Do recovering addicts really grieve the loss of active addiction?
To begin with, let us be clear about the accurate definition of grief. Truly, grief is a topic which the definition is as wide and expansive as the ocean is blue. Unfortunately, there isn’t one single definition which covers grief in its entirety, considering the endless range of emotions associated with grief. Respectively, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder. Grief is normal, a natural emotional reaction to loss, or change of any kind. One of the best definitions shared with me a few years ago was stated during an informative workshop, “Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who’s always been there, only to discover when I need them one more time, they are no longer there.”
Recovering addicts have a lot to grieve. The disease which has been the central focus of the recovering addict’s lifestyle is expected to become something they will, hopefully, never engage in again. Facing emotions which have long been repressed, the recovering addict may be filled with grief and loss, not to mention associated anger, guilt and regret. Additionally, their past support system had been comprised of other alcoholics, rituals surrounding food addiction, divorce, loss of employment, housing, health, loss of freedom, loss of dreams, income, and countless other possible losses.
With the blessing of a new beginning, arrives the loss of saying goodbye to drugs and alcohol, perhaps, binge eating-a trade off well worth the commitment to recovery. Those who ignore, deny, or minimize their loss may continue feeling guilty, angry, or resentful, risking the continual struggle with relapse.
Adequate support for the recovering addict to help with accepting the reality of grief and loss, adjusting to a new lifestyle choice, and working through normal and natural pain may be one of the most significant choices made to maintain sobriety. The correlation between grief, loss, and addiction should never be overlooked or it could possibly result in a significant compromise.