Having a loved one with a substance use disorder is often painful and frustrating. If you’ve never struggled with substance use issues yourself, it’s very hard to understand the behavior of your addicted loved one. They may ignore the overwhelming evidence that they have a problem or, if they admit they have a problem, they may resist getting help. This stubbornness can be baffling, especially since it often comes off as anger. What’s important to understand is that the prospect of going to treatment and fundamentally changing how you live can be terrifying, even when your life isn’t going that well at the moment. Seeing your loved one’s resistance as fear rather than stubbornness can give you insight into their behavior and help you be more patient. The following are some common fears people have about entering treatment for addiction.
Fear of Losing Control
Just getting to the discussion of treatment can be a long road. You might think that when someone admits they have a problem, getting treatment is just the next logical step. Clearly, if they could quit on their own, they would have done it by now. However, many people with substance use issues don’t see it that way. They’ll admit they have a problem but insist on dealing with it on their own.
This is another form of denial because they’re denying the full implications of having a substance use disorder. It doesn’t just mean that you use drugs and alcohol excessively and to your own detriment, but also that you don’t have control over it. Insisting you can deal with it on your own is denying the nature of addiction. Again, this is typically motivated by fear. No one likes to give up control of their life. Admitting you need help means admitting that you really don’t have control over your drug and alcohol use. In the context of treatment, it also means you will have to do some things you don’t want to do. The key is to emphasize that they have already lost control of their lives and that seeking help is a way to get it back.
Fear of Withdrawal
You can’t start recovery until you go through withdrawal, and for many people, the prospect of withdrawal is intimidating. Many people try to quit on their own but give up when withdrawal symptoms get too bad. The thought of having to see it through with a supervised withdrawal may be frightening. This is especially true for people addicted to substances that have intense withdrawal symptoms. Opioids, for example, have symptoms that people often compare to the worst flu they’ve ever had, with runny nose, watery eyes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, sweating, aching, and chills. It’s no wonder people aren’t eager to go through that.
Withdrawal after heavy alcohol use is no joke either and can include headache, irritability, shaking, seizures, vomiting, and, in a small percentage of cases, death. Anyone facing those symptoms would be anxious. The key is to emphasize the safety of a supervised detox. Detox staff can make you a bit more comfortable and respond quickly if symptoms become dangerous.
Fear of Loneliness
When people think of going off to treatment, especially an inpatient program where they will spend at least a month, they are often bothered by the prospect of being locked away in this facility where they don’t know anyone. They fear embarking on this adventure with no support. While it’s true that they probably won’t know anyone at first, it’s the staff’s job to make sure they have everything they need and that they feel comfortable. They will be talking to a therapist very soon after arrival and they will probably have a roommate. Since people in treatment share a lot of traumatic experiences, they often form deep bonds. A lot of people say they’ve met their best friends in treatment. If you feel lonely at first, it probably won’t last more than a few days.
Fear of Sharing
Group therapy is a common feature of both professional treatment programs and mutual-aid groups like AA. Many people feel intimidated by group therapy because you have to speak in front of people and often share things you’re not particularly proud of. However, there are good reasons group therapy is part of nearly all addiction treatment programs. One of the biggest reasons is that members quickly learn they have nothing to be ashamed of. Other people in the group have probably had similar experiences and they learn they aren’t alone. This is important for dispelling the stigma attached to addiction as well as related issues like having been physically or sexually abused. People tend to find a lot of support in their group sessions and despite their initial trepidation, find it rewarding.
Fear of Coping
For many people, drugs and alcohol are a way of coping with challenging emotions and memories. Someone with PTSD, for example, might use alcohol as a way of coping with intrusive images. The thought of getting sober and having to go through life without a trusted coping mechanism may be too much to bear. This is why treating co-occurring conditions is so important. Long-term recovery entails figuring out the underlying causes of addictive behavior and finding more productive ways of coping.
Fear of Failure
When someone agrees to enter treatment, especially for the first time, everyone gets a little hopeful. The person’s history of increasingly problematic behavior might be about to turn around finally. What’s more, treatment represents an investment of time, money, and effort. What if it doesn’t work? Everyone will be disappointed and it will have been a waste of resources. This is an understandable fear but all you can do is try and make an honest effort. If it doesn’t work out the first time, it may work out the second or third time. You don’t fail at getting sober until you quit trying.
Fear of success
Ironically, success can be just as frightening as failure. If you do manage to get sober and stay sober – then what? You can no longer blame your failings as an employee or a parent on drugs and alcohol. You are responsible for yourself and you have to make decisions about what kind of life you want to live, whereas before, drugs and alcohol were making those decisions for you. While this can be a lot to deal with at first, it’s by far the better problem to have. You will, of course, make mistakes, but you will gradually learn to live the kind of life you want to lead.
Fear is normal when it comes to entering treatment for addiction. You fear losing control, you fear to be vulnerable, you fear the pressure of living without drugs and alcohol. However, that fear is a good sign. It means trying something new and taking responsibility for the results. At Foundry Treatment Center, we share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.