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Fears That Stop People From Going to Rehab

Addiction treatment centers show those suffering from substance use disorders that they are capable of overcoming their struggles and achieving sobriety. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from substance use disorders don’t enter these recovery programs because they fear it will cause them more pain. Most notably, fear of failure and fear of suffering from withdrawal keep those who need treatment from getting help. But there are other fears that stop people from entering into treatment.

The best treatment programs acknowledge these fears and have programs in place to address them. Remember, no matter what you may think, you are never alone. Understand the fears that may stop you or a loved one from going to rehab to overcome them and get proper help.

Common Fears That Stop People From Seeking Help

Fear is a common reason why people don’t go to rehab. Though everyone has a unique story, there are a few common fears that stop people from seeking the help they need. Identifying and understanding these worries is the first step to overcoming them. If you or a loved one is scared of entering a treatment program, read through these common feelings and reflect on how they measure up to your situation.

You may feel deep regret for things you did during your active addiction

Confronting the Past

In recovery, you will inevitably reflect on your past and what led to your alcohol or drug use in the first place. For many, this act of reflection brings traumatic memories and grief to the forefront. You may feel deep regret for things you did during your active addiction, such as lying to loved ones and missing out on important events. You might even go through deeper psychological processes like grief and post-traumatic stress disorder in response to events you avoided confronting by using drugs and alcohol.

The idea of confronting your past can be overwhelming, and some actions and relationships might seem unfixable. With support from professional medical staff, friends and family, the process of facing up to your past can be much easier.

If you’re afraid of confronting the past during addiction recovery, you will learn in treatment that everyone has stories, some parts good and some parts bad. The bad parts do not define you, and your past does not define your ability to seek treatment. Recovery centers know this is a fear many people struggle with, and they have individual and group therapy to help those with substance use disorders confront and overcome this fear.


Withdrawal refers to the effects of cutting out or reducing the use of alcohol or other drugs. Factors like the length of use, the drug of choice, age and health can impact the symptoms and severity of withdrawal. A good general description for withdrawal is that it has the opposite effects of the drug in use, but symptoms vary significantly between people and substances.

Depictions of withdrawal in the media and on television can be extreme and might lead many to fear the symptoms of withdrawal, a completely logical fear. Know that withdrawal is treatable alongside addiction. For some drugs, pharmacotherapy is available to reduce the negative side effects of withdrawal and can make recovery easier for many. If pharmacotherapy is not available, treatment centers offer psychological support to those in recovery so they can manage their withdrawal symptoms and stay on track.

If you are avoiding seeking treatment because of your fear of withdrawal, professionals can help with that, too. Proper education on withdrawal, instead of extreme media depictions, can help people confront and overcome their fears.


Whether you’ve been through treatment before or this is your first time, the fear of failure is a huge obstacle and one of the most common fears. Perfectionism is often at the root of this fear, with personal and societal expectations shaping high standards for success. Relapse is scary to think about, and many people see it as a sign of personal failing. If you relapse, you might think you weren’t strong enough to continue in recovery or that it was inevitable.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the relapse rate for substance use disorders is 40%-60%. That is too high a number to result from individual failings, and even the medical community acknowledges relapse as part of the recovery process. Even so, relapse can be dangerous and potentially fatal in some cases.

Failure is an aspect of learning, so it shouldn’t be as scary as it often is. For those with substance use disorders, this fear might keep them out of the treatment programs they need. The benefit of the recovery process is that it can give you the tools to confront failures and relapses head-on, rather than avoiding trying because it may not work.


While you may not realize it, you could be afraid of success. Success still means there’s a long road ahead of you, and it’s natural to feel worried about what will happen on the other side of addiction. You may even experience grief for the way your addiction seemed to help you cope with certain issues and traumas. Though in part irrational, fear of success is very common because of the fear of the unknown.

People struggling with substance use disorders commonly feel anxious about not knowing what the future holds, and once successful in their recovery, they face constant fear of relapse. The good news is that most recovery programs recognize recovery as a lifelong process and provide continuing support to those who graduate or complete the program.

About 43% of those in substance use disorder treatment for misuse of prescription painkillers have symptoms or a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety

Facing Emotions Without Drugs or Alcohol

After using drugs and alcohol or misusing medications to cope, the idea of facing reality full-force can be overwhelming. About 43% of those in substance use disorder treatment for misuse of prescription painkillers have symptoms or a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety. Stopping the use of drugs or alcohol, in addition to the symptoms of withdrawal, can cause suppressed emotions to flood to the surface. The fear of what will happen when these emotions resurface leads people to avoid treatment.

The numbness that comes with drug and alcohol use might be a tempting solution to life’s difficulties, but drugs and alcohol are never the answer, and they often create more problems in your life. In recovery, people learn communication skills and coping mechanisms that don’t simply numb their issues — rather, these strategies help them work through their trauma and change their mindset.

Facing emotions without drugs or alcohol can be a scary prospect when it’s been your coping mechanism, but there is so much hope and healing that comes with recovery. Confronting your emotions head-on during treatment can be a healing and therapeutic process, and you might even find forming close bonds with others much easier once you do so.


There are so many demands on our time, it can seem like the length of time required for treatment is an impossibility. You might fear letting people you love down by not being present and be afraid of what you’ll miss while you are in recovery. The thing is, addiction might already have taken those things from you. Seeking treatment, though a long process, can help you reclaim your time.

