Coping with Fear in Addiction Recovery

Coping with Fear in Addiction Recovery

There are opportunities for fear at every stage of addiction and recovery. You might say that addiction is primarily characterized by fear—fear that something will prevent you from drinking or using drugs. However, you may also fear admitting you have a problem, asking for help, entering treatment, leaving treatment, and so on. While many of these fears are common, they can also stand in the way of progress. The following are some ways you can cope with fear and keep it from preventing you from doing what you have to do.

The Difference Between Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are closely related, but they aren’t the same. They even feel similar physically. The difference is that anxiety tends to be more general and open-ended—perhaps with the exception of phobias—whereas fear tends to be more specific. So, for example, if you have social anxiety disorder, you may constantly worry that you’ll be confronted with some kind of social situation and when you inevitably do find yourself in such a situation, you may worry that you’ll behave foolishly or that people will judge you harshly. It’s a fear that’s just always on.

Many of the fears you will encounter in recovery have a different sort of character, although it’s possible that you will have to deal with anxiety issues, as well. Fears are more concrete. They’re about specific things you know you’ll have to do at some point. For example, you might feel afraid to go to your first 12-Step meeting or, if you’re working the steps, you might be afraid to contact a particular person about making amends. Of course, you can put these things off indefinitely, but that will slow or halt your progress in recovery, possibly contribute to your anxiety, and make you less able to cope with fears in the future. On the other hand, the more you are willing to confront your fears, the faster you will progress and the less fearful you’ll be overall.

Start by Acknowledging and Accepting Fear

Many of us reflexively try to deny, suppress, or avoid fear. We don’t like it, so we try to put it out of our minds. What’s more, we don’t like to think of ourselves as afraid. So we might rationalize and tell ourselves things like, “I’m not afraid to do it; I just don’t see the point.”

The first step in coping with fear is to be honest about what you’re feeling. Instead of trying to evade or rationalize, just admit—at least to yourself—that the reason you don’t want to do something is that you’re afraid. Then you can begin to deal with it. Research shows that people who are more accepting of their emotions tend to have better mental health and suffer fewer consequences from negative emotions. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3045747/] There’s no shame in admitting you’re afraid. Everyone is afraid sometimes. Admitting it will make it easier to do something about it.

Observe Fear Without Judgment

As part of acknowledging and accepting fear, try observing your fear nonjudgmentally. Where do you feel it in your body? How intense is it? What thoughts are associated with it? What is it about the thing you fear that really bothers you? If you are able to sit with the fear and watch how it changes with your thoughts, you can learn something about it and you gradually become less reactive to fear. Having a regular mindfulness meditation practice can help make this easier.

Challenge Fearful Thinking

Most of the situations you face in recovery aren’t actually dangerous. Maybe the one exception is detoxing from certain drugs. In other words, nothing you face in recovery is likely to harm or kill you. It’s not like seeing a tiger in the wild or standing too near the edge of a cliff, where your body is sending you a clear and accurate danger signal. Instead, your fear is probably rooted in your thinking about whatever situation you are facing. Therefore, you can use many of the same strategies cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, might prescribe for dealing with other challenging emotions.

For example, maybe you’re afraid to reach out to someone you need to make amends to. Usually, the worst that could happen is that they tell you to get lost or call you some nasty names. That’s not so bad in the scheme of things, but you may have some distorted beliefs that make that outcome seem unbearable. Maybe, deep down, you believe something like, “I must be loved and respected by everyone,” and the thought that someone you care about might tell you to get lost when you’re trying so hard to be good is just unbearable. In reality, it’s not unbearable; that’s just how it is sometimes. If you can train yourself to identify and challenge your faulty assumptions, you can make most situations seem less threatening.

Focus on Your Values

Another way to get past fear and do what you need to do is to focus on your values, or why you want to do this in the first place. As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” For example, many people decide to get sober because they see what their addiction is doing to their family. Staying in touch with that value can also help you overcome the other hurdles along the way. It’s the big reward that makes our effort and risk worthwhile. This is the basis of a form of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT. The idea is we don’t try to abolish fear, but rather we learn to act in spite of fear when something is really important.

