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Fear and Addiction Recovery: What to Expect and How to Cope

Overcoming fear can be rather challenging for people with substance abuse problems. Fear becomes a common theme for people with addictions. They are afraid of losing their jobs. They are afraid of people finding out about their addiction. They are afraid of getting caught using.

They are afraid of losing custody of their children. They are afraid of damaging their relationships with their loved ones. They are afraid of losing family members and friends. They are afraid of getting arrested and facing criminal charges.

Yet, as scary as addiction can be, one of the most common fears in recovery is the fear of recovery. Despite the self sabotage of continuing in their addiction, their fear of facing rehab and of life without substances might keep them trapped in their destructive patterns.

Is fear before and during recovery normal?

As seen, fear can become the focal point of addicts’ daily routines and behaviors. It is no wonder, then, that fear follows people when they start rehab in Delray Beach, Florida at our treatment center.

So, it is normal for fear to be present before and during recovery. The fears will gradually start to change as the person progresses through their rehab treatment program. Likely, the biggest fear they need to overcome is when they are scared to go to rehab.

The reason many people with substance abuse problems have a fear of rehab is they must admit they have a substance abuse problem. They must also realize, in many cases, their family, friends, employer, coworkers, and others could find out they have an addiction problem.

Until they are ready and willing to accept these things, they will continue to let fear run their lives. Yet, once they are ready to push aside the fear and start rehab treatment, they have just taken the first major step on their road to recovery.

What are some common recovery fears?

Once someone has started addiction recovery treatment, facing fears in addiction recovery will change based on what stage the person is at in their recovery treatment program. Some of the more common fears that can occur include but may not be limited to:

  • Fear of Withdrawal

    People are afraid of having to live without the substance they are addicted to. Their bodies will go through physical and mental changes as their systems detox. They may have heard about shakes, vomiting, headaches, and other such side effects of withdrawal that cause them to be afraid.

  • Fear of Relapse

    An ongoing fear many people have, even after completing an addiction recovery program, is the fear of relapse. They are afraid of falling into former bad habits. They are afraid of becoming addicted once again and having to go through another treatment program. They are afraid of letting down family and friends because of a moment of weakness, and that the betrayal their loved ones feel at having to go through the excruciating process of recovery all over again will destroy their relationship for good.

  • Fear of Failure

    Someone may have a fear that if they do go all-in and go to rehab, their failure if they do relapse will mean they are condemned to a life of alcohol and drug addiction. Their fear of losing the opportunity to get better can be excruciating.

  • Fear of Change

    In general, anyone, whether they have an addiction or not, can be fearful of change. Change means having to adjust the routines and behaviors that we currently consider our normal in favor of something that can be far less comfortable. It can be very difficult to make changes, because most people are reluctant to change something that they are familiar with.

Young man sitting on a floor with hands on head.

For people with substance abuse problems, the fear of change has to do with not being able to use and abuse the alcohol or drugs that have become a normal part of their daily routines. The things they find normal now will not be the same after addiction treatment, and it will take a lot of hard work for them to establish new, healthy habits.

They have to relearn how to eat healthy meals, to exercise, and to develop coping mechanisms to overcome their fears, as well as to avoid triggers that could cause a relapse. All of these changes can create their own fears. For the addict, these common fears can seem very real, whereas, for someone who has never had a substance abuse problem, they might seem minor or insignificant. However, one should never downplay the fears of an addict in recovery.


  • Fear of Living Sober – The fear of sobriety is another common fear people have when going through substance abuse rehab treatment programs. Life without drugs or alcohol can seem daunting, especially when someone hasn’t dealt with the reasons they started using substances in the first place before beginning the recovery process.
  • Fear of Success– The thought of succeeding can be very scary. Success could be a new concept for many addicts, especially since they are also facing major life changes. Their self sabotage through drug use may have served a deeper psychological purpose than just allowing them to escape unpleasant emotions; it may have been about the fear of facing all of the obligations, attention, and stressors that come with succeeding at something besides self-destruction.

What are some ways to cope with common recovery fears?

One thing to remember when completing rehab in Delray Beach, Florida at our treatment center, is that we help teach coping skills and mechanisms to help you overcome fear. These skills and mechanisms can be used for the most common recovery fears, as well as for other less common fears based on individual needs and requirements.

  • Coping with Withdrawal – When you are going through withdrawal at our treatment center, the entire detox process is medically supervised. We take the time to determine what substances you have developed an addiction to and what processes are the safest to help you detox.

