Watching a loved one struggle with drug or alcohol addiction is understandably frustrating—especially when they aren’t responsive to your attempts to convince them to seek help. However, taking the time to understand the common fears that people with substance use disorders often have can help you tailor your approach to be more effective.
Common Fears That Keep People from Seeking Addiction Treatment
The fear of getting sober is related to concerns about the recovery process and misconceptions about what life is like for people in treatment.
- Fear of withdrawal. Although the recovery journey is unique to each individual, the process generally starts with detox to rid the body of the abused substance. This can create a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, many of which are physically uncomfortable. While withdrawal symptoms are only temporary and will reduce in severity with each passing day, it’s human nature to want to avoid anything that will cause discomfort.
- Fear of failure. Making a major life change is scary—and there’s no bigger change than getting sober after struggling with addiction for an extended period of time. Fear of failure can keep a person with a substance use disorder from taking the first steps towards recovery—especially if they’ve had a relapse before and are worried about disappointing loved ones if it happens again.
- Fear of success. It seems counterintuitive, but many people with substance use disorders fear success because they don’t believe they’re worthy of a brighter future. As a result of their low self-esteem, they make self-sabotaging choices.
- Fear of rejection. Fear of rejection is tied to the shame and guilt that many people feel about their addiction. When you’re sober, you’re forced to remember all of your past mistakes. This makes it easy to obsess over the cruel things you said to your spouse, the times when you weren’t there for your children, and how you blew off old friends in favor of spending more time drinking or using. You find yourself wondering how these people will ever forgive you.
- Fear of judgment. Asking for help means admitting you have a problem. While drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs must maintain strict confidentiality, people often worry that others will find out about their stay and gossip behind their back.
- Fear of boredom. People with active substance use disorders often plan their entire lives around drinking or using. This makes the thought of having fun and enjoying life without addictive substances hard to imagine—even if they had many hobbies and special interests before their substance abuse problem began.
- Fear of a loss of identity. Even when a person logically understands that their behavior is causing a problem, it’s not easy to give up something that’s been a key part of their identity for an extended period of time. Someone who is known for being the life of the party when they’re drunk or high may worry about how to define their identity when this behavior is no longer an option.
What You Can Do to Help
While your loved one ultimately needs to make the decision to get sober on their own, there are many steps you can take to help them overcome their fear and encourage them to get the treatment they need.
- Listen without judging. Talking to someone you can trust is one of the best ways to handle fear, so it’s important to encourage your loved one to share their feelings with you. Listen carefully and resist the temptation to trivialize their fears or tell them that they shouldn’t be worried.
- Give them something to look forward to. Imagining a better future can serve as a powerful motivation for recovery. Consider planning fun activities to mark key recovery milestones, such as a special vacation to mark graduation from residential treatment.
- Remind them that progress is more important than perfection. If your loved one is worried that their past can’t be forgiven or that they’ll disappoint everyone if they can’t make it through treatment successfully, stress that making mistakes is part of being human. Remind them that your support is unconditional and that you’re proud of them for being willing to try—regardless of what the outcome may be.
- Connect them with appropriate resources. You can take away some of the uncertainty surrounding the recovery process by helping your loved one get answers to their questions from a trusted source. The admissions representatives at Waypoint Recovery Center’s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment program are standing by to answer questions your loved one may have about available treatment options.