Arizona Addiction Blog

How Fear and Resistance Block Success in Addiction Recovery

01/04/18: Addiction
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The decision to start drug or alcohol rehab is a huge step up. If you’re contemplating it, kudos! Go for it! Fear and resistance will pop up, threatening various points of sobriety. As you experience the process, there will be emotional highs and lows along the way. While there’s no means to avoid them (and you don’t want to as they help you grow) figuring out what they are and why they show up when they do will help. Think of your success in addiction recovery like a business. Seriously.

The Business of Sobriety Is Personal

Pick any person who has made a success of their life. LeBron James. Larry Fitzgerald. Elon Musk. Vera Wang. Taylor Swift. Ed Sheeran. Miley Cyrus. Your boss. Your mother. Fill in the blank ______________ and add the person you revere as successful. They may have money. They may have an entourage of support. They might not have an issue with addiction. But what they all have is a life with a plan.

Success doesn’t happen by accident. Even if it did, it could not sustain itself without a plan in place to manage the success and help it continue or grow. Your addiction recovery success is no different. It’s serious business and worthy of attention to detail and specific goals, small ones, that will get you to your end game – lifelong sobriety. Although even the best made plans can go sideways.

What You Want Vs. What You’re Afraid Of

We’re all guilty of this behavior. We want to achieve something. Then there’s that little voice inside that starts talking, reminding you of all the things that could go wrong and stops you from ever seeing success. I’ll refer to a scene from the classic film Heaven Can Wait, where two people discuss the balance of probability and outcome. Based on certain circumstances, anything we attempt in this life has a corresponding probability (chance or statistics) that helps predict an outcome.

You can take action to reach a desired outcome, or focus on the probability of success or failure. When we allow fear to lead our decision making, in effect, we have already decided a negative outcome. There’s zero success rate in that!

Where Intention and Action Intertwine

Once you’ve committed to any goal, there are two elements that must come together. Your intention to do it and what you do to make it happen. Think of it as “where the rubber meets the road”.

What-Ifs Can Prompt Change

Considering the what-ifs of recoveryWhen considering undertaking a life change, the mind often engages in the what-ifs. It’s our way of analyzing every possible scenario and every possible outcome to assess whether moving forward through change is a good idea.

  • What if the treatment doesn’t work?
  • What if I can’t afford a rehab program?
  • What if I don’t enjoy life sober?
  • What if I can’t find any new friends?
  • What if I relapse?
  • What if I don’t stop using, then what if?
  • What if I lose my house?
  • What if I lose my car?
  • What if I lose my job?
  • What if I lose my mind?

Effective Change Isn’t Pretty, It’s Wicked Good

There’s a reason why many athletes and business professionals remind themselves of “No Risk, No Reward.” Effective change takes hard work, interspersed with adversity, self-doubt and a strong dose of resistance. Oh, and one more thing – there is no guarantee. Most people can’t change because it confronts their comfort zone turning it upside down, inside out and backwards.

This is what addiction recovery is like. There are 1000 moments and 100 reasons to give up. But the only incentive you need to stay on track and muddle through is this: you live.

Prepare for Change with a Recovery Action Plan

Sitting in a think tank with business professionals will result in coming up with a brilliant idea. From there, a product management team will work with creative marketing to come up with an action plan. In it, there are projects and tasks assigned with specific benchmarks (timelines) that need to be met. It’s a record of accountability.

Your addiction recovery is no different. It needs an action plan to keep you motivated and remind you where you’re going and how to get there. If you reach a plateau or delay, the action plan helps you stay positive and truly see how far you’ve come.

For example, if you went through financial setbacks or have legal obligations that must be met because of your addiction, then part of your recovery action plan can include a schedule on fulfilling those responsibilities.

Review and Revise Every 90 Days

Because life is a moving target, your recovery action plan should be reviewed and updated, every 90 days. If you haven’t reached the level of personal growth you expected to (at various points in the process) check for mental road blocks that might be thwarting your success. Mental blocks can be obvious and intentionally put in place, yes by you, or embedded in your subconscious. Why would anyone do that to themselves….

Fight the Fear of Success

Many incidents of addiction relapse are not from the fear of failure. When your day-to-day is caught up in pain, loss and trauma through a life in addiction, failure is all you know. Success, on the other hand, is like some foreign land. It sounds good but scary at the same time. How would you find comfort in knowing you’re going to a place (success) you’ve never known before?

Overcome Fear

  • Believe in yourself
  • Trust in others’ wisdom
  • Know you’ll persevere
  • Accept the setbacks
  • Follow your action plan
  • One day at a time

Make the Change, Plan for Success

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Melanie SternAuthored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email info@arizonaaddiction.com to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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