Why Are Some People Afraid of Getting Sober?

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Fear is one of the main factors that keeps an addict from seeking help. A person may know that they are addicted to drugs or alcohol and that they would be much better off getting sober, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it can be overwhelming and scary.

Maybe you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction but is too afraid to get help. Here are six of the most common fears associated with getting sober, as well as a few recommendations for how you can encourage your loved one to overcome those fears and begin the recovery process.

1. Fear of change

The unpredictability of change can be really scary for some people. What will a life without drugs and alcohol look like? What will happen during drug detox and rehab? How do I know life will be better sober? These are legitimate questions some people may ask themselves and fears of the unforeseeable future could hold them back from getting the help they need.

How to encourage a loved one: You may want to remind your loved one that change isn’t always bad. In many instances, change can be a great thing. It’s okay to not know what life will look like after detox and rehab. It’s alright if you don’t feel confident going into addiction treatment. You may not always know what a life in recovery will bring, but you can be sure it will be more rewarding and more fulfilling than a life of drug and alcohol addiction.

2. Fear of physical withdrawal

Drug withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and sometimes it can even be deadly. For many addicts, the ongoing cycle of drug and alcohol abuse is a way to avoid withdrawal symptoms and deal with other unpleasant emotions and things happening in life. The thought of going through withdrawal is agonizing and it’s not worth giving up drugs.

How to encourage a loved one: Help your loved one research the benefits of a medically assisted drug and alcohol detox program. In doing this, he or she may find that these programs treat unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal so that the addict can have the most comfortable and safe detox experience possible. Many luxury detox centers also provide semi-private or private rooms, chef-prepared meals, a peaceful and beautiful location, and on-site counselors for emotional support.

3. Fear of failure

Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is a long-term process that may require months and years of dedication. Many people struggle through several periods of relapse before finally getting sober for good, but the fear of failure can easily hamper a person’s recovery journey. Additionally, many people may be afraid that addiction treatment simply won’t work for them.1

How to encourage a loved one: Remind your loved one that you (and other family members and friends) will be right there to support them in their recovery journey. Let them know that they won’t be alone during drug detox, rehab, or after. A big part of the recovery journey is connecting with other like-minded individuals who are also working to overcome their addiction(s). If they relapse, that doesn’t mean they’ve failed. They’ll have a whole support system of peers, mentors, family, and friends to help them pick right back up where they left off. Choosing detox and rehab centers that provide individualized treatment may also be helpful in showing them that they don’t have to enroll in a cookie-cutter program. Treatment that is personalized to their own needs is more likely to yield long-term, positive results.

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    4. Fear of what others will think

    It can be very difficult to seek help for addiction when you know your closest friends and family members will think differently of you. The fear of being ridiculed, disliked, discriminated against or rejected could certainly be keeping your loved one from seeking addiction treatment. In fact, the stigma of addiction keeps many people from seeking the treatment they need simply because they do not want to be perceived by others as “less than.”

    How to encourage a loved one: It’s important to educate yourself and your family members on the topic of addiction so that everyone understands what your loved one is going through. Addiction is defined as a chronic relapsing brain disease.2 It is not a result of moral failure or a lack of willpower. If friends and family members respond appropriately to your loved one, he or she may be more apt to enroll in a drug detox program and begin treatment.

    5. Fear of stress and anxiety

    Your loved one may be using drugs and alcohol as a crutch to cope with fear and anxiety. As a result, the thought of losing these substances may be unbearable because they don’t know how to cope otherwise. Dealing with their addiction would mean that they also have to learn how to deal with these negative emotions instead of just covering them up.

    How to encourage a loved one: Talk to your loved one about the benefits of individual and group therapy in detox and rehab. Remind them that drug detox heals the body while drug rehab heals the mind. During rehab, they’ll have the opportunity to work with a therapist to address the root causes of their addiction and gain life skills and coping techniques that will enable them to manage negative emotions like stress and anxiety without relying on drugs and alcohol.

    6. Fear of boredom

    Many addicts fear a life without drugs and alcohol because they think it will be boring. In active addiction, you feel like your purpose in life is to obtain and use drugs. Nothing else matters. But without that, what is left? Would life even have meaning? How would it be possible to feel good and have fun?

    How to encourage a loved one: Be honest with your loved one and let them know how their addiction has changed them and hurt those around them. Remind them of the hobbies and activities they used to enjoy before they starting using drugs and alcohol. Let them know that there is fun to be had in a life without addiction and that detox and rehab could be the beginning of a whole new and exciting life.

    It’s not always easy for an addict to seek help for his or her addiction and it takes a great deal of courage to commit to a life-changing decision. No one but your loved one can make that decision, but you can provide encouragement to help them overcome their fears of getting sober.

    Call Briarwood Detox Center today to learn more about our detox center and programs or for intervention assistance.


    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986793/
    2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics

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