I’m Sober…and I’m Scared to Death

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Man at beach thinking about life

Safety and shelter are two of the biggest perks of rehab, even though most of us don’t realize it at the time. Once you graduate from treatment and walk out those doors, however, it’s a whole new ballgame.

It goes without saying that it feels great to be sober. The mental chaos of addiction is gone and there’s no more physical withdrawal pain to suffer through. There’s a whole new world out there and it’s just waiting to be conquered. Most of us have developed a whole new (sober) passion for life and it’s infectious.

Then we get a taste of life outside the sanctuary of rehab…and it’s beyond scary.

Get Ready for Reality

Once out of rehab, it quickly becomes apparent that life didn’t stop while we were in treatment. For months, we’ve focused on overcoming an addiction and, outside of that single goal, nothing else has mattered. Obviously, that can make post-rehab life a little jarring. And the best thing any of us can do is be ready to face those fears head-on.

Fear #1 Drowning in Unanswered Questions

No matter how well rehab prepares us for our new sober lives, nothing can simulate the real thing. Moments after walking out the doors of rehab, questions automatically begin bombarding the brain. Will my family be happy to see me? What’s going to happen when I walk back into the world I left behind? What will I do when I wake up and there’s no one there telling me how to spend my time? Can I make amends with the people I’ve hurt? Oh, and the big one…can I stay sober?

The truth of the matter is that none of us have all the answers…and that’s okay. We may not be surrounded by the safety of rehab anymore, but relying on what we learned while we were there is the key to sobriety. We may not know the trials and tribulations we’ll face in the coming weeks and months, but we’ve been given the tools to navigate any storm that comes our way. The key to success is trusting in what we’ve learned and moving forward.

Fear #2 Everyone Knows…

The worst thing any of us can do is retreat to the safety of a bedroom and shut out the rest of the world. Giving up is never a viable option. We’ve come too far to give up now.

Social anxiety is a huge fear that we all deal with post-rehab. Going to the grocery store, a task that seemed so simple beforehand, can feel like an insurmountable feat. It feels like everyone is looking at you and, somehow, they instinctively know your little secret. Everybody seems to know you’re a recovering addict who’s struggling to get through the day without relapsing…and they’re all looking at you.

Of course, that’s not true. But that doesn’t negate the way it feels in the moment. The bottom line is that it takes time to settle into a new sober life. Have some patience with the whole process. The worst thing any of us can do is retreat to the safety of a bedroom and shut out the rest of the world. Giving up is never a viable option. We’ve come too far to give up now.

Fear #3 No One will Forgive Us

Once sober, we begin to realize just how badly we’ve hurt the people we love. When we get out of rehab and make it home, however, the real guilt sets in. And if we don’t get a handle on that guilt, we start to convince ourselves that we’ll never be able to make amends. We start to tell ourselves that we’re not worthy of forgiveness – that no one would want to be friends with people like us. In the blink of an eye, we can convince ourselves of some pretty scary things.

Making amends is a process. It’s unfair for us to think that we’ll just show up one day, say “I’m sorry” and everyone will instantly forgive the pain we’ve caused. We have to accept that we did some very hurtful things, but those mistakes are in the past. There’s nothing we can do about them now. But that doesn’t excuse the behaviors. Now that we’re sober, we owe it to our loved ones (and ourselves) to sit down, acknowledge the hurt and pain we’ve caused and offer a proper apology. It’s going to take time for people to see that we have changed and we are trustworthy. After saying “I’m sorry,” it’s up to us to walk the walk. Our actions and our determination to live each day in sobriety will speak volumes.

Additional Reading: Recovery and Getting Your Natural “Happy” Back

Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org/rainarashi.deviantart.com/Becky Wetherington/Flickr

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