Grief and Addiction Selections by Krystina Murray

Posted on March 02, 2020
full article published at: 

Grief and addiction are tragically connected, with one often causing or worsening the other.

Rehab can help individuals cope with both and end the cycle.


How Grief Causes Addiction

Losing a person you love is one of the most painful trials and tribulations one can experience in life. This pain can lead to psychological stress and the development of substance use disorders in an effort to cope with the onset of grief. It is not uncommon for someone who loses their son, daughter, wife, or husband to experience a range of emotions that fluctuates from denial and rage, to depression and despair. In response to this onslaught of emotions, even previously-sober grievers may begin to drink or do drugs to numb the pain, and those with a predisposition to or history of substance abuse are at even greater risk. Slowly, they begin to drink or use more and more as a means to regulate their emotions and take the edge off. Binge drinking and heavier periods of episodic drinking or drug use occur more frequently as the drinker desperately turns to alcohol and drugs as a means of self-medication. This drinking habit may then develop into a full-on addiction, (in the case of alcohol better known as alcoholism), as someone begins to need alcohol just to function.

Grief can take a serious toll, even on the most resilient of people. Alcohol and drugs may seem like an easy and often comforting coping mechanism to those grieving the loss of a loved one, but it is ultimately only one of self-destruction. Abusing alcohol and drugs gives way to further negative emotions that can make it even harder to work through grief. It is important that individuals going through the grieving process receive the help they need and express their emotions in positive ways rather than turn to alcohol as a means of self-medication.

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One to Addiction

Losing a loved one to a substance use disorder is probably one of the most painful experiences someone can endure. Each day, America loses 115 people to drugs like Heroin, Oxycodone, and Methadone. In 2016, 17,087 people died due to Opioid addiction. Family members and friends who have lost someone to addiction experience a cycle of grief.

These experiences can include:

· Shock

· Denial

· Anger

· Bargaining

· Depression

· Acceptance               

Grieving the Loss of Innocence and Joy

Grief and addiction are connected in many ways. The individuals struggling with the disease of addiction may grieve times when their lives were free of harmful substances.

They may grieve moments when they weren’t withdrawing from harsh chemicals, perhaps when they led a simple life with a plan of action they committed to. Finally, they may mourn memories of when their relationships were uncomplicated and not destroyed by the abuse of addictive substances.

As a result, the individual may feel as if they have disconnected with their core joy and purpose in life, grieving goals, wellness, and peace of mind. Reflections of life before addiction may reveal a downward spiral of a loss of control and feelings of isolation. Hence a host of overwhelming emotions begin to resurface.

Underaged substance abusers, such as middle and high school students may sense they are not like other kids who don’t abuse illicit substances. Some may use substances to repress troubling memories of early childhood trauma. By the time they enter high school and college, they have struggled with maintaining their youthful innocence as they have used harmful substances to cope.

Grief and Healthy Coping Skills

The bereavement following the loss of someone who has used drugs can transform loved ones forever. During this time, the family member, friend, or spouse may feel anger, numbness, or sadness.  Such a loss can make it difficult for a family member or friend to move forward in life. Family and friends may focus on the loss of their loved one and struggle with accepting their passing.

Family members should also find strong support groups encouraging love and acceptance. This allows for everyone to remain connected to the present and have someone to lean on during a crisis. Likewise, family members should continue to eat healthy, get good rest, and consider talking to a therapist. Therapists offer the needed guidance for people struggling with such loss, and identify unhealthy patterns of behavior. Therapists can also teach healthy coping skills for grief.

Start Healing from Grief and Addiction Today

Carrying the emotional trauma of a loved one who has passed can be a difficult battle. Support is available to help you mourn in healthy ways. Treatment experts can target which facilities specialize in grief and addiction. Call a treatment professional today to discover what programs and treatments are most effective.▪



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