Seek Social Support

Finally, seek social support because everything is easier when you have backup. Are you afraid to go to your first 12-Step meeting? Find a friend to go with you. Are you afraid of going to your first family Christmas after treatment? Bring a friend. Just having a support network, like a 12-Step group, where you can discuss your fears makes you more able to move forward. You feel more assured that you’re doing the right thing, more emotional support, and more resources to fall back on if necessary.

Fear is perfectly normal and unavoidable in recovery and in life. The important thing is not to let fear keep you from living the kind of life you want to live. Start by acknowledging and accepting fear and observing it without judgment. Examine its underlying causes and ask yourself whether there is really anything inherently dangerous in the situation you’re facing. Use your values and social support to help you move forward in the face of fear.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that learning to tolerate and manage challenging emotions like fear is one of the most important elements of a successful recovery from addiction. That’s why we incorporate methods like dialectical behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation into our holistic treatment program. For more information, call us today at 833-801-5483 or explore our website.


Eight Tips for Coping with Boredom in Addiction Recovery

Eight Tips for Coping with Boredom in Addiction Recovery

Boredom is a common hazard for people recovering from addiction. Many people suddenly discover they have a lot of free time on their hands when they aren’t using drugs and alcohol, and this may be compounded further by trying to distance yourself from friends who still drink and use drugs. Perhaps the biggest reason boredom is so common is that drugs and alcohol artificially stimulate the brain’s dopamine system, so things that might normally be interesting are just sort of dull. It may take months before the brain changes enough that anything besides drugs and alcohol become interesting again.

In the meantime, boredom can be dangerous because it presents an opportunity to slip up. Indeed, for many people with substance use disorders, drugs and alcohol are the standard solution to boredom. The following are some tips you can use to cope with boredom and keep it from derailing your recovery from addiction.

Remember to apply your emotional regulation skills.

First, if you’ve gone through treatment or therapy for a substance use disorder, you probably learned a number of cognitive and behavioral skills for tolerating discomfort and regulating emotions. These might involve mindfulness or challenging underlying assumptions you have about the situation. Remember that these skills can apply to boredom just as well as other challenging emotions like anxiety or anger. Boredom is a sort of tension you feel when you want to do something, but nothing feels very satisfying. You have the option of exploring this feeling nonjudgmentally, which can make it less distressing, or identifying your faulty assumptions; perhaps thoughts like, “I must feel engaged and entertained at all times.”

Reframe boredom.

We typically feel that boredom is a negative emotion, but, like all emotions, boredom is merely information, a sort of red flag from the less articulate parts of our brain. Your boredom may be trying to tell you something important. Why is it your usual ways of occupying yourself are suddenly inadequate? Is it perhaps time to reevaluate your priorities or reconsider whether your actions are in line with your values? Boredom might be a signal that it’s time to challenge yourself a bit. Boredom can force you to be creative.

Avoid time-killers.

Many of us reach for our phones at the slightest twinge of boredom. You have to stand in this line for two minutes? Better check Facebook. Sitting at a red light? Better scroll through Instagram. While it seems like this is an obvious solution to boredom, it really just papers over the problem. You can mechanically scroll through social media, and although you’re technically doing something, your engagement and satisfaction remain low. You’re not addressing the underlying causes of your boredom, and you may actually be aggravating it. Before you reach for your phone, consider some of the other strategies on this list.

Do some chores.

When you’re bored, chores are probably the last thing you want to do. Chores are boring, which is why we put them off. However, chores have practical value. If your options are to sit there and be bored or wash the dishes and be bored, you can at least accomplish having clean dishes if you choose to wash the dishes. While this may not sound too enticing, picking something off your to-do list and just doing it can break the spell of boredom and lead you to something more engaging.

Try something new.

As noted above, sometimes boredom is a signal that it’s time for a new challenge or a signal that what you’ve been doing doesn’t align with your goals or values. Sometimes the way out is not to rely on the things you normally do but to try something new. It doesn’t have to be a major change. It could be something as trivial as taking a different route to work or taking the first step on a project you’ve been putting off. A new challenge or a break from your normal routine can give you a fresh perspective.

Manage your schedule.

