We cannot avoid loss; it is a part of life. However, facing that fact is a lot different from hearing it. A loss will never be easy, and the grief that comes with loss is overwhelming. Having to face those emotions when dealing with addiction is even harder.
Often, a part of addiction is self-medicating. You self-medicate to numb unwanted feelings like guilt, sadness, and anger. All those emotions go along with loss. Grief and loss are significant triggers for substance users. Even someone deep within their recovery can face the risk of relapse when trying to manage grief.
It may not be surprising, but an article from Frontiers in Psychology discusses how substance use is a likely response to coping with traumatic life events. This means those already struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) are at a higher risk of using when dealing with severe losses.
The Role of Grief and Loss in Addiction
Not only can a loss risk your recovery, but unresolved grief from an earlier loss can be a corresponding factor to substance abuse. Grief is a persistent emotion that can last years. Since grief is such an overwhelmingly negative feeling, many people try to avoid it.
However, unresolved grief can manifest into an addiction. Numbing the pain of a loss with drugs or alcohol is an ineffective but common way to avoid such emotions. Substance use doesn’t just become a follow-up to grief, but it prevents you from using healthy coping strategies to deal with it.
Letting substance use be an answer to grief and loss can have adverse effects and lead to even more use. Addiction tends to lead to strained relationships, job loss, and more circumstances that cause negative feelings. Using substances to survive a loss becomes a poisonous cycle of self-medicating and more loss.
How to Manage Grief and Loss in Addiction
It is hard for someone without an addiction to face feelings of grief and loss. As you can imagine, managing these emotions while facing addiction is even more challenging. However, that doesn’t mean it is a lost cause. There are several strategies you can use to cope with loss while managing your emotions.
#1. Admit your emotions: This can be the most challenging step in managing grief. Admitting your pain can open the flood gates. Crying and facing negative emotions hurts; however, taking that step lets you cope with the feelings rather than pushing them down, only to explode later in a negative way. Emotions always find a way to the surface. You can face them head-on or drown them in substance use, which would only lead to more pain, loss, and unresolved emotions.
#2. Talk to someone: Talk to a family member or friend about your feelings. Once you can admit them to yourself, talk to others. Let it out so you can gain support and comfort. Being alone with such strong feelings can trigger relapse or substance use. The comfort of being with a trusted loved one is a healthy coping mechanism. No one should have to face grief or loss alone.
#3. Stay active: Try not to let grief or loss control your life. Remain active with your work, hobbies, and other activities. Abandoning those things during grief will make you comfortable in the sadness. It allows addiction and self-medicating to become your norm. By waking up every day and accomplishing a goal or even having fun, you remind yourself of your capabilities. Doing this adds confidence back into your life and prevents grief and loss from controlling you.
#4. Be creative: Letting out your emotions verbally is cathartic but being creative can do better for your mental health during trying times. Instead of numbing emotions like grief with drugs or alcohol, work through them with a creative outlet. Paint, sculpt, work on a project. Using your hands and body to create something out of this pain is a form of therapy. The outlet of art allows you to work through feelings and release them instead of holding on to them. You are proving to yourself that you are in control instead of your emotions.
#5. Join a grief support group: Much like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, a support group surrounds you with others going through something similar. It will not take away your feelings, but it can remind you that you are not alone. You may even be able to find a grief support group for those in recovery.
#6. Get therapy: Therapy is a healthy and essential part of working through grief, loss, and addiction. Coping with a loss can be overpowering at times. Having the help of a professional at a drug rehab or addiction center can be what you need to make sure that your grief doesn’t manifest into substance abuse or relapse.
Sober Living Can Help You Recover From Grief & Loss
Managing grief and loss can seem impossible when it feels like they are controlling you. Letting your addiction take over to numb the pain of these emotions may seem like the easy choice.
However, the link between unresolved grief and addiction is strong, so focusing on healthy coping mechanisms is key to working through your loss. Finding ways to admit your feelings, express them, and release them is necessary for your growth and recovery.
A sober living home can help you manage those emotions and more. SoberLivingNearYou.com provides thousands of reputable sober homes across the country. Finding a sober home for your needs, budget, and personality has never been easier.
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