At any time in life, losing a loved one can be a traumatic experience. For those recovering from substance use, the distress of losing a loved one can pose unique risks for your sobriety. How do you cope with loss while in recovery from addictive behaviors?
First, know that it is okay to feel a range of emotions as you process your grief. Everyone grieves differently, and you are no exception. Your feelings are not bad or wrong. It is what you do with them that matters. Second, think about what coping strategies can help you recover from grief in a healthy way. Substance abuse is a common coping mechanism to use to handle life circumstances. Now that you are recovering from substance use, you need to use your new, healthy coping strategies.
What Is Grief?
Grief can be different things to different people. Everyone is unique, and the way you feel about and perceive the world is just as unique. Although, when it comes to the loss of a loved one, grief may be more specific. You are dealing with the complete loss of that person from the physical world. The result can be a shock to your existence.
Grieving is the way you process the absence of a person from your life. It is a long road, one that usually is not quickly resolved. You use the process of grief to learn to live without that person in your life. No one can replace your loved one, but the cycle of grief can help you reach a place where you think more about happy memories with them than the devastation of their loss.
How Do We Grieve?
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief in dealing with death. These five stages are:
When you experience a loss, it is normal to deny the loss. Hearing that a loved one is no longer with you is a terrible shock, and it is normal for that information to take time to sink in.
When you begin to realize the enormity of the loss, you may feel angry. You might question why such a terrible thing has happened and may even attempt to assign blame. Anger is usually followed by bargaining. This can look like trying to make deals with fate or a higher power to bring your loved one back, or ruminating on “what ifs” that you think could have kept them around.
When you finally begin to fully realize your loss, you will likely become intensely sad. This is the depression stage, and it is where you may need to seek therapy with a professional to sort out your grief. It is okay to be sad, and talking to someone can help.
Finally, acceptance comes when you begin to realize nothing that you do will change the loss. When you have accepted this, you can begin to move forward and learn to live life in the wake of losing your loved one and move forward positively.
Healthy Coping Strategies for Grief
Experts say to hold off on making any major life decisions amid grief because you may feel differently after you have processed the loss. You may feel like making major life changes like relocating to a different area, but it is important to take time to meditate on your feelings.
While moving through the stages of grief toward acceptance, you may feel out of control. One way to regain control is to find positive grief management strategies by identifying coping mechanisms that can positively affect your outcomes. Below are a few examples.
Feel Your Emotions
When grieving, it is important to let yourself grieve in the way you need to. It can be helpful to journal your thoughts and experiences and review them later. Reading your own thoughts can help put grief into perspective.
Feel those things that you need to feel. If your emotions feel like they are too intense, seek out the professional resources you have. Your recovery community and counselors are there to help you. They can offer a valuable, positive space to let your emotions flow and serve as an outlet for your grief.
One surefire way to cope with grief and heal positively in recovery is to stay involved with your community. Talking about your grief with others, especially those who also loved the person you have lost, may help you feel better. Your friends and family may be feeling the same grief you are. Remember that you are not alone, and you can rely on those around you to lift you up.
Choose Healthy Practices
A healthy lifestyle and regular exercise can provide many positive benefits for mental health and recovery. This includes working through grief. Getting enough sleep, staying active, eating well, and continuing your recovery practices all help ensure grief will not swamp you.
Grief in Recovery
Recovering from substance use is about learning and implementing coping strategies that will keep you happy and healthy. No matter how you grieve, you can overcome your loss and stay in recovery. The strength to do that is already inside you.
In recovery, grief can be a difficult experience and may put you in a place that jeopardizes your recovery progress. Losing someone close to you can impact every aspect of life, and for someone in recovery, it can mean the loss of a valuable component of your recovery support structure. When you experience loss and grief in recovery, it is vital to reach out when you need help emotionally, physically, or mentally to other people in your recovery support structure. Maintaining your sobriety is important, and we want you to succeed. Whether you need someone to talk to, a safe space, or just guidance, NorthStar Transitions can provide you with all of the tools you need to be successful in your recovery. When grief comes in recovery and you need a helping hand, reach out to us at NorthStar by calling (303) 558-6400.