Occasional boredom is unavoidable. Sometimes you get stuck on hold with the insurance company or you have an unexpectedly long wait at the doctor’s office. However, if you find yourself bored regularly, it could be that you’re not managing your time very well. Managing your schedule is always a delicate balancing act: you want to avoid feeling rushed and stressed out, but you also want to avoid large blocks of idle time. This is especially true when you’re recovering from addiction, for the reasons described above. If you seem to find yourself feeling bored at the same time every day or every week, find something to schedule in that time slot—a 12-Step meeting, a therapist’s appointment, a cooking class, exercise; it doesn’t matter, as long as it takes up some of the slack in your schedule with some useful activity.

Have a default activity.

As discussed above, reaching for your phone when you’re bored is a trap, so it might be a good idea to have a more useful default activity ready. Keeping a book handy is always good because you can learn something during those odd moments of free time throughout the day. Other options might include a quick language lesson or vocabulary review, a few rounds of a memory game like Dual N-Back, or knitting. The idea is to train yourself to do something productive in response to boredom, even if you don’t really feel like it.

Stick with a task for a set amount of time.

A typical experience of boredom is that you’ll have plenty of things you could be doing but none of them feel very satisfying. You might read for a few minutes, find it dull, play a video game for a few minutes, but not get into it, sit at the piano and plink out a few sour chords before giving up, and just keep wandering about aimlessly.

When you’re stuck in this sort of pattern, sometimes the best thing to do is just pick an activity and stick with it. It can take a few minutes to settle down and focus, and many activities are not fun or interesting until you get to that point. So the solution is often just to set a timer for 10 minutes or so and just keep working on it for that amount of time no matter what. Once you overcome that initial resistance, you’ll typically find the activity is no longer boring.

Boredom is one of many hazards in early recovery, but it’s not fundamentally different from other challenging emotions. Instead of dreading boredom, try to use it as a time to reflect on your priorities and whether your daily actions are in line with those. If you seem to be bored often, schedule more activities or find yourself a new challenge.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that overcoming addiction means treating the whole person and helping our clients make meaningful life changes. We teach many skills, including distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and other strategies to help you overcome the challenges you’ll typically face during recovery. For more information, call us today at 833-801-5483 or explore our website.


Living with A Person Suffering from a Substance Use Disorder: Tips to Cope and Help Heal Before and After Recovery

Living with others is always a challenge. Developing balance, understanding, and respect is a vital component for a harmonious living situation with another person, whether it be family, friend, or significant other. Living with someone who has an active addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), may create more challenges than the typical housemate. 

Don’t Take It Personally

When someone you care about is struggling with a SUD, it is imperative not to take any of their behaviors personally. They are fighting a battle within themselves that you cannot understand. However, you can express that you are a supportive person in their life without enabling negative behaviors. Addiction to alcohol or drugs requires a team of participants, such as doctors, treatment programs, family members, and friends, to support the individual suffering from the SUD. 

Addiction Affects the Entire Household

Addiction can create a toxic environment that affects all the members of the household. Any member of the house, including the person suffering from the SUD, may experience negative effects due to addiction. Some of these effects include:

  • Stress may be due to the ongoing nature of the addiction and the stagnation of the situation.
  • Anxiety may be due to the feeling that you have no control over your loved one and their active addiction.
  • Depression may occur within the person with the SUD, which may have initially fueled the addiction. Furthermore, friends and family members may develop depressive-like symptoms due to the buildup of stress and anxiety. 
  • Guilt can come from the person with the SUD, furthering their active addiction. Friends and family members may feel guilty for supplying money, food, and shelter, which is enabling the addiction to continue.
  • Anger is common among the household. The person with the SUD may be angry that they cannot stop using drugs or alcohol on their own. Family or friends may be angry at them for continuing to use without seeking the help they need. 
  • Embarrassment occurs when the person with the SUD engages in behaviors while under the influence. They may be embarrassed by their actions after they have sobered up. Friends and family members may also be embarrassed by their loved one’s actions.
  • Financial struggles occur due to the active addiction taking up time from all members of the house, and in turn, costing money.
  • Inconsistent routines may disrupt the household, in which the active addiction is dictating the loved one’s schedule. The addiction is in control. 
  • Physical dangers and security risks are possible, mainly if the individual suffering from the SUD is intoxicated or drug-seeking.

