Grief and Sadness in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

If you’ve recently given up drugs or alcohol, you may feel as if you’ve lost your best friend. If this sounds familiar, hang in there. It’s normal to experience feelings of grief, loss and anger during recovery. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the painful emotions will eventually fade.

Grieving after Drug and Alcohol Treatment or Rehab

The recovery journey is ultimately rewarding and without a doubt, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make – but it’s also one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.

It may seem counterproductive to grieve for something that has brought so much destruction and turmoil into your life, but drugs and alcohol have probably been your primary focus for a very long time. Now, they’re gone and you’re left with unmistakable feelings of emptiness.

Emotional Changes during Recovery

Once you begin the process of recovery, you can no longer numb your difficult feelings with drugs or alcohol. When you can’t self-medicate your troubles away, long buried feelings are bound to rise to the surface. Confronting those emotions is bound to be difficult.

Giving up Toxic Relationships

Making a decision to give up drugs or alcohol often means walking away from drug-using friends, or even cutting ties with family members when relationships turn toxic. Giving up a powerful support system of other addicts is difficult, even when you know the change is necessary for your long-term recovery.

Time on Your Hands

In the past, you’ve probably focused massive amounts of time and energy on acquiring or using drugs or alcohol. You may find yourself with time on your hands, which may turn into boredom or loneliness. It may take some effort to figure out how to use that time in a more constructive way.

Missing the Familiar “High”

You may feel significant feelings of sadness at the loss of euphoria or relaxation provided by drugs or alcohol. It takes time for your body and mind to adjust to the change.

Making Peace with the Loss

Don’t try to pretend your feelings of grief and loss are silly, or that they don’t exist. You’ll continue to grieve if you don’t give yourself permission to experience the sadness and meet it head-on, as painful as it’s bound to be.

Attempting to ignore or bury the feelings may lead to relapse, or you may switch to other addictions to avoid the pain. Trading one addiction for another, known as “addiction transfer” or “addiction replacement,” often involves trading substance addictions for behavioral addictions like overeating, sex or gambling.

Is it Depression?

If painful feelings persist, it may help to work through the problem with a counselor or other mental health professional, or you may need to re-enter drug and alcohol treatment or rehab. Don’t wait until your recovery is threatened.

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