Fear in sobriety can strike when you least expect it and can completely consume your thoughts and emotions. There are many forms of fear, from a sense of uneasiness to anxiety to outright panic. Fear is a powerful emotion and can seem even more overwhelming when you’re newly sober.
When addicts feel afraid, they tend to want to run away. Many people will do whatever they have to do to avoid feeling their fear. Without the crutch of alcohol or drugs, emotions can be overpowering and intense, and fear is one of the emotions that many people have a hard time dealing with in recovery.
Common Fears Experienced by Recovering Alcoholics and Addicts
There are probably as many fears as there are people in recovery, but certain fears are pretty common among recovering alcoholics and addicts. One of the biggest fears many people in recovery experience is fear of the unknown. Before you go to treatment, you are probably terrified about what you might experience there. Once you get out of treatment, you may be afraid of stepping outside the safe environment of the treatment center, and you may feel panicked at the thought of stepping into an unfamiliar meeting or reaching out to one or more strangers for help.
You may be afraid that you’ll fail to put long-term sobriety together, or you may be afraid that you’ll succeed at staying away from alcohol or drugs and that life will never be interesting again. You may be afraid that you won’t be able to repair damaged relationships, that you’ll disappoint your loved ones or that you won’t be able to solve the financial problems that were caused by your addiction.
You may have done some things in the past that you haven’t taken responsibility for, and you may be afraid that you’ll eventually get caught. You may be afraid you’ll never be able to make up for some of the things you’ve done.
Understanding the Root of Fear
Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something may cause pain or harm. To a large extent, you’re reacting to something that hasn’t happened yet. You’re imagining a disastrous or disappointing outcome. For example, you’re afraid you won’t be able to stay sober, but you haven’t given yourself a chance to see whether you can. You’re afraid to speak up at a meeting because you think people will judge you for some of your secrets, but they haven’t done that yet, and there’s a good chance they won’t.
The point is that the cause of your fear isn’t what might happen—it’s your own thoughts and beliefs about what might happen. The root of fear is often all in your head.
Now that you are sober, you have to make a choice to live in reality one day at a time. You need to learn to not overreact to things that may never happen.
Learning to Overcome Fear
When you’re feeling fearful, consider whether your fears are justified or imagined. It may be that you are reacting to beliefs that you have that are not based in reality. But even if you have legitimate reasons for feeling afraid, that doesn’t mean you should run away. Many new situations cause anxiety, such as job interviews or walking into an unfamiliar meeting. At times you have to feel the fear and face these situations anyway.
In recovery, people have come up with acronyms for fear to help remind them that the things they’re afraid of may not be as insurmountable as they appear. For example, FEAR stands for Forgetting Everything’s All Right. It also stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear can be thought of as the absence of faith. It’s believing that the challenges you have to face in life are bigger than you are. But are they?
To learn to deal with fear in sobriety, it may help to learn yoga, meditation or other relaxation techniques. Journaling about your fears may make them seem more manageable.
The longer you are sober, the more you realize that it is unrealistic to think that you will never feel fear again. In time you will learn to face your fears without wanting to run from them.