Grieving Letting Go of Drugs or Alcohol

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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A Poem: Saying Goodbye to Drugs and Alcohol

I did it.  I did it. I did what they said.
I went where they told me to go and mend.
I did it. I did it. I found a new friend.
Now we have a place to go and mend.

I see in my mind. I find her so kind.
I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. I fear in my mind.
I miss you. I miss you. I don’t want a new friend

It’s month two and it’s rough getting through.
I’m feeling stuck like paper to glue.
I miss you. I miss you. Oh why did I choose?

You didn’t laugh. You didn’t cry. You didn’t make fun.
You didn’t hurt. You didn’t want. You didn’t let go.
You didn’t yell.You didn’t scream. You didn’t leave me alone.

How do I let go to love not only you?
How do I learn to love me too?
I need to say goodbye to a love so dear.
I need to say hello to a love so near.

I need to find me by saying goodbye to you.
I need to say hello to me by saying goodbye to you.

–Goodbye

Learning to Live Again with Loss and Grief

The feeling expressed in this poem is an attempt to communicate the pain in surrendering one’s drug of choice and learning to live without this relationship. Without their friend, their pain reliever, their partner in life who made all things bearable. 

We also know that the pain caused by our using was not sustainable and potentially going to kill us. What we have all come to experience upon choosing to end our dependent relationship with our drug of choice is loss. When we experience loss, we grieve. 

What is not commonly talked about in recovery is the loss we experience when we give up drugs. If one uses to avoid pain, then giving up using will bring on painful feelings and memories. The loss of distance from pain will need to be addressed. The process of grieving the loss of the addiction itself is a powerful process where a person finds true relief and freedom.

Some people turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to resolve the pain from the past, which oftentimes includes losses. Whatever the cause, at The Encino Recovery and Detox Center we understand addiction and recovery and how to incorporate grief in the healing and recovery process. 

Grief, Attachment and Addiction

Addiction is a complex condition characterized by compulsive drug use, despite harmful consequences. It can involve substances like drugs or alcohol, as well as behaviors such as gambling or excessive shopping. People may turn to addictive substances or behaviors as a way to numb their feelings of grief and loss. The temporary relief provided by these addictive substances or behaviors can provide an escape from the pain and sadness associated with grief.

Grief

When someone experiences grief, they often go through a period of mourning and adjustment. During this time, they may feel intense emotional pain, sadness, anger, and a sense of longing for what they have lost. This emotional pain can be overwhelming, and some individuals may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to alleviate their suffering. This is where addiction can come into play. 

Attachment

Additionally, attachment plays a significant role in how individuals cope with grief and addiction. Strong attachments to loved ones can provide a sense of support and comfort during times of loss. However, if an individual loses a significant attachment figure, such as a parent or spouse, the sense of loss can be even more profound. This can increase the likelihood of turning to addictive substances or behaviors as a way to cope with the overwhelming grief and fill the void left by the loss of the attachment figure. 

Addiction

There is a complex and interconnected relationship between grief, attachment, and addiction. Grief refers to the emotional response to loss, typically associated with the death of a loved one, but can also be triggered by other significant life changes such as the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Attachment, on the other hand, refers to the deep emotional bond that forms between individuals, usually between parents and children or within romantic relationships.

It’s important to note that not everyone who experiences grief will develop an addiction, and not all addictions are related to grief. However, the connection between grief, attachment, and addiction highlights the complex and intertwined nature of these experiences. 

This underscores the importance of seeking healthy coping mechanisms and support systems when going through a period of grief, as well as the need for understanding and compassionate treatment for those struggling with addiction.

The Grief Reaction In Letting Go of Drugs or Alcohol

When someone decides to surrender their addiction to drugs and alcohol, it creates a grief reaction due to several reasons:

Loss of a Coping Mechanism

Addiction often develops as a way to cope with painful emotions, trauma, or difficult life circumstances. When someone decides to surrender their addiction, they are essentially letting go of a coping mechanism that has been a significant part of their life. This loss can be emotionally challenging and can lead to a grieving process as they adjust to new ways of managing their emotions and navigating life without relying on substances. 

Loss of Identity

Addiction can become deeply intertwined with a person’s identity. It can define how they see themselves and how others perceive them. When someone chooses to surrender their addiction, they may face a sense of loss in terms of their identity. They may question who they are without the substance and struggle with the fear of losing a part of themselves. This loss of identity can trigger a grief reaction as they undergo a process of self-discovery and redefine their sense of self.

Loss of Relationships

Addiction often strains relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. When someone decides to surrender their addiction, they may need to distance themselves from people who are still actively using or engaging in unhealthy behaviors. This can result in the loss of relationships, which can be deeply painful and lead to feelings of grief and loneliness. Additionally, the person in recovery may also mourn the loss of the connection they had with those individuals while they were using substances.

Loss of the Familiar

Addiction creates a predictable and familiar routine, even if it is destructive. Surrendering addiction means letting go of the familiar patterns, environments, and rituals associated with substance use. This loss of familiarity can be disorienting and unsettling, leading to a grief reaction as individuals adjust to a new way of living and navigate unfamiliar territory.

