What is the Role of Fear in Addiction and Long-Term Recovery?

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What is the Role of Fear in Addiction and Long-Term Recovery?

The Role of Fear in Addiction Recovery

Many people without substance use disorder (SUD) may not understand that fear is a significant factor in seeking help and staying in recovery. There are many things that people with SUD are afraid of when it comes to treatment. The role of fear is huge in both short- and long-term recovery.

These fears can keep people from seeking treatment in the first place. Fear can keep people from trying different treatments. It can keep them from going back to treatment after relapse. Because of its influence on recovery, it’s very important to understand the role of fear in the lives of people with SUD. It’s also important to understand what they’re afraid of.

Types of Fear

One of the reasons the role of fear is so prominent in recovery is that there are so many things to fear. There are a few main types of fear that people with SUD report experiencing. Many of them overlap and interconnect. Let’s go over the big five:

#1. Fear of Being Alone

Many people are afraid to seek treatment because it will mean leaving behind friends and other people who don’t support them on their recovery journey. 

#2. Fear of Inadequacy

Some people who use drugs and alcohol like who they are when under the influence. They may use those substances for a desired effect, like drinking to be more social. The fear that they won’t be able to act the same way without those substances keeps some people from seeking help.

#3. Fear of the Unknown

Sometimes, people have been struggling with SUD for so long that they don’t know what life is like without that substance. Being drunk is normal; it feels just like every other day. So, feeling “good” may be new and scary. Or, they may not know what to expect at all. Being in recovery will change their lives, which is scary for some people.

#4. Fear of Failure

Once people seek help, they may still experience a fear of failure. In some programs and groups, relapse is treated as bad and met with disapproval or negative reinforcement. As a result, some people are so afraid of feeling like a failure that they don’t want to start recovery at all. Some people may have been in recovery, relapsed, and been afraid to try again because they don want to “fail” again.

#5. Fear of Judgment

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to seeking help. Being “in rehab” is still portrayed as a bad thing in magazines and tabloids instead of a positive step toward recovery. Because of this, some people are afraid to be labeled as being “in rehab” or “in recovery” because of the negative reactions it can cause. Being in rehab is also connected with being an “addict,” something that few people want to be called.

Some people are also afraid of being judged by other people with SUD. People may ask, “What if my low was worse than theirs?” or “What if I’ve relapsed more times than them?” These thoughts can keep people from participating in helpful treatments like group therapy or a 12-Step program.

Reducing the Role of Fear

What can we do to get rid of those fears? The first and most important tool to get rid of unhelpful fear is therapy. Therapy can help people recognize the illogical nature of their fears and develop helpful coping mechanisms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a good option to help correct your ways of thinking. Luckily, we offer CBT and several other forms of therapy to help with unhelpful and damaging thought patterns. 

The second way to help manage the role of fear is to build or find a recovery community. Whether it’s a 12-Step program or group therapy, having people to talk to who understand what you’ve been through can be helpful. Though fear of judgment may get in the way, experience with community support is sure to help overcome those thoughts. 

Community support can also help with some of the other big fears, like the fear of being alone and the fear of failure. Once you have a group of sober friends, there’s less of a chance that you’ll be alone. In addition, less exposure to substances and triggers occurs when someone with SUD hangs out with other sober people. This makes it easier to avoid a relapse and that feeling of failure.

Both therapy and community support can help lessen the fear of failure. Most people in recovery have relapsed at some point or another. Relapse can be an important step on the road to recovery for many. Being in contact with professionals who have helped others with SUD can help put relapse into perspective. Knowing other people in recovery who have relapsed but tried again can also help show that relapsing isn’t the end of the world. 

The role of fear in seeking help for addiction and long-term recovery cannot be overstated. But, with the right tools, you can overcome those fears and live a better life.