Fear in Recovery

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Fear is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary [1] as “the emotion of pain or uneasiness caused by the sense of impending danger, or by the prospect of some possible evil”.

Fear is an almost universal factor experienced by those struggling with an addiction. They fear being caught using. Being unable to get hold of their substance of choice. They fear losing relationships that are precious to them. They fear life. And, surprisingly enough, they fear recovery. This fear is understandable, and it is normal. Transitioning from substance use to sobriety is a massive lifestyle change! Avenues Recovery, leading experts in addiction rehabilitation, explore a few of the most common fears of those contemplating sobriety, and the lines of logic that can ease their fear in recovery.

List of Fears in Recovery


We’ve outlined the most common list of fears in recovery below:

1.       Fear of Detox/Withdrawal

It’s no secret that detox can be unpleasant. For many, the powerful anxiety over the anticipated addiction withdrawal when they stop using their drug of choice is enough to deter them from trying to get clean and leave them too scared to go to rehab.  Using again and avoiding withdrawal is the easiest and most painless option, so it’s the one they choose.


When you attend an accredited and competent detox and treatment program, such as those offered through the Avenues Recovery rehabilitation centers, the physicians on staff will make every effort to ensure that your detox is as smooth and painless as possible. They will prescribe and adjust medication as necessary, and provide constant monitoring to make sure you’re comfortable throughout the process. You’ll be surprised to see how manageable withdrawal can be when it’s done right!

2.       Fear of Feeling

Substance use often begins as a way to escape difficult emotions. When life becomes too complicated and painful to live through, many choose to block out the reality by numbing themselves to it. Becoming clean means feeling emotions again – and that prospect can be scary. Scary enough to opt out of a sober life.


Initially, facing suppressed feelings can be painful and overwhelming, and it is a very common fear in addiction recovery. But the more you allow yourself to feel, the stronger your emotional muscles will become, and the more capable you will become of handling emotions on your own (quality therapy can make the process much easier as well.) Plus, you’ll once again be able to experience joy and contentment from the finer things in life.

3.       Fear of Sobriety

For someone who’s been living from one high to the next, the thought of a life free of drugs or alcohol can be downright terrifying. Being sober means being stripped of the one coping mechanism you have left. It means being forced to face life, with all of its stresses and speed bumps, without the crutch you’ve been using and depending on for so long. It’s normal to feel that you won’t be able to manage everyday life without your substance of choice.


Learning to let go of old, unhealthy coping methods can be hard and is perhaps one of the strongest fears in recovery But once you do, you will be free to develop new, healthier habits which empower you to face life head-on. Stresses, challenges, and everyday worries won’t incapacitate you anymore, because you’ll be better and stronger than any of them. You’ll also learn new techniques and methods which will help you to improve the situation and issues you’re dealing with, instead of acting as an escape for you to run away and avoid dealing with it further.

4.       Fear of Failure/ Relapse

Understandably, many people considering sobriety are frightened by the thought of putting in the work that recovery requires, only to slip once more and relapse. The road to recovery can be a long, arduous one – and the fear of going back to square one is a real and natural one. Why is it worthwhile to put in so much effort, if I may just slip and have to start all over again?


Firstly, it’s important to know that there are definitely people who successfully achieve sobriety on their first attempt. And although there is a chance that you may relapse while in recovery, remember that every single attempt and setback makes you that much stronger, and is a critical step on the path to your ultimate, sustained sobriety. No ounce of effort goes to waste! You’ll never discover the blessing and joy there is to be found in recovery and in living sober if you don’t even try.

5.       Fear of Success

People considering recovery are afraid of failure – and many times, they’re afraid of their potential success. Why, you may ask? Because getting and staying clean means losing your primary excuse in life. It means becoming a productive member of society once more, who is expected to carry responsibility and always remain dependable and faithful. It means facing up to the havoc you’ve wreaked in the lives of family and friends, picking up the pieces of the precious relationships you’ve destroyed in your pursuit of substance use. Standing amidst the wreckage of your previous life, this thought can be a terrifying fear in recovery from addiction. 


Fear of successful recovery is understandable, but you must have faith in yourself and the deep reserves of inner strength you possess. Remember the resilience it took for you to get to this point, the hurdles you’ve overcome, and know that you have the ability to rewrite your story anew. Reach out to loved ones and friends when you need help, and they’ll be glad to assist you.

6.       Fear of Rejection

Birds of a feather flock together [2]. Often, the social circle of a person interested in recovery will be similar drug and alcohol abusers, and their entire relationship will be based upon the common denominator of substance use. A person contemplating recovery may be scared off going to rehab by the thought of being shunned by their friends once they stop using, and losing their whole social life in one fell swoop. They fear that laughter, fun and friendships will become things of the past.


If you’re afraid of your friends rejecting you once you become clean, chances are that they won’t be the greatest influence on you or your recovery. A huge part of recovery is ending toxic/ damaging relationships, and surrounding yourself with healthy, wholesome people who will support you and your sobriety. Once you’re in recovery, you’ll discover a whole world of wonderful, like-minded individuals waiting there to befriend and strengthen you along your journey. (12-step meetings and recovery-oriented events are a great way to kickstart new sober friendships!)

7.       Fear of a New Identity

After abusing drugs or alcohol for so long, the term “addict” can become seared into your consciousness to the point that it becomes your primary identity. Going clean means losing that title. If I’m not an addict, then who am I? Who can I possibly become? Losing your default identity, and being forced to form new perceptions of yourself, can be a highly unsettling fear in addiction recovery.


Remind yourself that this feeling of lost identity is only temporary, as you struggle to fill the void that drugs and alcohol filled in your life. Before long, you will begin to form new and healthier perceptions of yourself – as a son, daughter, spouse, parent, friend, singer, artist, dancer, professional... Once you overcome your addiction, you’ll discover a world of exciting opportunities awaiting you. You can be anything you want – your only limit is your willpower!

8.       Fear of Unhappiness

When enmeshed in addiction, drugs or alcohol can become the sole source of happiness in life. Thinking about recovery can be frightening because you might feel that without substances, your life will be sucked of all joy and left in pallid shades of gray. Will I ever enjoy myself again? How can I possibly have fun while being sober? Considering a life of boredom and unhappiness is enough to deter the hardiest soul from giving sobriety a shot.


Speak to anyone in recovery, and you’ll soon realize that “the best is yet to come”. Drugs and alcohol have merely numbed you to the pleasures of everyday life. It may be hard at first, and you’ll probably experience a range of emotions at first. But once sober, you’ll begin to experience the beauty in each simple moment. You’ll be capable of appreciating things that have always passed you by, as you learn to live in the present and embrace the simple joys of life. There is no happier life than a life of recovery.

Overcoming Fear in Recovery


Fear in recovery from addiction is both a natural and understandable part of the recovery process. Acknowledge your fears, and allow yourself to feel them – it’s normal! But remember that once you put in the work of sobriety, you’ll reap the dividends long into the future. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Discover how far you’ll go if only you try.

We’ve treated many addicts with all kinds of fears in recovery, and we know how hard the first step can be. Avenues Recovery are here to support you! Contact us to hear more and to speak with our professional and highly experienced staff. You deserve better than a life of addiction, you deserve a life of freedom!


[1] www.oed.com

[2] wikipedia.org



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