For many recovering addicts, their childhood was absent of feelings. Feelings were either not allowed to be expressed or parents kept feelings at bay and prevented their children from feeling. Then, if there was a significant loss or trauma, the need to keep yourself from feeling anything might have continued, and perhaps that’s where drinking and drug use came in. This might have been the beginning to developing an addiction.
Processing Your Grief
However, now that you’re sober, if you experience a loss of a loved one, drinking doesn’t need to happen again. You don’t need to return to the use of drugs to prevent feelings. It’s okay to grieve, to feel, to cry, and to heal. No matter what you’re feeling, it’s okay.
If you’re experiencing a loss during your sobriety, part of drug addiction therapy might include processing your grief. The treatment process of grief is a fairly recent addition to the mental health field. Previously, grief was incorporated into the treatment of other mental illnesses. However, in the 1970’s, grief counseling began to emerge. Certainly, the book by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, titled Death and Dying in 1969, could have implemented this change. She outlined five distinct stages to the grieving process based on her long-time work with her own clients. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Another popular theory in the treatment of grief is the four steps developed by psychologist J.W. Worden. He theorized that the four tasks to grieving are accepting the reality of the loss, working through the pain of grief, adjusting to life without the deceased (or loss), and maintaining a connection to the deceased (or loss) while moving on with life.
Whether a counselor uses Ross’s or Worden’s theory, the grieving process that takes place during your drug addiction therapy is likely not going to follow the precise paths that each of these theorists laid out. Instead, drug addiction therapy will likely include a non-linear process. You’re likely going to feel a wide range of feelings during this time.
Feelings of Loss
You’re likely going to deeply long for your loved one. You’ll miss him or her and that sense of loss may hurt. It’s okay to feel these feelings of loss, pain, hurt, and grief. Sometimes this sort of loss has been described as traumatic, especially when realizing that person isn’t going to return to your life. It’s an incredibly deep pain that is hard to describe. No matter how difficult it is, allowing yourself to feel it will help the healing process.
Feelings of Sadness
You may need to cry during the grieving process. And this might even happen during your drug addiction therapy. Sometimes having someone who is listening openly and respectfully can facilitate feeling safe enough to cry and express those deep feelings of sadness. In fact, for someone who is grieving on their road to recovery, drug addiction therapy is precisely for this purpose. Expressing those feelings by crying can prevent alternative unhealthier coping mechanisms, such as drug use and relapse.
Feelings of Laughter
It sounds odd, but sometimes part of grieving is laughing. Recalling the good times, remembering the experiences you shared together can bring on smiles and laughter. This is also a part of the grieving process, and this too is welcome in your drug addiction therapy experience. In fact, laughter is not a sign that you don’t love your friend of family member, and it’s not a sign of less grief. Instead, it’s often a sign that you’re healing in your grieving. You’re coming to terms with the loss. You’re beginning to accept the idea that your loved one is gone but that you can still stay connected to him or her through memory, love, and laughter.
Feelings of Moving On
At some point, you’re going to move on with your life. You might remarry or stop thinking about the loss as often. You might be ready to move or get a new job. Whatever it is, it’s okay to move on. It’s not a sign that you don’t love the deceased. It’s a sign that you’re healing.
For some, drug addiction therapy might need to include grieving in order to stay free of relapse triggers, sober, and healthy.