Grieving is a huge and really painful process—whether that’s a death, a breakup, the end of a friendship, your health, or any other big loss. Many of us in recovery used drugs or alcohol to numb or blunt difficult feelings. A big part of the work of recovery is facing these emotions sober. When loss comes up, that can be a challenge.
Going Back to Substances Makes Loss Harder
In my seven years sober, I’ve been through just about every painful experience I can think of: deaths of people in my life, breakups, health scares, traumatic experiences, intangible losses (the loss of alcohol and drugs being one of them). There’s no getting around the fact that it’s hard. For me, having to face this type of pain head-on has been one of the most challenging parts of recovery.
However, the outcome of staying sober through grief and pain is worlds better than if I’d gone back to using substances. When you’re drinking or using through difficult emotions, that pain ultimately comes back stronger and much more difficult to manage. You also can’t do the work to understand or process your feelings, which means they can come out in ways that confound you and the people around you. I’ve found that when I’ve faced pain in recovery, it’s been a period of enormous growth.
That said, when you’re really in it, knowing that it might help you grow isn’t always a comfort. It’s important to just take extra care of yourself and recognize that grief isn’t a linear process. Don’t beat yourself up for how long it takes or if you feel like you have setbacks. That just means you’re human, and you’re going through something really hard sober. That’s something to be immensely proud of.
Coping With Grief Sober
While this isn’t the case for everyone, many of us with histories of addiction are prone to rumination. This can be hard when you have any kind of loss or trauma, because you can keep agonizing over the same things. One thing that helps me is to journal through those feelings.That gives me an outlet for all the thoughts and feelings spinning around in my head. Also talking about it in therapy, trying to balance having new experiences with moments for reflection, and spending quality time with people in my life I care about. Leaning on your support system is going to be crucial as you sit with the loss or trauma.
If you’re currently mourning a loss sober, know that you are doing something really hard but worth it. Going back to alcohol or drugs can feel like a temporary solution, but it’ll ultimately make things so much harder. As someone who has gotten through the most intense parts of grief sober, I can say with confidence that you will too, and your recovery will be that much stronger.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the skills to cope with whatever life brings, sober. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 833.641.0572.