Dealing with Fear
Fear is more than emotion for most people entering recovery. There is the dread that they will begin to experience the same life occurrences that brought them to the gates of recovery. Repeating those situations brings a sense of impending doom that is very familiar and one of the reasons for escaping into the addiction.
Learning to walk through fear into a new way of life is the path of recovery. Every situation which was reason or cause for escape becomes a challenge. For someone new in recovery, it is a daunting one. Few have experienced the other side of a fearful situation without relapsing back into that behavior. Recognizing fear when it comes into play is important. Many newly recovering people do not know how to identify their fear, will deny they are afraid or cannot bring themselves to admit when afraid of…a job interview, a test of any kind, the dentist, the doctor, going to court, facing their families, working through a troublesome marriage problem, a wedding, a funeral…the list is endless.
An understanding sponsor and friends are necessary to help bolster the courage of this person. They will gain a great deal of strength as they master each intimidating situation and come through it without falling back into old patterns of either avoidance and/or escape via addictive behaviors.
For some reason, fear is the most powerful emotion that recovering people will deal with. There is terror in life that not everyone experiences, but is the common thread running through most addicts’ lives. When kept to oneself, it becomes gigantic and impossible for any one person to overcome. If they do not learn to talk about their feelings, this is the one that can wipe them out. Historically, chances are good that their only source of courage and fortitude came from an addictive substance or behavior. Without that, they will become immobilized and frozen in fear, unable to participate in life at any level.
Dwelling in fear can become the onset of phobic behaviors for many recovering people. Their silence is a deadly foe that needs fresh air to be vanquished. Working in recovery requires a great deal of honesty in discussing fear and what it feels like. Admitting to silly fears that most people laugh at helps newly recovering individuals relate to some of their silly fears and to gain mastery over them by walking through their fear, rather than to succumb to frozen nonparticipation in the life going on around them.
Without their substance or behavior of choice, many will not even know how to recognize the impact that fear has had on their lives. Some will not admit to having felt fear, and many will continue this bluff for some time after they begin their recovery. Like whistling in the dark like fear is not present, they will bluster and bluff their way through situations or avoid them altogether, thus never benefitting from learning to share their fear, air their fear and then walk right through the vanishing cloud left behind. This is the gateway into real recovery.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.