Those who want a quick fix for their substance use disorder may have difficulty sticking to treatment programs, as evidence-based practices often factor in time as one of the most critical determinants of success. The longer people commit to their recovery, the easier sobriety becomes over time. In general, the first weeks to months are the hardest, but after a few years of hard work, it definitely pays off.

Treatment centers generally offer 30-, 60- and 90 day-long programs, but the timeline differs for almost every patient. Good treatment programs will assess the needs of each individual and determine a rough timeline that works for them. There are even options available for more extended programs in sober living communities.


The cost of treatment programs is another reason someone with a substance use disorder might avoid seeking treatment. For some, their addiction affects their relationships and financial situation to such an extent that they have no money and no one to turn to for help. Even in these extreme scenarios, there is hope.

Treatment centers accept insurance to cover all or part of the cost of the treatments and medications necessary for your recovery. In addition to accepting insurance, most also offer payment plans to make the financial commitment more manageable. Some organizations may even offer scholarships to sponsor those seeking treatment for their substance use disorder.


Disclosing a substance use disorder to family and friends, or even health professionals, can be a frightening prospect for many. If no one or very few people know about your struggles with addiction, seeking treatment might mean telling those you love about your substance use disorder. You may be worried about your social and professional reputation, and that’s OK.

While it is difficult to expose your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, that is an essential aspect of recovery. Recovery isn’t about making you look better or improving your reputation — it’s about making you feel better. Entering into a treatment program and beginning the road to recovery is a brave act, and others who know the true nature of addiction will support you rather than judge you.

It’s natural to worry about your reputation when struggling with a substance use disorder, but there is no shame in seeking help. And you never know, by sharing your recovery with your friends and family, you might inspire someone else to follow your lead and seek treatment.

Losing Work

The most common fear people have about going to rehab is losing work. The time it takes to recover from a substance use disorder might mean taking time off from your job. For many, entering rehab might lead them to fear losing a job they’ve worked hard to earn and keep. If you’re worried about losing your job while in recovery, you may be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

If you qualify, FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stipulate that an employer may not terminate you for seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. FMLA also covers employees who need to take leave to care for a family member seeking treatment. Furthermore, your employer must maintain your health benefits for the whole 12-week period.

Before talking to your boss about your struggles with addiction, know your rights and relevant company policies. While your substance use disorder may be grounds for termination if it interferes with your job performance, they cannot fire you for seeking treatment. Therefore, going to rehab is your safest option if you want to maintain your job.

What To Do If You're Afraid To Go To Rehab

What to Do if You’re Afraid to Go to Rehab

If you’re afraid to enter a treatment program for your substance use disorder, there are specific actions you can take to counteract your fears.

1. Examine and Identify Your Fears

The first step in overcoming any fear or hesitancy you feel is to identify the root causes. Are you afraid of others finding out about your substance use disorder, or are you more worried that you won’t be able to afford treatment? If you can pick out the specific anxieties that prevent you from getting help, you can take the necessary steps to overcome them. You can do this through personal reflections, but addiction treatment counseling is also a great option to work through and confront your fears.

2. Educate Yourself About Addiction

Those with substance use disorders often blame themselves for their addiction, and many see it as a sign of personal weakness. But that is not the reality of addiction. Learning more about what causes addiction and the biological factors at play help enormously in fighting the stigma around addiction. Education can also help those who struggle with substance use disorders to confront their fears about the physical and psychological aspects of recovery. The best place to get information about addiction is from a qualified health care provider.

3. Gather the Support of Family and Friends

Friends and family can help you confront your fears about recovery and provide a network of support during your treatment. Whether through emotional support or financial assistance, friends and family are often instrumental aspects in recovery. For those who may not have access to strong support structures, treatment centers can create one by introducing them to many people who share similar struggles.

4. Do It Afraid

Enter treatment despite your fears, and you’ll see the benefits of recovery and feel much more confident in yourself as a result. Seeking help is a courageous act, and embarking on this journey despite your fears can only benefit you in the long run. When you enter treatment, you might find that some of your fears were unfounded or simply a result of improper education about addiction. Whatever the case may be, you are never alone in your fears or in your recovery.

Don't Let Fear Win Get Help At Gateway Foundation

Don’t Let Fear Win — Get Help at Gateway Foundation

If you’re afraid of seeking treatment because you fear it will cause you pain and discomfort, don’t let it stop you from getting help. The physical and psychological benefits of recovery are so much better than the anxieties you might feel about entering treatment. Identify what scares you and educate yourself about it to counteract the fear — and most importantly, seek the help and treatment you deserve.

Gateway Foundation can be your partner in addiction recovery. We provide evidence-based treatments that work, and we have a caring staff of professionals ready to address your concerns. We practice addiction medicine to treat the real physiological and psychological effects of addiction, and our methods produce lasting results. Our ultimate goal is to empower patients’ lifelong success, which is why we provide individualized treatment plans and support for those with complex needs, such as mental health disorders.

If you or a loved one have fears about getting help for a substance use disorder, Gateway Foundation’s compassionate staff and proven treatment methods can alleviate your fears and help get your life back on track. Don’t let your fear win — contact Gateway Foundation today for help from a place you can trust.

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