May 5, 2013 | By Tim Stoddart

Overcoming Fear in Addiction and Recovery


Fear is an emotion that drives addiction and also stops you from being happy in recovery. Overcoming fear is one of the biggest challenges for people with the disease of addiction, and you have to learn how to do it. Fear is a natural emotion in all of us, and we feel fear so that we can protect ourselves from danger. However, sometimes you also need to protect yourself from fear. If you aren’t facing and overcoming fear, then you’re letting it run your life.

fear is a liar

One of the main reasons addicts get stuck in their addictions is that they’re afraid. Strong fears can lead you to seek solace in drugs or alcohol, so that you don’t feel the fear anymore (even though it’s still there). When you’re addicted, you’re afraid of recovery because you don’t know how to cope in life without drugs or alcohol. It’s a vicious cycle; fear begets fear.

Overcoming fear is difficult, but it’s necessary. Most addicts have a lot of the same fears (like the fear of failure in recovery), and those feelings are normal and rational. You might have other fears, and your feelings might be irrational or not based on reality. It doesn’t matter if fear is logical or not. No matter what you’re afraid of, overcoming fear is necessary if you want to be happy and successful in recovery, and it is possible.

Ways of Overcoming Fear

When you’re actively addicted, overcoming fear means making the decision to get clean and sober and following through with it. Once you’re no longer abusing substances, you can start overcoming fear that exists in recovery so that you don’t let those fears bring you to use or drink again. The first step is being willing to face your fears. Instead of trying to block them, you have to acknowledge them in order to deal with them. You can only avoid dealing with your fears for so long, and they will only resurface stronger and more destructive.

To face your fears, you need to identify exactly what you’re afraid of, which is sometimes hard to do. If you’re afraid of failing, for example, ask yourself why. Maybe you’re really afraid of not doing well enough in your classes or afraid of not getting a job that pays more. You could be afraid of being honest about your past or your feelings because you’re afraid of your loved ones judging you or abandoning you. It often helps to find and face your fears if you try writing about how you’re feeling (occasionally writing or keeping a journal).

Overcoming fear might only be possible for you with help. Therapists can help with overcoming fear, especially phobias or fear based from trauma. Fellowships of other addicts (12 Step or otherwise) can help support you and teach you tactics for overcoming fear. Belief in a Higher Power (spirituality or religion) can help with overcoming fear.

Taking things “one day at a time” is a great way to cope with fear. Mindfulness is another tactic that offers an important insight for everyone to consider; overcoming fear is remembering that your fear is just a temporary emotion. You are in control of your fear, and not the other way around.

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