Common Fears about Getting Sober
Whether you’re an alcoholic or alcohol-dependent and thinking about getting clean and sober, you’re bound to worry about what that kind of life would be like sans alcohol. There are commonly held fears about sobriety that should be put to rest once and for all. Here are some of the frequently heard comments about being sober.
“I won’t be able to have any fun anymore.” If by having fun you mean partying with old chums who are still drinking and doing drugs, then the party will definitely be over once you’re committed to sobriety. But real fun doesn’t entail dulling your senses and falling into a stupor or doing extremely dangerous and potential hurtful things. What you should do is find new friends, people who are also clean and sober, or who don’t drink and do drugs. Join groups where you can participate in activities you always wanted to do, but were too drunk or high to do before. Try parasailing, skydiving, snowboarding, surfing, skiing, playing music, and going to the beach or movies and concerts. Another benefit of doing these activities sober is how much more enjoyable they’ll be, how much more vivid the experience and the memories will be. What you once thought of as fun will pale in comparison to a life rich in reality, one that’s completely drug and alcohol free.
“No one will want to be with me.” As an addict, you probably worry that once you’re clean and sober you won’t have any friends, or that people you meet will decide they don’t want to be around you because you don’t engage in the same activities they do. This is an unfounded fear that’s rooted in your own insecurities and feelings of worthlessness. Part of the treatment you’ll receive to overcome your addiction will be to help you discover what’s good and loveable about yourself, as well as to build your self-esteem, confidence, and communication skills. You’ll start to feel better about yourself, which will lead to you being able to more easily engage in conversation with others. The new you, clean and sober, will have so much more to offer that you will be amazed at the quality of friendships you will attract.
“I won’t be able to talk to people. I had a gift of gab when I drank.” Most alcoholics do feel like they have a silver tongue. And many do, since we’ve all seen people drinking who seem to be the life of the party, regaling everyone with jokes and stories or dancing the night away. That is, until they become so intoxicated that they start falling down, slurring their words, nodding off—then their antics become comic or tragic. Worst of all, the intoxicated individual seldom remembers the episodes, or what they do remember is rose-colored and totally untrue. If this is one of your fears, that you won’t be able to find anything to say to another if you quit drinking, lay that fear to rest right now. True, alcohol does lower your inhibitions, but drinking too much also makes you say and do things you might regret. That’s hardly a trait others admire. Concentrate on learning new coping and communication skills. You’ll do just fine in recovery.
“I’m afraid of what it will be like to be clean and sober.” If this is your fear, it’s probably been a long time since you’ve been free of alcohol and/or drugs. Chronic drug or alcohol dependence clouds your mind and robs you of memory. You may also have difficulty making plans or learning new things, so it’s no surprise that you’d fear what you can’t imagine. Learning to live in a drug- and alcohol-free manner involves making a genuine commitment to a new and permanent lifestyle. That’s scary to a lot of people and deters many from seeking or completing treatment. Stop hiding behind the excuse of alcohol or drugs and embrace the possibility of realizing all your long-buried hopes and dreams. You can do it. You owe it to yourself to try. For the time being, just try to envision a life full of promise, where there are no limits to what you can achieve. Then, get into treatment.
“I’m afraid I can’t make it through stressful days without drinking.” You may have been using alcohol as a crutch, using the bottle as your anesthetic to dull whatever might bother you. What began as a drink here or there after work soon wound up being much more than that, to the point where you couldn’t wait to get home and get drunk. Maybe you even tossed back a few at work, in the car on the way home, or in the morning to get you going. Far from being an escape from stress, the more you drink, the more stressful things become. Life doesn’t go hide in a closet while you drink. Life goes on as before—just as stressful, just as hectic. But when you are in treatment, you learn how to deal with stress so that it doesn’t mount up and immobilize you. New coping skills and behavior modifications will enable you to tackle whatever life throws your way. And there are always your support-group allies to help talk you through any crises that arise. Yes, there is hope for coping with life’s stresses without drinking—if you commit to it.
“I can’t handle responsibility. I’m not good at that.” It was so much easier not having to deal with anything substantial while you were drinking, wasn’t it? Paying bills, being a good husband/wife/parent/sibling/friend, taking care of your duties at work, even driving responsibly. Saying you’re afraid of being clean and sober because you don’t think you can handle responsibility is a cop-out, plain and simple. You didn’t want to be responsible, and you used drinking as an excuse. Try to remember back before you drank. You weren’t always irresponsible. As human beings, we all have the capability to handle responsibility. It’s part of the natural instinct to survive. While you are in treatment, you will learn about accepting responsibility, and you’ll learn ways to ensure that you follow through on your commitments.