Coping with Living with a Loved One and Their Active Addiction

It is important not to assign blame for the addiction, to yourself or your housemate. It is also imperative to understand you cannot fix it, or cure it. What you must do is ensure a safe household, and protect your well-being. Consider the following coping tips:

  • Keep yourself safe, as well as your family. Vulnerable family members include pets, children, and elderly relatives. Set house rules and boundaries. It may be necessary to ask your loved one to leave the residence if safety becomes an issue.
  • Create a plan if situations escalate. Those struggling with a SUD may become dangerous. They are not inherently threatening, but substance use may induce a harmful situation. It may be necessary to call friends, family, doctors, therapists, or even the police.
  • Restrict monetary access. Although your loved one may do or say anything to buy substances, it may be better limit access to bank accounts and credit cards. Otherwise, you may be enabling and promoting addiction. 
  • Encourage your loved one to enter treatment. 
  • Prioritize your self-care. The stress of living with a loved one with an active addiction can make it easy to neglect oneself. Meditate, exercise, eat right, sleep well, and make time for the things you enjoy. 
  • You may need to join a support group, which focuses on the needs of those who have loved ones with active addictions. 

Coping with Living with a Loved One During Their Recovery

After a loved one has entered rehab or abstained from using drugs or alcohol for a substantial amount of time, they are considered to be in recovery. Just because they have quit using substances does not mean they cured the addiction. Addiction is an incurable disease, but management and recovery are sustainable under the right conditions. Anyone in recovery is susceptible to relapsing or going back to using drugs or alcohol. Offer your support and build up trust with them to prevent a relapse from happening. Although it may be hard to trust a loved one who has stolen from you, physically or verbally harmed you, seeking help from a therapist may be the best thing to help you rebuild the trust your relationship needs to flourish. Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings and their urges to use, as this can help ward off a relapse.  

Looking for Help?

Living with someone with an active addiction is hard for everyone, including the person suffering from the addiction. Wanting to help your loved one treat their addiction is a natural response, but you must also take care of yourself and your family so that you are equipped to help them in their recovery. Setting boundaries is possible, and making plans for a path to recovery is attainable. Maintaining positive communication and rebuilding the lost trust is imperative for helping your loved one sustain life-long recovery. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a safe and nurturing space for recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today a t833-801-LIVE.


The Ongoing Grief Of Losing A Parent

Many turn to substance abuse out of a need to cope with emotional pain. Feelings of abandonment, neglect, isolation, being different, or having the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, can drive one to need a mind calming solution. Drugs and alcohol provide people the solace, escape, and comfort they need to get through challenging emotional circumstances. One of the most significant life events someone can experience is the loss of a parent. Grieving the loss of a critical life figure is emotionally taxing, spiritually breaking, and difficult task.

Grief, in all of its stages, can feel like it will never end. Losing someone special like a parent leaves a hole and a void in our lives that forever will go unfilled. Attempting to fill that hole with drugs and alcohol may anesthetize the pain temporarily. However, the longer we prevent ourselves from feeling through the cycle of grief, we only delay the inevitable. No drug and no drink, despite our willful attempts, can truly make that pain go away. Somehow, when it comes to emotional experiences, it is only by thoroughly feeling and processing grief that it can be resolved.

Being in the safe and therapeutic environment of treatment, at any level, is a considerable place to being working on grief. As you begin to dissect the relationship that might exist between your substance abuse and the loss of a significant loved one in your life, take these suggestions to heart:

It’s true, nobody could possibly understand unless they’ve experienced it

You might be quick to get angry, resentful, or write off people who try to sympathize with what you’ve experienced. Rightfully, you find it hard to relate to anyone’s sympathy if they themselves have not lost a parent. Try to remain open to receiving emotional support and seek the similarities in what your peers offer you, rather than focus on the differences.

Experience your emotions authentically and take care of yourself

Learning how to participate in self-care is a part of the recovery process when you are in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. On particularly tough days, know that it’s okay to just not be entirely okay. It is also okay to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Remember, though, you are learning what that means. There is a difference between isolating and taking quiet time for yourself. Help stay grounded in your choices by allowing others to guide you and listen to your needs.

Enlightened Solutions uses the spiritual healing of holistic practices supported by strong evidence based practice and 12 step philosophy. By seeking understanding through underlying circumstances, our program helps residents gain insight to their addictions. We offer certified dual diagnosis treatment for both substance abuse and other mental health disorders. For more information call 844-243-LIVE.