Grief can be an overwhelming experience and not everyone will react to it in the same way. The loss of a loved one, a significant breakup, or a tragic event can cause a person to experience this response. For some, grief only lasts a few days, while for others, it can last weeks, months, or even years. It is an emotionally-charged experience that can cause a great deal of pain.
Experiencing grief can compromise a person’s ability to think clearly or rationally. While some people are able to find ways to cope, others are not so fortunate. Even those who have coped with grief before may not be equipped to handle it another time. Grief can be so consuming that a person will do anything to make it stop, including using drugs or alcohol. Using substances to numb the pain and find a temporary escape may seem like a plausible solution, but it often worsens a person’s state of mind and leads to the development of dependency and addiction.
How Grief Triggers Addiction
The loss of a loved one is tragic and not everyone copes with grief in the same way. Some may feel more comfortable with expressing themselves than others. Others may find outlets, potentially positive or negative, to channel those emotions into. Grief is difficult to define and is a powerful combination of intense emotions. Without healthy outlets and support, grief can quickly lead a person down a self-destructive path.
- Ignoring grief: Grief is an overwhelming experience that can be incredibly painful. Many attribute some of their darkest times in life to experiencing grief. Whether it is a conscious choice or not, pushing grief away can worsen the situation. Some find grief to be too painful and would rather not deal with those complex emotions. Choosing to ignore grief allows it to fester. To silence it, some may turn to drugs and alcohol. While this may provide temporary relief, it actually worsens the problem by creating a new set of struggles on top of unresolved feelings.
- Substances cause more problems: Substances may temporarily alleviate some of effects of grief, but it does not make it go away. In fact, substance abuse can worsen a person’s emotional state. Drugs and alcohol can lead to the development of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, that can worsen someone’s mental state. Rather than silence the slew of emotions they may be grappling with, substance abuse compounds it and adds feelings of guilt, shame, and other health issues into the mix.
- Using substances as a replacement: For some, the pain of losing someone is too overwhelming. Learning to adjust to life without a loved one can be incomprehensible. Coming to terms with a loss is painful, and for some, facing that realization is nearly impossible. Instead of dealing with it, it can feel easier to fill the void with substances that provide an escape. Drugs or alcohol may provide a sense of solace and relief from the pain a person is experiencing. This can create a dangerous dependency on substances to even get through the day.
- Lack of healthy coping mechanisms: When it comes to dealing with grief, coping with loss is different for everyone. Healthy coping mechanisms are vital to managing pain, but not everyone is equipped to do that. Some may have never learned healthy coping mechanisms, while others may have them, but feel too paralyzed with grief to use them. With a society that emphasizes the use of substances as a means of unwinding, it can be easy to see why some may draw a correlation between coping with loss and substance abuse.
Coping with Grief in Addiction Recovery
While you may feel isolated in your grief, it is important to recognize resources you have. Utilizing support networks and empowering yourself to address your grief head-on can help you regain control of your life. Things you can do to help manage grief include:
- Ask for help: It is easy to isolate yourself and shut down when you are struggling with grief. Rather than internalizing it and coping with it alone, look for support through friends, family, and support networks. Letting your support network know you are struggling with grief can allow them to be there with you through troubling times. If grief has led to substance abuse or addiction, you may want to ask for therapy or an outpatient treatment program to help you not only treat the giref, but get you off drugs or alcohol.
- Acknowledge your grief: Avoiding how you feel is one of the worst things you can do. Instead, allow yourself to feel anger, sadness, and any other feelings that surface. Acknowledge them and work through them in order to move through your grief.
- Attend meetings: In some cases, attending regular meetings can help provide you with structure and a safe space to express yourself. Surrounding yourself with other people who can readily relate to your experiences can remove feelings isolation and help you both give and receive support.
- Express yourself creatively: Finding healthy outlets is critical in managing grief. Creative outlets can help you manage your emotions while paying tribute to your loved ones. Writing, painting, drawing, and playing music are all ways you can express yourself in a healthy way. Being creative can help you work through difficult emotions.
- Practice healthy habits: It is easy to let grief consume you. You may lose sleep, not exercise, and eat unhealthy foods as you mourn a loss. While phases of this are normal, it is important to not let these bad habits take control of your life. You can enlist the help of friends and family to eat meals with and may even seek the help of a medical professional if it’s too much to handle.
- Consider counseling: You do not need to cope with grief on your own. While your friends and family can provide support, a professional counselor can also be a valuable resource. Counselors can help you deal with loss in a healthy way. They are able to take coping mechanisms and strategies and help you apply them to your everyday life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.