“I’ll lose my friends.” Your old drinking and drug-using buddies? You bet. But you should embrace this as a positive sign that you’re on the right track. Being clean and sober means that you will avoid the temptations that come with certain people, places, and things. You can’t afford to be around them any longer—and, after you’ve been through treatment and are in recovery, you’ll realize that they weren’t really your friends anyway. True friends don’t enable each other to poison their existence in an endless cycle of drinking and drugs. You’ll be making new friends in treatment and recovery, as well as through your support group meetings and new activities you will now start to enjoy.
“It’ll be too much for me–I’m not that brave.” You’d be surprised at how much courage you have inside you. What you need to do is give yourself a chance. The first step is to admit you have a problem with alcohol or drugs and then genuinely commit to seeking and completing treatment to overcome the problem. Don’t worry about how much bravery you need. We all have sufficient bravery in our DNA to handle such a challenge. But many of us use the excuse that we’re cowards just so we can keep on using. If you truly want to live a clean and sober life, you’re already ahead of the game. Intention and commitment are crucial to successful recovery. In treatment, you’ll have individual and group counseling and learn that you are not alone in your struggle. There are others just like you that are meeting their fears head on—and coming out on the other side with a bright and limitless future.
“I’m afraid I’ll actually feel something.” You should embrace the possibility of again being able to feel strong emotions like love, joy, pride in yourself, hope for the future, and belief in your inner goodness. It’s probably been such a long time since you did that you’re afraid you’re not capable of it, but that’s just not true. In fact, one of the many benefits of being clean and sober in recovery is that you are able to not only feel, but also express, your emotions.
“I’ll be bored.” You probably use now because you’re bored. So trotting out the fear that you’ll be bored being clean and sober is a lame excuse. When you’re in recovery, you’ll be clear-headed enough to do the kinds of things you’ve always wanted to – whether that’s learning a new sport, making new friends, falling in love, getting a new job, studying for a degree, or pursuing any other new and exciting dream.
“I’m afraid I’ll lose my courage, my nerve.” It’s natural to wonder whether you’ll be able to complete treatment, especially if you don’t have any idea what it entails. The best solution is to find out about the kinds of treatment available to you and choose the one that best suits your needs. Research drug and alcohol treatment centers in your area, and be sure to ask questions so you’ll be able to find a treatment center that meets your needs. Check out the treatment facility finder on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/about.htm or call their referral center at (800) 662-HELP.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to sleep.” Some people use alcohol or drugs to help them sleep, while for others, it gets or keeps them up at night. Part of alcohol and drug withdrawal does involve insomnia, but that is temporary. During treatment, you will be working on achieving balance in your physical and mental well-being through nutrition, exercise, counseling, and activities. Your ability to sleep through the night will be addressed along with your other fears, cravings, and physical or psychological symptoms.
“I won’t be sexy.” Sexiness really has nothing to do with drinking or doing drugs. You only fear that you’ll lose your sex appeal because you think that you’ll become inhibited and closed-off if you don’t drink or do drugs. Again, this is a total falsehood. Real sexiness comes from within, from who we are and how we display our real selves to others. That’s sex appeal. You should look forward to discovering the real you that you’ve buried deep inside—or never allowed to surface—and the only way to truly do that is by going through treatment and becoming clean and sober.
“I don’t want to feel the pain.” Whatever pain you may feel during detox or the cravings you’ll experience during treatment will be minimized by the attending professional staff. As for feeling the pain of discovery, of realization of how and why you got yourself into this addiction in the first place—well, that’s a necessary part of the process. You can’t get better if you don’t recognize and learn to overcome that which has kept you from being the self-actualized person you’re meant to be. Yes, the colors will be brighter, the sounds more intense, the presence of other human beings more apparent—and all of these are good things. Don’t look on the ability to feel as pain. It isn’t. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that whatever pain you will feel in treatment is only temporary. You will learn how to deal with painful situations as part of your overall treatment so that, in the future, pain won’t be a scary thing.
“My emotions will overwhelm me.” You’ve probably been closed off for so long that you’re understandably afraid to do, to see, to hear, and to fail. You look at treatment as this big, mysterious black hole that you’ll fall into and never come out of. Far from it. By entering addiction treatment, you are liberating yourself from the shackles of alcohol and drugs—but only if you genuinely want to be clean and sober and commit to the process. During your individual counseling, and possibly during group sessions, your emotions may feel overwhelming. That’s because you need to cleanse and purge yourself of years of piled-up negative emotions, memories, and past bad behavior. This emotional cleansing is a necessary part of healing, just as detox is a physical elimination of toxic substances. Once you are in treatment, and then in recovery, you will learn how to effectively deal with your emotions—no matter what circumstances arise.