Recovery from any type of addiction is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, but it can be extremely challenging at times. This is perhaps most true when something unexpected and unpleasant enters your life, such as the death of a loved one or a breakdown of a relationship.
No matter what the situation may be, you are likely to come face to face with grief at least once during your recovery process. It is crucial that you understand how to handle these situations as they occur to minimize the chances of relapse. Here are a few tips for getting through the grief without reaching for the bottle:
- Know Your Support Network – From close personal friends and family members to the counselors in your alcohol programs, know how to get in touch with everyone who supports you. Keep names and numbers in your wallet, planner or in a special contact section of your phone so you are never caught off guard without immediate help available.
Sometimes, just talking to someone who loves you and understands what you’re going through is enough to surf the craving until it passes. Tell them what has happened and how it’s making you feel like retreating to your old habits. Be honest; there is no shame in honesty. The shame comes when you hide your feelings, don’t reach out for help and find yourself in a place you don’t want to be.
- Get Active Doing Something – Grief has a way of making us want to retreat inside ourselves and stew in our suffering. You don’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone or feel anything. This is the worst place you can be during alcohol recovery, but it’s exactly where you’re likely to end up if you don’t force yourself to interact with others … or at least take up a hobby.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, try to think of actions you could take that would honor that person’s memory. Volunteer at a cause that person supported, or plant a tree in their memory. Try to constantly remind yourself that the person you lost wouldn’t want you to slip back into destruction because of them. They would likely be proud that their passing motivated you to do something kind and constructive.
- Understand That Grief Is a Process – Just as your recovery doesn’t happen overnight, neither does total healing from a loss. Yes, it hurts, and yes, it’s difficult. Depending on the degree of the loss, it can take months or years to feel completely normal again. The urge to escape those feelings are especially difficult when you are in recovery and it seems like you’re never going to not hurt again.
Understand that giving in to the desire for numbness will only make things worse in the long run. Grief is a process that everyone must work through in their own way, as long as the methods are healthy. Self-destructive behaviors will not make the pain go away. Accept that it hurts and that it will continue to hurt for an indefinite period of time, then trust that one day the wounds will heal.
Above all, don’t try to martyr yourself and suffer alone. It isn’t healthy for anyone to bottle up emotions of grief in any circumstance. Reach out, cry, allow yourself to be angry, and don’t try to escape from it. Healing will come when the time is right for you.