You also need to remember that once detox is completed, the substance will be out of your body. If you can avoid major relapses, you should never have to go through an extensive withdrawal process ever again.

  • Coping with Fear of Relapse – There are many ways to cope with the fear of relapse. Individual and group sessions can provide support that will help you avoid a relapse. Learning how to meditate, do yoga, perform deep breathing exercises, and to do other such things that allow you to relax and focus your mind can help. Exercise and eating healthily can also be beneficial to keep your mood as stable as possible during recovery.

Part of your treatment program will address various triggers and potential causes of relapses. Once these are identified, you are taught specific skills and mechanisms that apply to your situation. It is essential to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, so it is vital to develop skills and mechanisms that work for you.

  • Coping with Fear of Failure- Even though relapse does happen to some people after their initial recovery, there is no reason to let your fear of failure stop you from taking control of your life and getting the help you need. Relapsing on drugs or alcohol wouldn’t invalidate all the time and effort you put into treatment, and any period of sobriety and the coping skills you learn will make it easier the next time you attempt it.
  • Coping with Change – Change is necessary to improve ourselves. Overcoming the fear of change starts by taking “baby steps.” A major misconception people have about change is that they will be expected to make all sorts of changes right away. Yet, when change is approached by making small, gradual, and effective changes, then it becomes lasting.

For example, incorporating exercise into your daily routines three to four times a week begins with gradually introducing it in phases. You might start with 10 minutes each time of easy exercise. As you become used to this, then you can add another 10 minutes and introduce some more challenging exercises.

Once you are comfortable with exercising 20 minutes and with the current set of exercises, then you can add another 10 minutes and more challenging exercises. By taking this approach over a longer time, you are more likely to stick with it.

The same is true when starting out on the road to recovery. Your recovery is planned out in “baby steps” so that you can make gradual changes as you learn how to live a sober life.

  • Coping with Living Sober – The fear of sobriety is one every person who has completed an addiction treatment program has to face every single day. One thing some people do is focus on short-term objectives to reach their long-term goals.

For instance, you are having a bad day, and the thoughts of using keep entering your mind. While it might seem tempting to just give in, you really don’t want to. So, you start focusing on getting through the next hour, then the hour after that, and so on. Before you know it, you have gotten through an entire day.

At some point, those thoughts of using may have gone away because you were busy exercising, meditating, or doing some other activity so you did not have time to focus on using. Gradually, you will realize that thoughts of using and craving are fleeting and bearable, and that you are strong enough to resist these thoughts and feelings with healthy coping mechanisms.

As you can imagine, coping skills and mechanisms for living sober are tailored to each individual. Some people might attend a meeting. Others might go to a group or individual session, while others might reach to their loved ones for support.

Part of your recovery treatment program will include helping you identify what coping skills and mechanisms will work best for you to help you maintain your new sobriety. Though life without drugs or alcohol can be scary, our community of experienced alumni will ensure that you are not in it alone.

Coping with Fear of Success- all of the coping mechanisms that treatment will teach you to cope with life without substances will also be applicable to the additional stressors you may face once you become successful in your recovery. Treatment can also help you address your fear of success by teaching you how you can have more self-esteem, so that any feelings of unworthiness that may have prevented you from feeling comfortable as the center of attention or a role model of others can be replaced by feelings of gratitude and pride.


Fear and Addiction Recovery: Final Thoughts

Group of five peoples run and jump to sunset sea

Fear is normal for someone with a substance abuse problem. The types of common fears that any one addict will have will inevitably vary from the fears another addict will have, but our professional staff and comprehensive treatment program are equipped to assess your unique individual needs and to deal with any and all fears that might spring up during your recovery process.

As worthwhile as recovery is, it can also be hard, painful work, which means that being afraid of it is normal. Taking that first, big step on the road to recovery and enrolling in a treatment program can be scary, and it may even be the hardest thing you have ever done. But help is available when you are ready to take the leap and accept it, and once you do, we will be with you for each step of the recovery process at RECO Intensive.

Our rehab in our Delray Beach, Florida treatment center offers customized addiction treatment programs based on your specific type of addiction and specific needs. We also provide care and treatment for co-occurring disorders, so that you can gain the mental health equilibrium you need to not only survive but thrive in your full, robust, RECOvery.

If you are ready to take that first step, if you have further questions, or even if you have gone through rehab and are looking for support to maintain your sobriety, please feel free to give Reco Intensive a call at 561-501-2439 today! It’s never too late or too early to conquer your fears of facing your addiction head-on, and it’s about time you got back to a brighter future.



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