Do you expect life after sobriety to be uneventful? Unfortunately, getting sober doesn’t mean life will always be perfect. As if addiction recovery wasn’t challenging enough, significant life events might come along that affect your health and well-being. Loss and grief can be particularly trying when you are in recovery. If not managed well, these two intense challenges may undermine your progress toward recovery.
The Impact of Grief Over Losing Loved Ones
Losing a loved one can trigger a range of intense emotional reactions, such as sadness, anger, loneliness, and confusion. Grief can add traumatic stress to an already difficult period. People who have never used substances before may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb themselves against the emotional pain.
Grief is often viewed in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although these are typical experiences people have while going through loss and grief, each stage can look different for everyone. They can cause you to isolate yourself if you don’t manage them well. Grief and depression may cause you to withdraw from recovery practices and quit attending peer support groups, which is not helpful for your long-term recovery.
Because how you adjust to loss depends largely on your emotional state before the loss, you may have a higher risk of poor adjustment depending on where you are in your recovery journey. You may need extra support from mental health experts to navigate this loss.
Dealing with Double Losses
Overcoming an addiction can feel like a loss to be grieved in itself. Coping with a loss is a perpetual theme throughout achieving sobriety. You might miss the use of substances and the distraction, intensity, and relaxation brought by substances. Your brain may crave drug and alcohol use to bypass processing challenging emotions. Losing what once was a coping mechanism can be a grieving process.
Putting effort into recovery routines may also mean that you lose certain things. You are losing free time to recovery efforts, you may lose friends you used to use or drink with, you’ve lost an entire lifestyle, and you may feel like a bit of freedom is taken as you let peers and loved ones hold you accountable. With each phase of recovery, you will experience losses, but the freedoms you gain are more than worth it.
When losing loved ones compounds the loss of an old lifestyle, there can be intense emotional stress. Grief and loss also throw predictability out of the window. Working through the stages of grief is not linear, and unexpected emotions may hit you out of nowhere. Add to this the hard work of addiction recovery, and you’ve got a difficult road ahead. It simply takes more patience and time to deal with double losses.
For recovering individuals, double losses may also involve divorce, job loss, bankruptcy, and more. People often say that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, when double losses are involved because of recovery, you must reinforce self-care practices while getting extra support from family, friends, and health professionals.
Self-Care Practices When Coping With Grief and Loss
No matter how long you have been in recovery, grieving a loss may pose risks for relapse. Luckily there are effective self-care techniques you can work on to safeguard a healthy emotional state. First, acknowledge the pain you are feeling now and find ways to verbalize it or visualize it. Try talking with trusted friends or using art therapy to express the pain.
Secondly, be aware that grief can trigger many unexpected emotions. Spend time to connect with your inner self each day and check on yourself: How are you feeling today? What are you feeling? Why? It may be a good idea to keep a journal and track your emotional journey. Writing about your emotions is an excellent way to express them.
Equally important, even during intense grief and loss, take care of yourself physically. Do not skip meals. Keep your body hydrated. If you can’t sleep at night, make time to nap or rest during the day. Find healing activities, including taking a walk in nature or picking up the phone to speak to a trusted friend. Listen to your body and care for yourself intentionally.
Your emotional and mental health need special attention during this time. Work with mental health specialists to determine whether you’re in the natural course of grief or have become depressed. If there are symptoms of your grief leading to major and chronic depression, consider working with a mental health expert to address it.
Lastly, you should consistently participate in recovery activities during grief. Even when you do not feel like sharing or talking, it is still important to attend meetings. Maintaining connections with a support network is the best way to stay sober through this difficult time, especially if you need special care to address emerging mental health issues.
If tragedy happens during recovery, you can experience increased stress due to grief and bereavement. Learning to cope with grief while managing triggers is important for relapse prevention and long-term recovery. Laguna Shores Recovery’s mental health specialists can work with you to relieve the symptoms of grief and loss to achieve better health outcomes. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff can help you achieve long-term and sustainable wellness. We have helped many recovering individuals learn coping mechanisms in different phases of life while maintaining sobriety. Our recovery experts will walk alongside you to offer continuous support and guidance. For more information, call us at (866) 774-1532 today.