Uncertainty and Fear of the Unknown

Surrendering addiction requires individuals to face the unknown and step into a life without substances. This can be accompanied by feelings of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety about what the future holds. The fear of relapse, the challenges of sobriety, and the uncertainty of how to navigate life’s difficulties without relying on substances can all contribute to a grief reaction.

It is important to note that the grief reaction experienced when surrendering addiction is a natural and necessary part of the recovery process. It signifies a willingness to confront and process the losses associated with addiction, and it can ultimately lead to healing, growth, and the development of healthier coping mechanisms. 

Providing support, understanding, and resources to individuals in recovery can help them navigate the grief process and build a solid foundation for their journey towards lasting sobriety.

Changes Involved In Letting Go of Drugs or Alcohol

Change in Relationship Dynamics

When someone decides to surrender their addiction, they often need to make significant changes in their lifestyle, routines, and social circles. This may involve distancing themselves from friends or acquaintances who are still actively using substances or engaging in unhealthy behaviors. 

As a result, relationships that were built around the shared experience of addiction may become strained or even severed. This change in dynamics can lead to a loss of relationships and a sense of grief as individuals mourn the connection they had with those individuals while they were using substances.

Lack of Understanding and Support

Addiction is a complex and often misunderstood condition. Some people may not fully understand the nature of addiction or the challenges that come with recovery. This lack of understanding can result in a lack of support from family members, friends, or even romantic partners. 

When individuals surrender their addiction, they may find themselves feeling isolated and alone, without the understanding and support they need from their loved ones. This can contribute to feelings of grief and loneliness.

Loss of a Common Bond

Addiction can create a sense of camaraderie among individuals who use substances together. When someone decides to surrender their addiction, they may no longer have that common bond with their former peers. This loss of shared experiences and connections can lead to a sense of grief and a feeling of being disconnected from others.

Fear of Judgment and Stigma

Addiction is often accompanied by societal stigma and judgment. Individuals who have surrendered their addiction may fear being judged or stigmatized by others, which can make it difficult for them to build and maintain relationships. The fear of being labeled as an “addict” or facing discrimination can contribute to feelings of isolation, grief, and loneliness.

Emotional Vulnerability

Surrendering addiction requires individuals to confront and process their emotions in a healthier way. This can be a challenging and vulnerable process. As individuals navigate their emotional journey in recovery, they may feel more sensitive and exposed. This heightened emotional vulnerability can make it difficult to form and maintain relationships, leading to feelings of grief and loneliness.

New Doors Open as We Process Grief

While surrendering addiction can lead to temporary loss of relationships and feelings of grief and loneliness, it also opens the door to new opportunities for healthier connections and support systems. Building a strong support network, seeking out positive social interactions, and participating in support groups or therapy can help individuals in recovery find new relationships and navigate the challenges of loneliness and grief.

Some of these doors include:

Rediscovering Oneself

Surrendering addiction often involves a process of self-discovery and personal growth. As individuals embark on their journey of recovery, they may undergo significant changes in their beliefs, values, and priorities. 

This process of self-transformation can sometimes lead to a distancing or disconnection from old relationships that no longer align with their new way of life. While this can be difficult and may contribute to feelings of grief and loneliness, it also presents an opportunity to build relationships that are more supportive and aligned with their recovery goals.

Healing Past Wounds

Addiction can often be rooted in underlying emotional pain, trauma, or unresolved issues. Surrendering addiction provides individuals with an opportunity to address and heal these past wounds. However, the healing process can be emotionally challenging and may require individuals to confront painful memories and emotions. 

This inner work can cause temporary strain on existing relationships, as individuals may need time and space to focus on their personal healing. It is important to remember that this process can lead to more fulfilling and healthier relationships in the long run.

Time for Personal Growth

Surrendering addiction requires individuals to prioritize their own well-being and recovery. This may mean dedicating significant time and energy to self-care, therapy, support groups, and other activities that promote personal growth. As a result, individuals may have less time and energy to invest in socializing or maintaining relationships. 

This shift in focus can temporarily lead to a loss of connections and feelings of loneliness. However, it is important to view this as a necessary step towards building a stronger foundation for future relationships and overall well-being.

Rebuilding Trust

Addiction can often strain or break trust within relationships. When individuals surrender their addiction, they may need to rebuild trust with their loved ones who may have been hurt by their actions in the past. Rebuilding trust takes time, consistency, and open communication. 

During this process, individuals may experience feelings of grief and loneliness as they navigate the challenges of repairing and rebuilding their relationships. However, with patience and effort, it is possible to restore and strengthen these connections.

Finding New Sources of Support

Surrendering addiction often involves seeking out new sources of support and connection. This can include participating in support groups, therapy, or engaging with recovery communities. While these new connections can be incredibly valuable, it can take time to build trust and develop deep relationships within these communities. During this transitional period, individuals may experience feelings of grief and loneliness as they adjust to their new support networks.

Griefwork Takes Time and Patience

It is important to remember that the process of surrendering addiction and rebuilding relationships takes time and patience. Seeking professional guidance, surrounding oneself with a supportive community, and practicing self-compassion can help individuals navigate the challenges of loss, grief, and loneliness while building a healthier and more fulfilling life in recovery.

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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