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Fear kept me from getting treatment for a long time.

I remember back when I was in active addiction that there were times when I really wanted to stop using drugs but the fear of inpatient treatment kept me from doing anything about it.

These feelings of wanting to get clean can disappear as quickly as they come. This is why it is important to act on these feelings as soon as you have them. Ambivalence is a common part of being an addict. Ambivalence means that you want two things at the same time. You want to be clean but you want to get high.

Confusing? Not to an addict.

An addict is very familiar with this kind of duality. It's kind of like the cartoon of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. They are both talking to you and saying opposite things. Sometimes the angel (wanting to get clean/sober) seems a little stronger and sometimes the devil (wanting to get high/drunk) seems a little stronger but neither one ever really wins the argument.

To overcome your fears of going to inpatient treatment, you have to take action when your angel is at its strongest.

Sometimes, it's better to not think about it too much and just act on it. Don't worry that you may not wholeheartedly want to get clean. This is normal. Once the drugs leave your system, you will be thinking clearer and your angel will get stronger. Plus, you'll have lots of people around you who will help you listen to your angel more than your devil.

If acting on your thoughts of getting clean isn't enough to motivate you to inpatient treatment, think about all your fears of going to inpatient treatment and how you can overcome them. I had lots of fears about going to inpatient treatment before I went. I'm going to make a list of some of my fears and then show you how you can fight against them.

What Scared Me

Some of my fears included:

  1. Withdrawal is going to be painful and uncomfortable.
  2. I won't know anyone there so I'll be all alone.
  3. I don't know what will happen there.
  4. They'll make me work.
  5. I'll have to talk about all the bad stuff I did.
  6. I'll start to feel the guilt for all the bad stuff I did.
  7. I'll start to have feelings again. I like feeling numb.
  8. I'll have to give up my friends and my boyfriend (or girlfriend).
  9. I'll be bored without drugs. Life won't be any fun.
  10. I don't have any willpower. I can't stop using drugs.
  11. I won't be me without drugs.
  12. I spend all my time on drugs. What will I do without drugs?
  13. I have a mental health issue too. Will this be treated as well?

Overcoming Fears

If you put some thought into your fears, you can turn them all around and make them into reasons to go to inpatient treatment. You can make an argument for why each fear isn't a reason to avoid rehab. In some cases, you can even turn your fears into strengths. This may be hard to believe but you can do it if you think about it in a positive light. Let's examine each of my fears and how you can change them around so they don't seem so scary.

1. Withdrawal Is Going to Be Painful and Uncomfortable

You can choose to go to a rehab with a detox unit that will make you comfortable during the withdrawal period. Alleviate this fear by contacting rehabs and asking them questions about their detox unit.

  • Will they give you medications to make you comfortable?
  • Can you watch TV, read or do other things to distract yourself?
  • Can you bring comfort items from home such as a favorite pillow or blanket?
  • Will medical staff regularly check your blood pressure and heart rate and treat you accordingly?

You have the right to ask questions before you chose a rehab facility. Remember, the worst part of withdrawal will be over in only a few days to a week. I know it seems like forever when you are going through it but the reality is it is only a short time.

Withdrawal isn't as bad as our minds make it out to be. Realistically, I have had the flu and other illnesses in recovery that were actually worse than the physical part of most times I went through withdrawal. It is the mental part that is most difficult. When I had the flu, I knew nothing would make it better so it didn't seem as bad. That you know your drug of choice will immediately stop the withdrawal is what actually makes it hard to bear.

Being in a place away from home where you cannot get to drugs will make it easier to bear because you know there is nothing you can do.

2. I Won't Know Anyone There So I'll Be All Alone

You won't be alone because you will be surrounded by staff who understand addiction and will be there to help you through it. You will also be with other addicts who understand exactly what you are going through. People tend to bond quickly in rehab because all you have is each other. This will help you to not feel you are all alone.

3. I Don't Know What Will Happen There

This one is easy to change. You can contact the rehab and simply ask them what will happen. You have the right to ask questions. Ask them to explain:

  • Their intake process
  • How long detox usually lasts
  • What will be expected of you
  • What their schedule is like
  • What outings the rehab takes clients to
  • What activities are available
  • How much down time you will have
  • How many breaks you get
  • When meals are served
  • When family can visit
  • And anything else you might want to know

4. They'll Make Me Work

Most rehabs will expect you to do chores, clean up after yourself, go to group therapy, meetings, etc. You can find all this out by asking questions before you go. This may seem like a lot to take in at first but you will want to keep busy to keep your mind off using.

Doing the work expected of you in rehab will actually make you feel better about yourself. It will make you feel productive, like you are accomplishing something. They keep you busy in rehab for an important reason.

Trust that they know what they are doing. If you are still unsure, ask them if the things they require you to do are evidence based treatments for addiction. This means they have been researched and found to be effective.

5. I'll Have to Talk about All the Bad Stuff I Did

No one can ever make you talk about something you don't want to talk about.

