Grieving the loss of addiction

Grieving the loss of addiction

As an addict in recovery, you may not expect to actually grieve for your addiction – but you likely will. And you will be grieving for more than just the drug and the lifestyle it came with. Know what to expect, so you can be better prepared.

Grief is not usually associated with a “loss” that is considered positive for someone’s health and wellbeing. We expect to experience grief when faced with the loss of a loved one, after a natural disaster or other tragedy in the community, or with the loss of a job or home. But grieving the loss of addiction when first becoming sober is common and can be easily overlooked.

When entering a treatment programme grief for the loss of addiction itself is not usually on the list of things to expect. In early sobriety other immeasurable losses caused by addiction also come to the surface, contributing to a complex experience of grief and loss.

An addict can expect to grieve some of the following losses:

  • The addictive drug or behaviour itself. In a way an addict has allowed their drug of choice to become their only friend, and only coping mechanism.
  • Sense of self. In addiction a person’s sense of self becomes revolved around drug use. Losing your sense of personal identity is difficult, especially in early stages of recovery as identity is slowly redefined.
  • Daily routine and lifestyle. This includes people, places, and rituals surrounding the addiction, all of which will have to be let go.
  • Social network.  One may soon realise that their entire social network revolved around the addiction, and they can no longer keep these people in their life if they want a good chance at long term sobriety.
  • Time lost with friends and family who have since grown up, moved, or passed away.
  • Health. Recognition of the sometimes irreversible damage addiction has caused to the body may result in mourning the loss of one’s health.
  • Home, job or income. It is sometimes these losses that propel a person into rehab for the first time.
  • Morals and values lost in pursuit of the addictive drug or behaviour.

Acknowledging these losses and the grief tied to them is the first step in dealing with the weight they hold. In order to successfully move through grief in early recovery it must be experienced, not avoided or ignored. According to Harvard professor of psychology J. William Worden, people must go through four “tasks of mourning” to grieve a loss:

  • Accept the reality of the loss
  • Work through the pain (rather than avoiding or medicating it)
  • Adjust to the environment (adapt to a new normal)
  • Relocate the emotional energy once tied to the loss

Having a safe place to experience the pain that has been masked through addiction and the grief that follows is crucial. Part of the reason why a supportive rehab programme can be essential in someone’s pursuit to becoming and staying sober is that feelings of grief – amongst shame, anger and sadness – will surface and must be worked through.

At The Cabin we provide world-class addiction treatment that will give you the skills you need to beat addiction. Contact us today if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.