Grief is something we all experience at some point in our lives. Some may experience this feeling more than others. Grieving during addiction recovery comes with an additional set of struggles. Grief can tend to leave us more vulnerable to temptation as a fix to ease the pain we are feeling. This being the case, it is imperative to seek help in the form of therapy and accept support from addiction recovery communities during this time.
Grief, as we experience it, comes in five separate stages. Each stage encompasses its own perspective, symptoms, thought patterns, and reactions. These five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages may be experienced in no particular order and the length of time spent in each stage can vary from person to person.
The denial stage is one most spend the first few days, or even weeks, experiencing after the onset of grieving. This stage involves living in a state of preferred reality as opposed to actual reality. Instead of processing what is really occurring, you may be thinking and responding as if circumstances were different. Many describe a feeling of numbness during this stage. This can sometimes serve as the body’s first line of defense, allowing for a less impactful reaction to the situation.
The feeling of anger and rage tend to follow the denial stage. At this point, reality has set in, and you may be feeling extremely angry at the reality of the situation. You may be wondering why this has happened to you or feel as though you have been dealt a bad hand in life. Blaming others can be a common response during this phase, as you may be desperate to assign responsibility to someone. It is important to allow yourself time to feel angry and accept these emotions. Anger opens space for coping and healing to begin.
The next stage involves the “what if” scenario. If this one little detail had been different, would the outcome have been the same? While there may be a million different if/then scenarios, the reality does not change. During this phase, you might find yourself trying to negotiate with God or a higher power to reverse what has occurred.
After throwing in all of your chips and coming to terms with the inefficacy of your negotiations, you may begin to feel empty, hopeless, or withdrawn. The symptoms commonly associated with depression creep in once you have exhausted every effort to avoid, assign blame, or change the outcome of the situation. This may leave you feeling very overwhelmed by life in general or even numb.
The final stage of grief is acceptance. This involves re-entering reality and facing it head-on. While you are not OK with the circumstances, you understand that life will go on, and you will be OK. The stage can include good days and bad days and some days that fall somewhere in between. This is a period of transitioning and adjusting to life as it is now.
Unfortunately, studies have shown a correlation between grief and addiction. Grief can often serve as the trigger for the onset of substance abuse or can be the reason for relapse. As a result, experiencing grief during treatment or in recovery can be especially devastating.
Seeking support during a time of grief is important for everyone. If you are or have battled with addiction, feeling supported and receiving guidance throughout the grieving process is vital. Grief can bring about intense negative emotions, some of which you may feel the need to avoid or escape. This can make it tempting to fall back into bad habits or look for a temporary fix to help ease the pain. Seeking and participating in various forms of therapy, support groups, and engaging with the addiction recovery community can be very beneficial.
There are various forms of therapy that can be helpful in coping with times of grief. These can include group therapy specific to your situation or individual grief counseling. Additionally, holistic therapies such as sound or art therapy can be very beneficial to the healing process.
During treatment, you learn to lean on your community in times of need. If you are grieving, this qualifies. Engaging with others who may have a similar background and are going through or have been through similar situations can be an excellent tool for healing. Feeling understood and supported by others during such a difficult time can promote healing and help you move forward.
Grief can be very difficult to cope with for anyone but can be especially tricky for those in treatment or recovering from substance use disorders. Grief comes in five stages, and most experience some form of each stage before they are able to move forward and carry on with some version of life as usual. Seeking support during each stage of grief and learning how to cope with the feelings that may accompany each stage can be vital to remaining on track with treatment and in recovery. You do not have to experience and cope with grief alone. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a variety of therapeutic options to promote healing and teach coping strategies. We provide a recovery-focused community and take pride in our whole-person treatment approach. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, give Enlightened Solutions a call today at (833) 801-LIVE.
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