If you feel the need to talk about something but don't want to talk about it in a group, ask to talk to an individual counselor. You don't have to resolve all of your issues before leaving rehab. That is why it is important to arrange aftercare before you leave.

Aftercare is a plan for ongoing treatment. You didn't become an addict overnight so it will take more than 30 days to resolve all your issues. You have the rest of your life to work on your issues.

6. I'll Start to Feel the Guilt for All the Bad Stuff I Did

As the drugs or alcohol wear off, you may start to feel guilty for some of the things you did in active addiction.

This is what counseling is designed to help you with. Talk about your feelings and you will find others who are dealing with the same things. Realize that you did certain things to survive during active addiction. Learning about the disease concept will help you understand that you have an illness which causes behavioral changes.

Think of it this way, people have been known to have personality changes when they have certain illnesses like a brain tumor. Well, addiction is a brain disease too. Addiction causes behavioral changes as well.

Also remember, you are human and you make mistakes. You have plenty of time to do things to make up for your mistakes. One of the best ways to make up for the mistakes of addiction is to get better, live a good, productive life and become a part of society again. 

7. I'll Start to Have Feelings Again. I Like Feeling Numb

You will start to have feelings again. However, feelings can be a wonderful thing.

Feeling may mean you have to feel hurt, anger or resentment but you also get to feel happiness, joy and love again. Some feelings may not be as pleasant as others but without the "negative" feelings, you can't experience the "positive" feelings.

Plus, all feelings are based on your interpretation. You can choose to see all emotions as serving a purpose and therefore not "negative." You can also change how you perceive some feelings. For example, you can interpret the same feeling as excitement or anxiety. Think about how you feel before riding a roller coaster. Two people could feel the same way but one says they are excited and another says they are anxious.

8. I'll Have to Give up My Friends and My Boyfriend/Girlfriend

To stay clean, you do have to stay away from people who continue to use drugs or drink. If you think about it realistically, most of these people are not real friends anyway. Real friends do not let you hurt yourself by taking drugs or drinking when it is clearly causing you harm. That is not to say that your feelings of love or caring for these people is not genuine. They may not be bad people and they may really care about you too. However, they are sick people and until they get better, you need to stay away from them to keep your sobriety.

If you choose to become involved in recovery, you can make some new friends who will care about you in a healthier way. These people will help you stay clean because they know it will improve your life. Early recovery is a time to work on yourself so intimate relationships are discouraged. A relationship will distract you from your recovery. Even good relationships can be stressful because they are new. Early recovery is difficult enough without adding the stress of a relationship on top of everything else you will be experiencing.

9. I'll Be Bored without Drugs. Life Won't Be any Fun

For a long time, the only fun you had in life involved drugs or alcohol. However, there are lots of other fun things to do in life. Think of recovery as an exciting time full of new experiences. You can discover new activities that you can enjoy instead of drugs or alcohol. You may discover that you like sports, reading, movies, music or lots of other things.

10. I Don't Have Any Willpower. I Can't Stop Using Drugs

The great thing that you will learn about recovery is that it isn't about having willpower. You will discover that there are lots of recovering addicts who will help you stay clean. They will help you because helping you helps them stay clean too. There is a saying in recovery, "I can't but WE can." This means you don't have to do it alone.

11. I Won't Be Me without Drugs

For years, your identity may have revolved around being a drug addict or an alcoholic.

It doesn't have to be that way. In recovery, you can discover a new you. You can define who you will be without using any substances. You can learn to love yourself in a way you never did when you were using. This can be an exciting time of discovery for you.

12. I Spend All My Time on Drugs. What Will I Do without Them? 

Just like discovering who you are without drugs or alcohol, you can discover what you like to do without them. You can begin a new life. At some point, your new life may involve finding employment or going back to school. Even if you are later in life, it is never too late to start a new career. You can discover something you like to do and find a way to turn it into a career. Having a career will help you feel productive and raise your self-esteem. 

13. I Have a Mental Health Issue Too. Will This Be Treated as Well?

It is important to treat any mental health issues along with your addiction. Your addiction may have even been your way of coping with an underlying mental health disorder. When you are looking for a rehab, ask them if they can treat your mental health issue in addition to your addiction. You may want to find a rehab that treats dual diagnosis. This means the rehab specializes in treating mental health along with addiction.

Beat Your Fears

If you are addicted to a substance and have been afraid to go to rehab, hopefully this will help you get rid of some of your fears of entering rehab. If you have other fears not listed here, write them down and find ways to argue against giving in to your fears. You can ask other recovering addicts, a counselor or even a potential rehab you are considering to help you relieve yourself of your fears. Fears can be debilitating and keep you stuck in your addiction for years but it doesn't have to be like that. You can fight your fears and find reasons to go to rehab instead of reasons to avoid it.

About the author Anna Deeds:
I am a recovering addict and a Licensed Professional Counselor. I have over 7 years clean from all substances and more than 10 years from illicit drugs. I work as an addiction counselor and have more than 5 years experience counseling addicts.
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Page last updated Jul 31, 2013

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