Our tips to carry the weight of recovery-related grief
Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction can require us to make painful choices. We offer some tips to help you deal with the grief of recovery.
Addiction and grief have a close relationship. Many of us understand that grief can lead to substance use, but we often don’t realise the recovery journey itself can also create grief. While recovery is a process of moving forward towards the new, it can also involve letting go of the old — identity, people, habits or places — social connections we treasure that also limit our ability to change and grow.
Grieving through recovery
Processing grief and working through loss is an important undertaking for anyone in recovery. Recognising a problem then taking the steps to change the problem means experiencing the emotions that come with the loss of an identity and its friends. Achieving change requires accepting loss so that planning for the future and a new normal can be possible.
The loss of connection
A major part of recovery is creating new connections, but it also often requires us to distance ourselves from people in our lives who might trigger or encourage drug or alcohol use. We might need to cut off people who are very important to us — social connections, supports and allies, maybe even our closest friends and family. You’ll still love them, even as you let them go.
It’s important to acknowledge how incredibly painful that might be, even when it’s clear it is necessary.
The breakdown of any relationship can be hard. It feels isolating. The idea of having to develop new social connections can seem like a huge effort! However, you’re not alone, and the feelings won’t last forever.
Remember to be nice to yourself. Keep in mind why you have had to move on from certain relationships, and allow yourself time and space to grieve for those connections. Recognising that certain people won’t be constructive influences during recovery is powerful and liberating knowledge. As you move forward you’ll have a new awareness of what you need from those in your life, and will be able to reflect on the types of relationships and connections you want to develop throughout recovery.
While it may be daunting at first, getting out and reconnecting with new people is an incredibly important step to take. There are loads of new ways of building strong healthy connections. Here are some ideas:
- Seek out communities of interest: Whatever you’re into, there are so many clubs and groups out there for people who share your interests and passions. Check out online communities, go to your local library or hunt down your local community newspaper to find out what kinds of clubs are operating in your area.
- Volunteer your time: Explore volunteer options to support your local community. Organisations such as St Vincent’s De Paul Society, The Salvation Army and The Sacred Heart Mission are always looking for volunteers in their soup vans, food kitchens and op shops. Reach out and find out what volunteering options are available near you! Your local council can often be a good place to start.
- Join a peer support group: Peer support groups operate in every state or territory and give you a safe space to connect with people who understand what you’re going through. Give your local Alcohol and Drug Information Service a call to find a service near you, or jump on the Counselling Online Forums to connect with others online.
The loss of ritual and habits
It’s not only social connections that we might be grieving during recovery. Recovery involves a major upheaval of day-to-day routines. All those substance-use related small habits and rituals will no longer be a part of daily life. The loss of ritual can disrupt our rhythm and make it hard to give the day structure and meaning. It’s useful to fill those gaps with new healthier habits that can help facilitate recovery! Here are some ideas:
- Exercise! There’s a reason people recommend it so often. It’s a great addition to the daily routine. Not only does it help give you something to fill in your time, but it has loads of health benefits, both physical and mental. If you’re not already in the habit of keeping fit, it can seem intimidating. Start small with daily walks.
- Keep a journal: Some find journaling a useful way to stay on track while creating a sense of accountability. Journaling can give you a space to process the day, whether it just be a blow by blow of what you got up to, or a deeper reflection on how you were feeling and why.
- Get a pet: If you’re ready for one, pets can bring structure and routine into our day — even if you’re tempted to stay in bed until noon, your cat is unlikely to allow it if they haven’t had their breakfast. Looking after them can give you the purpose you need to stick to healthy daily routines.
Any type of routine which helps fill time and creates space in your life for reflection and growth is beneficial.
If you’re struggling with the weight of your grief, reach out to us. We’re here to chat and help you identify strategies to help you carry on and create connections and routines that work for you.