The Stages of Loss and Grief in Recovery

[fa icon="calendar"] 3/21/17 11:09 PM / by Dee Coon

Dee Coon

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For many folks struggling with addiction in treatment, loss and grief are significant factors that are dealt with at the Health Recovery Center. Anytime we lose something that was of value to us, we go through a process of mourning that loss.

For folks who are addicted, understanding and dealing with the loss of their drug of choice is part of their treatment.

At Health Recovery we explain the stages most clients go through when mourning a loss which includes the following:

  • SHOCK AND DENIAL: When did you deny you had a problem during your addictive acting out? During our discussion many clients will acknowledge that they were aware that their use had gotten out of control but were fearful to admit it. When others in the group share similar feelings they feel less alone.
  • BARGAINING: Were there times when you bargained? For example: I will only drink on weekends. This is what we call “Let’s Make a Deal”. Most clients can relate to this stage as they report trying to limit their use as a bargaining tool, but seldom with good results. Some will say “but I only drink beer so it’s not that bad.” Unfortunately it does not make a difference as an alcoholic drink is an alcoholic drink.
  • ANGER: Why is it other people can drink or use and not suffer severe consequences? Why Me? What angered you about the loss of control of your life and your chemicals? We discuss how anger can be a positive stage by giving us the fuel and energy to make the changes we need in our life.
  • DEPRESSION/DESPAIR: What made you sad during your addictive phase? In group, folks talk about how their addiction caused them to feel the depths of despair. Again sharing those feelings with others who understand, because they too have been there, is healing.
  • RESOLUTION: Once your bio-chemistry is repaired, and you have learned new coping mechanisms for what life brings, resolution ensues. True peace can be made.

During the group process we also explain that grief is individual, and that those stages can bounce back and forth and do not necessarily fall into place in a neat fashion.

You may believe you are in resolution, and then something happens and you find yourself in anger again. The important part is that you recognize that you are dealing with a loss, and feeling that pain is a part of the grieving process which is necessary to heal.

During our group process, folks brainstorm possible losses incurred due to their addiction. They may include the following:

  • Health issues,
  • Friends and family
  • Money,
  • Spirituality
  • Driving privileges
  • Respect

We also hear that their drug of choice was their escape mechanism or their best friend. Then we brainstorm possible gains in recovery and many times they are what was originally lost.

This activity helps group members realize there is more to gain in recovery than they realize and that the future holds much hope for a new life!

Topics: Addiction, Treatment

Dee Coon

Written by Dee Coon

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