When you lose someone close to you, it can be incredibly hard to deal with. Even the strongest, most resilient people struggle with feelings of despair when a loved one passes away. For anyone in addiction recovery, grief causes vulnerability and a higher susceptibility to relapse.
Grief can cloud your judgment and muddle your ability to process thoughts clearly. After years of numbing negative emotions with drugs or alcohol, your first reaction may be to turn to substances to help you deal with your sadness. However, relapsing is not the answer. There are constructive ways to work through the pain without returning to substance misuse.
Sober Ways to Handle Your Grief
Recovery teaches you coping skills and gives you an outlet for managing your chronic illness. Those same abilities you honed in your drug and alcohol rehab program can help provide you with strategies to cope with grief. Use the following tips to prevent a relapse while dealing with the loss of a loved one.
1. Ask for Support
Your initial instinct might be to withdraw from the world, but surrounding yourself with your sober support network during this time of sadness is crucial. You may even ask a trusted friend or close family member to stay with you while you go through the initial stages of grief, when you’ll be at your most vulnerable and when you will likely experience the strongest cravings.
2. Acknowledge Your Emotions
Grief causes tremendous emotional upheaval. Trying to dull feelings like pain, anger and guilt doesn’t properly allow you to honor the memory of your loved one. Instead, allow yourself to fully feel anything you might be experiencing, no matter how intense it is. Doing so will eventually help you make peace with yourself.
3. Attend Your Support Group Meetings
If you have put some years of sobriety behind you, you may have fallen out of the habit of attending group meetings regularly. However, when you are grieving, it can be tremendously beneficial to get back on a more frequent schedule of going to meetings. Being around others who understand all the challenges you are facing will help you avoid a relapse. Your fellow recovery group members can help remind you of why it is essential to protect your sobriety.
4. Practice Meditation
Practicing mindfulness meditation can help you learn to live in the moment, as well as process your emotions more constructively. Meditation helps you discover inner peace, and can serve as your source of strength when you need it most.
5. Maintain Healthy Habits
When you are grieving, you may have trouble sleeping, and you can lose your appetite. For those in active recovery, backsliding into poor nutrition and sleep hygiene can put you at risk of a relapse. If you are not eating enough, or your sleep patterns get disrupted, make an appointment with your doctor or therapist and get their recommendations.
6. Be Proactive About Grief Triggers
After the loss of a loved one, be prepared that some occasions may bring on fresh waves of sadness. Prepare for how you will handle holidays or the anniversary of your loved one’s death. Whether you spend the day surrounded by other loved ones or take the opportunity to treat yourself to a massage, decide what you will do ahead of time.
Re-Committing to Your Recovery
While only time can heal a grieving heart, use these tips to help you preserve your sobriety after a loss. Everyone struggles with grief, but recovering addicts can find it especially challenging. If you do succumb to a relapse, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your sobriety. Instead, get back on the right track as soon as possible. A nationally accredited program, such as the treatment we provide at Vista Taos Renewal Center, can help you overcome setbacks and learn to get healthy again.