The Connection Between Fear And The Disease Of Addiction

What is fear?

What is the connection between fear and the disease of addiction? Fear is often referred to as an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm. It can also be perceived as being afraid of something or someone as likely to be dangerous, painful or harmful. Fear can cause a change in the body and the organs which can ultimately lead to a change in behavior. This can cause a fight or flight response in animals and humans such as running away from, hiding from or freezing when facing the perceived threat. In humans, fear is modulated by the process of cognition and learning.

The question we ask ourselves is, how does fear contribute or form part of the disease of addiction?

The contribution of Fear in terms of the disease of addiction

Why do addicts choose to stay in the same revolving cycle of self-destruction. Why is it so difficult for addicts to keep clean, specifically in early recovery? The belief is that fear seems to be a major factor of addiction. When most addicts use, they feel that they are invincible in some sense. All their troubles and fears that surround them seem to fall away and they feel that they can face life on life’s terms easily and without worry.

A young girl once told me that she started using drugs because she felt different, that she would never be good enough or that she was worthless to society. This was why she used drugs as it helped her to feel like she had a purpose and that people accepted her. She then later realised in early recovery that they were only using her, and the feelings of worthlessness and loneliness crept in all over again and this caused her relapse as she was fearful that she would never belong.

The reality is, once the drugs stop working, the fear comes crashing down on them all over again. Addicts are often driven by fear. The fear of the unknown, the fear of loneliness, fear of never being good enough, fear of worthlessness, the list goes on and on.

Fear: Irrational and rational

What is the difference between rational and irrational fear in relation to addiction? Rational beliefs represent reasonable, objective, flexible, and constructive conclusions or inferences about reality that support survival, happiness, and healthy result whereas irrational beliefs cloud your consciousness with distortions, misconceptions, overgeneralizations, and oversimplifications. This presents themselves in conditions such as impulsiveness, arrogance, defeatism, condemnation, depression, anxiety, hostility, insecurity, addictions, procrastination, prejudice, envy, compulsions, and obsessions.

Irrational fears seem to be the leading cause for why addicts relapse or continue to use drugs, as they possibly cause the addict to not be able to deal with life on life’s terms leading to anxiety and panic which then leads to relapse.

An example of rational fear would be the fear of death, relapse, financial security, recovery, etc. An example of an irrational fear would be my husband is cheating on me while I’m in treatment, everybody judges me, I will never fit in, etc.

How do people with the disease of addiction live with Fear:

For people in recovery, fear can never be removed, it can however, be outgrown. Fear is ‘False evidence appearing real’ It is about the addict being able to manage the emotions and thoughts in a healthy manner. An addict needs to realize what the fear is, deciding whether it is a rational or irrational fear, and if they can do anything about it or if they need to let that fear go and surrender to a higher power. There are many ways to go about this and this includes prayer and meditation, writing them down so they are able to analyse them, 12 step fellowships, to name a few.

The choice is up to the addict, do they want to fear everything and run, or face everything and recovery.

Dominique LeClaire Rossouw