Staying sober while dealing with everyday stressors can be trying, but coping with death among friends and family can challenge one’s recovery to the core.
The grieving process is already difficult for anyone, sober or not. For those of us recovering from drug or alcohol abuse, a tragic loss can be a quick trigger for relapse. Getting through the 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – awaken intense emotions, experiences, and memories which we may not yet have developed healthy coping skills for.
The crisis may seem to trump anything else we might have been prioritizing before the loss, such as work, school, or creative projects. However, it’s important to remember that our sobriety isn’t something we can take a leave of absence from. In fact, it’s times like these that we must strive to keep our recovery at the forefront of our minds.
Here are key preventative measures to help ensure you get through this tragedy with your recovery intact.
1. Share Your Pain
The Sober Recovery community exists for reasons other than socializing with other sober individuals. It’s intended to be a vital part of your support network. This is effective with regard to everyday stressors and personal traumas or crises that might occur over your lifetime in recovery, including grief.
However, though some individuals in recovery may truly become mentors and have loads of experience and wisdom to share along the way, they aren't mind-readers. Therefore, it’s important to reach out and let others in your recovery community know you are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Ask for what you need and don’t hesitate to express your pain. It won’t make the emotions disappear, but learning you’re not alone in the experience can make help the loss more bearable.
2. Talk to a Bereavement Therapist
Regardless of whether the recovery community is as responsive or supportive as you need them to be with regard to your loss, it is always wise to seek professional help. Here’s an article on how mental health professionals treat grief.
The grieving process has no timeline. As such, it can be quite a lengthy process with the deepest pain often setting in right about the time when everyone else (those not as closely related to the person lost) seems to start moving on with their lives. The added support of a professional counselor, life coach or a therapist who specializes in grief counseling can be lifesaving for anyone in recovery. Often, the experience is also life-changing because the triggers – emotions, experiences, and memories from the past – evoked by this type of loss presents opportunities for deep healing and growth. A professional is generally equipped to see this potential and assist you in acting on it.
3. Believe That You Can Heal
As impossible as it may seem at the moment, trust that a time will come when you’ll be able to manage through life without your loved one. After all, moving on doesn’t mean you’ll forget the person you’ve lost.
Whether or not you believe in a Higher Power, remember that the Source of healing is inside you. Though addiction may be something you felt powerless over, know that you have all the power in the universe to control your life and the impact the loss has on you. Let their memories, good or bad, guide your ability to choose sobriety at each and every turn.