How Fear Influences Addiction Recovery

Across the UK, there are families that have tried as best they can to help an addicted loved one get the necessary treatment to recover. Often times those efforts are ignored or spurned for reasons family members do not understand. Unfortunately, alcoholics and drug addicts are unable to see their own condition for what it is. Moreover, even when they do see it, they are afraid to get well.

The fear addicts face when considering recovery may seem unreasonable to the rational thinker. Nonetheless, the fear is very real. Addicts are afraid of a long list of things because they cannot imagine life without their drugs or alcohol. This fear prevents some from getting help and others from taking full advantage of the help they eventually do accept. As any drug addiction expert will tell you, fear directly influences addiction recovery.

Psyche Central’s David Sack cites six different fears common among addicts:

  1. Fear of Sobriety – The typical addict uses drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to handle problems that are otherwise overwhelming. Even considering sobriety means the addict will have to face those problems without the only coping mechanism he or she knows. Many simply cannot handle the thought. 
  1. Fear of Failure – We all experience the fear of failure to one extent or another. However, for the addict, fear can be overwhelming. If an addict believes he or she does not have what it takes to succeed, they may not even try. 
  1. Fear of Success – Some alcoholics and drug addicts do not fear failure, they fear success. These types of individuals have a deep-rooted belief that they do not deserve the benefits of a drug-free life; they do not deserve to succeed. It is a belief that can be absolutely crippling to the recovery process. 
  1. Fear of Rejection – Drug and alcohol use tends to be a communal thing among fellow addicts. Some fear rejection among their current circle of friends if they give up addictive behaviour. Others mistakenly believe their own friends and family members will reject them once they come clean. 
  1. Fear of Identity Loss – Though it may seem hard to fathom, alcoholics and drug addicts find their identities in the substances they use. Coming clean would be tantamount to sacrificing that identity. Moreover, if one does not know who he or she is, they do not know what their life should be. 
  1. Fear of Misery – You may be familiar with the idea of an addict blaming external circumstances for his or her addictive behaviour. The same mindset that would assign blame also believes that the current misery will only be made worse by coming clean. An addict using drugs and alcohol to escape is often convinced sobriety will consign him or her to a life of misery. 

These six fears are very real to the recovering addict. These are fears therapists must overcome in order to bring a person to point of being willing to practice abstinence for the remainder of his or her life. When these fears cannot be overcome, the chances of relapse are much higher.

Irrational Thinking

Fear directly influences the recovery because it forms the thought patterns and emotions an individual experiences throughout the process. For example, if a recovering addict fears failure, he or she may not be willing to openly address the types of things that drive him or her to drug use. Another addict fearful of rejection may not be willing to openly participate in group counselling.

Family members trying to help a loved one overcome addiction need to understand how real and powerful fear is. It is not that the addict despises his or her loved ones; it is the overwhelming fear in his or her mind that gives them no other choice much to turn away the help being offered. That is the nature of the beast.

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UK Addiction Treatment Group.

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