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The idea of fearing recovery might sound crazy if you’ve finally begun baby-stepping your way toward a better life through a methadone treatment program. The truth is, of all the people who enter treatment for opiate substance abuse, the greater majority of them fear getting better in recovery.
But when you take a moment to think about it, the idea of approaching recovery with some level of nervousness makes a lot of sense. After all, you’re moving purposefully toward something that is going to change your life. What will your life be like if you no longer have the drug that’s been taking you through your days? What will your life be like if you no longer hang out with the people you used to get high with? What will your life be like if you can’t blame your mistakes on your drug habit?
Fear is an emotional response to a worrisome change in your life. You are walking, warily, toward a new identity. You will be a new person once you achieve sobriety. The idea of an unfamiliar methadone treatment program instead of the comfortable time spent getting high with people you know just shivers your timbers!
Why People Fear Recovery
The first and primary reason why people fear recovery when they go into a methadone treatment program is the worry that they might relapse. Trying to stop using drugs can mean just one more failure in a long line of failures. It could be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back for the people you care about—they’ll say I told you so if you don’t make it.
Being in recovery means you might make foolish, impetuous decisions. You wonder if you’re equipped to handle sobriety.
What about the stress brought on by your fears? That’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to straighten out your life. You should remember that if you let fear get the better of you, the stress can affect you both mentally and physically. But that idea is even more stressful!
As you make progress in your methadone treatment program—because you will—your fear can prevent you from building yourself up into an emotionally stronger person. You wonder if you will enjoy being sober, and that fear alone will lessen the positive aspects of recovery. Fear can lead to panic, even if it’s irrational. If you can’t think clearly, you won’t make good decisions. You’ll need to learn ways to deal with those feelings—so keep reading.
First, Don’t Believe All the Press
Your family and friends have been telling you for—well, for however long you’ve been using—that when you quit using drugs, your life will become much better. Guess what: It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not some magical transformation. Just because you go into a methadone treatment program, it does not mean that all your trials will be over.
The people who trigger your anger and stress will still be there in your life. After all, you didn’t become addicted to opiates without picking up some emotional baggage along the way. For many people, the emotional baggage may be what drove them to addiction in the first place.
But the key to dealing with fear, anger, and stress lies in the knowledge that we are all afraid. We all wake up and worry if we look good enough, if we’ll do well enough, if we’ll have enough of what we need, whatever it is, to make it through the day. Your advantage is that you are going to start taking a long, hard look at yourself. You are going to recognize your weaknesses and confront them. Most ordinary people don’t make it that far, because they aren’t focusing on improving themself the way you will when you’re in a methadone treatment program.
You will also have people around you to help you and give you support and strength. You might feel as if the people at the methadone treatment program look down on you. That idea could not be further from the truth! The people who work at substance use disorder treatment programs, including your local methadone treatment program, admire you for the difficult journey you’ve decided to undertake. If you don’t recognize that every day, it might be because you’re not looking for it. Or maybe some days your counselor is tired, and the doctor is rushed. But the truth is, there are few things more difficult than beating opiate addiction. Everybody at the methadone treatment program knows that and gives you credit for your efforts.
The Familiar Is Comfortable
Just remember that your fears are normal. Your life as you’ve been living it, even if it has been unhealthy and self-destructive, holds a certain comfortable pattern. When you step outside the box, it’s natural to worry about how that will go. You are sacrificing those rewarding highs, which stimulated your brain’s reward center to tell you that all was well.
Just remember that all was not well while you were using drugs. Before you entered your methadone treatment program, you were risking your life, your health, your freedom, your emotional security, and your financial security. You probably didn’t go into treatment without some kind of severe wake-up call, and just keep reminding yourself that, whatever it was, it has pushed you into a better lifestyle.
In a Methadone Treatment Program, Fear Equals Success
Fear means your life is changing. Fear is natural whenever a huge change comes into someone’s life. It doesn’t matter if it seems like a positive or a negative change. You’ve gone through some bad experiences while using drugs, and they have caused fears. But think back to some good periods in your life. Did you get married? There was some fear or worry involved, right? Did you plan a major vacation or buy a house? Even those kinds of positive experiences bring on fear.
That’s because change stimulates fear. In fact, the ancient Chinese hieroglyph for change comprises the two words for danger and opportunity. So just think about it: Your mind is fearful because you have an opportunity that seems dangerous. You are putting yourself on the line here. Will you succeed?
Dealing With Fear During Opiate Recovery
You can take advantage of the things you’ll learn during therapy at the methadone treatment program to help lessen your fear. Try these methods:
- A favorite relaxation technique involves deep breathing. Sit in a chair with your back straight. Plant your feet evenly on the floor. Put your hands on your abdomen, just above your waist. Breathe in slowly as you count to 7. Hold it for 5 seconds, and then exhale while you count to 7 again. As you practice this common relaxation technique, your body will eventually learn to go into deep breathing mode whenever you become fearful or anxious.
- Mindfulness Meditation is a technique your counselor can show you. It involves choosing a spot, a focal point, and a relaxation of your physical self.
- Write in a journal. Whenever your fears overwhelm you, write down what’s bothering you and what else happened during your day. Eventually you might see a pattern between what you fear and what instigates that fear. At the very least, writing about your worries will provide a good outlet. Buy a cheap lockbox for your journal if you want to protect your privacy—you can get one fairly inexpensively.
- Talk to others who are in the same boat with you. Go to 12-step meetings. Listen to other people’s stories, and then you will eventually be able to share your own.
At the very least, be certain to share your fears with your counselor at the methadone maintenance therapy program. That person is the one person who will truly understand and validate your fears. They will also help you beat them.