Scared of Being Sober: Why Is Sobriety So Hard?
While sobriety is well worth the effort required to achieve it, choosing sobriety is a significant endeavor that requires courage, difficult conversations, and significant life changes. So for some people, sobriety can be a bit scary.
However, others striving for or in sobriety may find themselves asking “Why is sobriety so hard?” Lifestyle modifications can be uncomfortable and perhaps even generate anger and resentment. So these feelings are normal as well.
The best way to deal with these feelings is to first understand them and to then arm yourself with a few strategies to overcome them. By doing so, you’ll likely be able to lessen not only the hurdles you’re anticipating but also the fears associated with being sober.
So here’s a deep dive into the many reasons people struggle on their unique paths to sobriety as well as insights on how to overcome the fears and challenges they’ll likely meet along the way.
What Does Being Sober Mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, being sober simply means abstaining from alcohol and drugs. Though some people are sober for their entire lives, others may have sober episodes of a few years, months, or even days.
Recovery, however, is a broader term and a larger process of change. And while there are various definitions, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”1
That said, while “recovery” and “sobriety” are different terms, they’re also used interchangeably in some instances. Plus, being in recovery typically involves maintaining sobriety, so the two are somewhat intertwined.
Nevertheless, both sobriety and recovery are tied to addiction, which is a chronic relapsing disorder characterized as continued use and drug-seeking behavior regardless of adverse consequences. Addiction is also a brain disorder, which is similar to other diseases in that it can disrupt the body, create harmful effects, and last a lifetime and lead to death if untreated.2
However, addiction is a treatable disorder thanks to a host of research-based methods that can help people stop using and resume happier, healthier lives in recovery. Of course, similar to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, there really isn’t a cure for addiction, and recovery may actually involve episodes of relapse. But treatment helps people to counteract the negative effects of addiction, overcome relapses, and regain control of their lives.3
One of the first steps toward treatment, sobriety, and recovery is recognizing that you have a problem and seeking help.4 However, fear of being sober may hold some people back from taking this first important step. So understanding and addressing these fears is paramount.
Why Am I Scared of Being Sober?
Any big life change naturally brings a sense of fear or unease. So if you’re scared of being sober, you’re totally normal—and you’re not alone.4 The key, however, is to take the next step and to muster the courage to face those fears, as doing so can be incredibly freeing.
While each person’s fears and journey to recovery is different, the following represent some of the more common fears associated with sobriety.
How to Overcome the Fear of Sobriety
Once you have a better handle on the root of your fears, you can better overcome them. Here are a few tips to help decrease sobriety and recovery fears:
- Acknowledge and identify your fears. Identify what part(s) of sobriety actually generate fear. After all, a monster in the light is not as scary as a monster in the dark.
- Speak to someone you trust (e.g., counselors, sober friends, family, and/or healthcare providers). They may provide helpful outside perspectives or be able to offer the support needed to face the fear.
- Identify and write down your reasons for sobriety. Having clear reasons to confront your fear can provide the courage necessary to face it.
- Reach out to people who are sober. Having gone through a similar journey, sober individuals may be able to offer personal advice to address some of your fears, thus making them easier to bear.
- Seek out and join sobriety support groups. Community-based, mutual-aid groups allow people to learn from each other in a voluntary setting. With strangers who are on the same journey, people can find support, encouragement, and the opportunity to give back when they are ready.1
- Contact American Addiction Centers at . are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have regarding treatment. Knowing what to expect can minimize fear.
Why Do I Hate Being Sober, and What Can I Do About It?
Even after being in recovery for a while, you may not be delighted with the changes you have made.4 In fact you may realize you don’t like being sober. And that’s normal as well. For with changes comes adjustments, which can be challenging. So it may take some time before you truly feel content in your new life. But the following insights may ease your journey and improve your outlook.
- Know that even people who have never struggled with addiction often have negative feelings about their life circumstances. Negative feelings are not a sign of failure.4
- Identify the root of your negative feelings. Talking to a sponsor, counselor, or someone you trust may help you identify the cause of your feelings and ultimately help you to identify potential solutions.
- Recognize the positive ways your life has changed and will continue to change due to sobriety. Focusing on the silver linings can help a person persevere through hardships.
- Remind yourself of your reasons for sobriety. Keeping the end goal in mind can foster positive thinking.
- Take steps to form a new community. Trying new activities, making new friends who share a sober lifestyle, and finding new things to enjoy can bring new-found satisfaction.
- Stay connected. Being sure that you do not self-isolate when things are difficult can help protect you from cyclic negative thought patterns. Stay connected with your support circle and seek out aftercare options such as sober living facilities when appropriate.
- Practice self–care. Making sure personal needs are met is an important part of initial recovery and is critical to maintaining it long term. Prioritizing self-care and maintaining boundaries can help with negative feelings.4
Do You Want to Get Sober?
There are many paths toward recovery. A journey can begin with community mutual-help groups, inpatient treatment, residential rehab, outpatient programs, and more. Depending on the severity of addiction and readiness to change, different options may be beneficial for different people. But seeking a professional opinion on where to get started can help alleviate and address your particular fears.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers treatment centers across the United States. Equipped with accredited staff, our rehabs practice evidence-based treatment strategies and provide healing for a host of substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions. To alleviate your fears about admissions, treatment, insurance coverage, and more, talk to an AAC admissions navigator today.