Facing the loss of a loved one while in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction can be a powerful relapse trigger, especially for those in the early stages of recovery. Loss and grief are a normal part of life and powerful emotions of sadness and despair can occur after the death of a family member or friend, the loss of a relationship, and even the loss of a job or a home – can trigger mental health related issues.
In the past, emotions and stressful events were more than likely dealt with by using a drug of choice. But in recovery, self-medicating our feelings away is no longer an option. Different choices must be made during the grieving process. Anger over the loss and the subsequent depression are normal emotions when facing loss. An addict will move through the stages of grief, from denial to acceptance, and they may even experience physical symptoms that will make it difficult to maintain their life – living clean and sober.
Avoiding Relapse While Grieving
While going through the grieving process, an addict’s priority must be to remain hopeful and avoid relapse – which will only add to feelings of sorrow and regret. Good emotional and mental practices will be key to maintaining sobriety.
- Acknowledge the desire to pick up a drink or a drug and forgive yourself for having those thoughts, realizing it is part of the recovery process and you don’t have to act on these thoughts
- Start expressing your feelings, maybe by writing in a journal or talking to your sober coach more often. When the feelings associated with grief are internalized, they can become exaggerated and overwhelming, leading to feelings of hopelessness which can lead to a relapse.
- Be vigilant to avoid triggers that may be associated with the loss, such anniversaries and special songs, scents, and events shared with the person. These sensory triggers can sideswipe your determination to remain clean and cause acts of impulsive behavior.
There is no one way and no right way to handle loss, grief and the accompanying sadness. But you can survive in healthy ways by increasing your reliance on your network of support. This includes 12-step meetings, fellowship at sober functions, group therapy and individual counseling to get you through a stressful time in your life.
Drug Treatment Center as a Resource
The benefit of starting your recovery within the walls of a drug rehab center is the access you have to resources that you can always return when you are struggling with major life issues. Restarting an outpatient treatment program is a proactive way to avoid relapsing during extremely difficult life circumstances.
Don’t lose the progress you have made when loss and grief enter your life. Contact a professional to stay on track and living clean and sober even through life’s toughest times.