A major component of recovery for many is accepting that grief is a part of life. At the end of the day, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express grief. There is no one size fits all prescription for people to follow while they grieve. Grief is not only experienced when someone we know passes away. Many other life events such as divorce or loss of other significant relationships, job loss and even recovery may also require a person to go through the grieving process.
As people enter into recovery from substance use disorders, grief is one of the main emotions they may struggle with. Grief is a trigger for relapse for many people. For some people, unresolved grief may be where the substance use began for them. Others may have never let themselves grieve losses that happened while in active addiction.
Often, people entering into recovery are learning to feel emotions again, emotions they may have been numbing for a long time. In this case, they also are starting to realize and accept some of the things addiction took from them, things such as living by their personal values, the trust of others, people, jobs, material possessions and loss of control.
Early recovery is a new and exciting time. It’s a fresh start, but fresh starts come with loss too. Let’s explore some of those losses that may happen in early recovery and how to cope.
In order to make these changes and work through any unresolved grief someone may have, the first step is developing a healthy support system. Those who are in recovery must make sure that they have people who help them work through all of these overwhelming emotions. They need some people who listen, other people who counsel and even may need people who can assist them with certain tasks. This group can include family, friends, professionals, community support groups and other organizations.
Mandy Hazel, BS CADC, has been a counselor and case manager at Centerstone’s Fellowship House campus since July 2014. Mandy works with patients in the outpatient, detox, residential and family programs and has also served as a preventionist.
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