The idea of individuals in early recovery going through a grieving process may sound strange, but it is perfectly understandable. The person would have a great deal to feel positive about, but the process will also involve saying goodbye to an old way of living and stepping into the unknown.
The Grief Involved in Giving Up an Addiction
Even those who have been in abusive relationships can feel a sense of grief after escaping this unhealthy partnership. Abusing alcohol or drugs is very similar to a relationship, while this behaviour may have been something the person was engaged in for many years – sometimes all of their adult life up until this point. When individuals are dealing with this type of problem, it can take up most of their time. It means that initially there can be a huge hole in the person’s life when the problem ends.
It is common knowledge that humans find comfort in the familiar; this is true even when the familiar is miserable and painful. The reason so many people remain trapped in addiction long-term is that the thought of giving up the behaviour is just too much. As the old saying goes, it is better the devil you know.
Grief in Recovery and Romancing the Drink
One of the most dangerous things that can happen in early recovery during this grieving process is the person can begin to romance the drink or drug. Memory can be tricky, and even the memory of pain that happened just a few days ago can start to fade. Grief over having to make such a major life change can mean the person begins to remember the times when they seemed to enjoy alcohol or drugs. These memories tend to be greatly exaggerated, so even the most average day of drinking or drug using can be remembered as much better than it actually was.
The Danger of Grief in Early Recovery
It is perfectly natural to experience a little bit of grief over this major life change in early recovery, but if this thinking were allowed to take hold in the mind then it could lead to serious problems. These could include:
- using it as an excuse to relapse
- weakening the resolve to stay sober
- making the person develop a cynical attitude towards recovery
- leading to dry drunk syndrome where the person is physically sober but acts as if he or she is still in the midst of addiction
- leading to stinking thinking where the person becomes overwhelmed with negativity
- preventing the person from taking the steps needed to build a much better future.
How to Deal with Grief about Ending the Addiction
The one thing you do not want to do is to feel embarrassed or ashamed about having these feelings of grief. This does not mean that you are not seriously committed to sobriety; it is just part of the recovery process. In order to help with the healing, you need to be able to talk honestly about how you are feeling. If you belong to a recovery fellowship, you will probably benefit from sharing this in a meeting or with your sponsor. There are going to be many people who understand what you are talking about and who would be willing to offer you support and advice.
You want to avoid wallowing in your grief, which can happen if you do things that are going to make you feel worse, such as listening to your favourite drug-using songs. It is also vital that you do not romance the drink or drug, which can be done by focusing on how much pain the behaviour has caused you and your plans for a better future.
If you feel that grief is starting to get in the way of your recovery, it will be necessary to speak to a professional about your situation. A therapist or counsellor might be a good option and this person can help you dig done to the underlying issues that are stirring up the grief. In some cases, this feeling of loss may be a symptom of depression, so you will need to get this treated before you can function well in sobriety.