity of drinking and using.
- “Face Everything and Recover” – This is a positive mindset adopted by the person in drug/alcohol rehab. It requires brutal honesty – recovering alcoholic/addict takes an unflinching look at their past, their presence, and their future, and uses what they learn to fuel their journey to sobriety.
Why Is It so Important to Face Everything?
Again, fear is chiefly driven by the unknown. Even though it may be difficult – and even painful – for a newly-sober person in recovery to honestly acknowledge their past mistakes and assess the challenges they currently face, when they do so, it diminishes the negative impact caused by those mistakes and challenges.
Facing Your Fears during Recovery Improves Your Chances of Success
Look at it this way – Your journey of recovery is a difficult one, surrounded by landmines representing the challenges and obstacles that you might face along the way. If you shirk from your fears and run away, or if you allow yourself to be blind as to the dangers around you, you set yourself up for failure and possibly even disaster. However, when you face your fears – when you open your eyes to the realities that exist – you can more easily find a way to safely navigate the hazards. You can minimize their danger while maximizing your chances of successfully reaching your goal. How would you do that in practical terms? Facing your fears during recovery from drug addiction can mean a number of things:
- If you are carrying around excess guilt because of harmful things you did while actively addicted, that guilt – that fear of what you did – can hold you back. Face your fears by attempting to make amends.
- If you are afraid of yielding to temptation and suffering a relapse, face your fears by making changes in your life that will reduce possible triggers.
- If you are afraid that you are strong enough to overcome your addiction, face your fears by admitting that you need help. Draw strength and inspiration from others – your therapist, your sponsor, and other people in your 12-Step fellowship group.
Don’t Be Afraid of Living Sober
Most recovering addicts/alcoholics who are afraid of being sober aren’t afraid of the benefits that a life free from addiction will bring. They want good things – stable relationships, a serene and happy life, better emotional health, etc. – but they are secretly afraid that they don’t quite “measure up”. They are afraid that the mistakes they made during active addiction make them somehow unworthy of something better. During recovery from substance abuse, one of the best strategies to fight this feeling is taught early and practiced often. A person who is worried about their own unworthiness learns to be both mindful and grateful. There are taught to be mindful, so they can be fully aware of where they are at this moment in their life. If they are completely present in the NOW, they do not have to be ruled by the past. They can acknowledge their past, learn from it, and move on to focus on the present. They are taught how to be grateful, so they can focus on what they have and what they are, rather than focusing on what they lack in what their shortcomings are. By keeping a gratitude journal or by making daily affirmations in the mirror, they can acknowledge their own positives, and therefore, worthiness. Healthy fear can be a good thing during recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. It can keep a person from being arrogant or overly-cautious. It can serve as motivation to keep a person on the right track. It can even serve as a reminder of what’s at stake. In this way, a person can use their fear in a constructive manner – letting their fear work for them instead of against them.