Overcoming fear in addiction recovery is one of the most integral steps to sustained sobriety. This is because fear and addiction perpetuate each other and can create a vicious cycle that is challenging to escape.
Addiction can have a similar reaction. For example, substances and addiction rewire the brain to avoid fear and satisfy cravings. However, rather than trying to escape fear, the unconscious mind is drawn towards the substance. This is essentially how fear fuels addiction.
So, how can you face and overcome fears in addiction recovery?
How Powerful Is Fear?
Fear can occur as a physical or emotional response to a perceived danger that could happen in the present or future, either to yourself or somebody else. Although our response to fear differs from person to person, the overall purpose of fear is to motivate you into choosing actions that will keep you alive.
Unbeknown to many, fear is a powerful emotion that can control an individual's behavior – often more than we can recognize. Fear can also create an authoritative reaction in the mind and body, leading to unconscious, instinctive decisions that cause us to attempt to escape. In addition, fear and stress are strongly linked, and stress is a well-researched factor in the development of addiction.
Fear and Addiction
Fear can be an intense emotion - it makes us feel as though we don’t have control of a situation. Sometimes, when fear becomes overwhelming, it may seem easy to choose to numb or quieten it with substances that can provide us with a temporary ‘escape’ from this feeling. However, this form of escape means that you are unlikely to face or deal with the root of the fear.
Fear also has the power to keep you trapped inside your addiction. Even when you can recognize how damaging the addiction is to your life, there is comfort in familiarity. Choosing recovery can be a fearful prospect, especially if you have numbed your fears through addiction for many years.
Common Fears in Recovery
Although you may feel alone, it’s important to remember that many people in recovery will have similar fears. Below, we have listed some common fears which may feel familiar, though you may also have some of your own.
- Losing yourself
- Loss of friends
Some of your fears may feel founded, while others may feel irrational. To challenge these fears, you must be willing to acknowledge them and take steps towards dealing with them.
Four Tips for Facing Fears in Recovery
1. Identify the Fears
Usually, we can identify when we feel fear because physical feelings accompany it. You may feel nausea and discomfort. You may also want to run away. However, knowing why you are afraid is not always easy to identify.
When it comes to facing fears in recovery, you must take time to discover what is at the root of your fears. It’s also important to remember that doing so takes time and commitment. Often our fears come from a desire to have or do something but not knowing how to get there. Other times fear comes from not wanting to lose something we already have.
2. You Are in Control of Your Choices
Fear will exist throughout our lives, and it’s important to recognize that just like fear, triggers will also be present even after recovery. Though there will be times when the urge to use substances will be intense, remember that you can take control and choose how to respond in those moments.
Your choices have power, and they bring with them consequences, so trying to make the best choice for you and your body will bring you closer to freedom from addiction. When we make choices that honor our bodies and minds, we allow ourselves an opportunity to grow and heal. When you choose to move beyond the fear which comes with addiction, you will have the chance to live a substance-free life.
3. Remember That You Cannot Control the Future
Usually, our fears are based on the future - we fear what could be around the corner. Working on mindfulness practices and techniques for staying in the present instead of thinking ahead can help keep you on track during recovery.
Mindfulness practice has been found to treat fear and anxiety disorders. It enables you to feel, watch, and respond to what is happening in the present moment. You purposely ignore the inner dialog that says what could happen, what has happened, or what will eventually happen.
Fear is commonly associated with anxiety. For those struggling with addiction, anxiety is often present. Recognizing the triggers that lead to your fears and anxious thoughts can help you overcome them without turning to substances. Trying to take each moment as it comes, focus on the now to eliminate the fear of the future.
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4. Accept Help To Overcome Fear in Recovery
Working with a therapist can help you identify your fears and work through them, especially if they are related to trauma, burnout, or existential questions. For some people in recovery, group therapy sessions can provide a sense of support and companionship. Sharing and talking with people on the same journey can provide insight to learn from.
Understanding that you aren’t alone in your struggles and that others around you share the same challenges can help you feel a sense of camaraderie. Building a supportive network means having someone to turn to when the road is difficult.