How to Cope with Grief While in Recovery
As if recovering from an addiction and battling your urges to relapse are not trying enough, you may experience other hardships at the same time. Coping with the death of a friend or family member may just be the worst thing that could happen when you are struggling to recover. The feelings of grief and loss are terrible for a sober person. For you, they can be devastating and a trigger to use again. It is not inevitable that grief will cause a relapse, but you will need to work hard to fight it.
- Take down the intensity. You are fully entitled to feel the grief associated with your loss. You have just as much a right as anyone else to grieve, to be sad, to feel angry, to feel guilty and to be depressed. In your case, however, the intensity of those emotions can be your downfall. Unlike those who have never struggled with addiction, intense emotions are very dangerous for you. The intensity of your grief can take you right over the top and push you off the wagon. When you feel the sadness, anger, and other emotions risking to a scary level, do your best to take it down a notch. Meditate, read, take a walk, and at the very least, surround yourself with others who will not let you relapse.
- Stay busy. Whenever you feel the urge to use, keeping yourself busy with other, healthful activities can be a great help. Grieving can make the urges even greater, but you can fight them by being a hive of activity. Clean the house, go for jogs, start a new project you have been putting off, go to the movies, hang out at the library and read the paper, or anything else that will keep you occupied. The busier you are, the less time you will have to stew in your emotions and feel tempted to use.
- Be around others. If your loved ones know that you are in recovery, they will understand that this time of grief is doubly difficult for you. Surround yourself with friends and family members who are supportive of your recovery. They will act like the crutches to keep you on two feet and to keep you from slipping out of sobriety. If you are surrounded them when you are at your weakest, you can stop worrying about relapsing and tend to your emotional grief.
- Be a comfort to others. Helping others is a wonderful way for addicts in recovery to stay on the wagon. Assisting or volunteering in any way can help you get outside of yourself and see the world from another perspective. It gives you a purpose and a meaning that is separate from your addiction. This is a valuable tool at any time in your recovery, but while grieving, it can really help you cope. Work with the immediate family members of the person who has passed away and do all you can to comfort them and to make this time easier.
- Get over the guilt. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one whom you hurt during your darkest hours, the guilt can overwhelm you. Especially if you did not have the opportunity to apologize of make amends before this person’s passing, your guilt can threaten to overtake you. You have no choice but to let go of that guilty feeling. If you let it wash over you and take over your life, you run a very high risk of relapsing. Talking to another loved one or writing down your feelings of guilt can really help to ease it. If you are really feeling bad about it, speak with a professional before you do something you will regret.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you have been in recovery and clean for years, you may be surprised and disappointed at how easily the grief of losing a loved one triggers your cravings. If you really have to fight the urge to use again when you are dealing with grief, it’s ok. Understand that this is normal and that as long as you don’t give in to the urges, you are not feeling anything wrong or abnormal. The seriousness of the emotions you feel when grieving are bound to upset the balance of the strongest recovering addict. Don’t give in, but also don’t beat yourself up about it or feel as if you are being weak.