The Power of Grief
There is no doubt that grief is an emotion that can upend our day-to-day life.
Whether we are feeling grief due to the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the unsuccessful pursuit of a long-held goal, or for any number of other reasons, it can knock us back on our heels. Deeper than run-of-the-mill sadness and different from the various kinds of depression, grief is one of the strongest emotions we ever experience—and each person experiences it in their own way.
It would be nice if we could control our grief. It would be helpful, for example, to be able dial down the intensity when the emotion threatens to overwhelm us. It would also be wonderful to set an expiration date on our grief; knowing an exact end date for it might help us manage our feelings better.
That, of course, is not how grief works at all. We can never say how long it might last or at what level of intensity.
Faced with this reality, it can be tempting to turn to drugs or alcohol in order to find some relief from the strength of the emotion. This can lead to the development of a substance use disorder—and if you are already in recovery for such a disorder, it can lead to a relapse.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure that grief doesn’t threaten your sobriety.
Remember That You Are Not Alone
Grief can be an isolating emotion, especially if you have lost someone you love but that sense of loss is not shared by your immediate circle. For example, if you learn that a close childhood friend has passed away, it is quite possible that no one you see on a daily basis knew that person at all.
Still, it is important to remember that every single one of us experiences grief throughout our lives, and that means you should be able to find a sympathetic ear among your friends or family members. You can lean on them when you are struggling with grief—and you can provide support for them when they are experiencing the emotion.
Remember That You Are Resilient
Resilience is a key trait for those in recovery from a substance use disorder. It is also important for someone who is struggling with grief. A person who is resilient is able to find the good in a difficult situation.
When we are feeling grief, it is often possible to channel that emotion into something positive. If, for example, a relationship has ended, it may be helpful to redirect some of the time you would have spent with the other person into volunteering for a cause that is important to you. You might rediscover a part of yourself you let atrophy during your relationship, and you might find joy in that rediscovery.
Remember That You Have Resources
You might choose to process grief in a number of different ways. Maybe you would find it helpful to write in a journal about how you are feeling. Maybe you need to discuss the emotion and the challenges it presents with your therapist or your sponsor or in a support group setting. Maybe mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or similar practices can help you effectively manage (and more fully understand) the way you are feeling moment to moment.
Any or all of these resources can help you make peace with grief (and can also be helpful for managing other strong emotions like regret or anger)—and can help ensure you do not turn to (or turn back to) drugs or alcohol in the hope of deadening the emotion.
We Are Ready to Help at Wooded Glen Recovery Center
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we understand just how powerful grief can be. And we also understand how the hope of alleviating the intensity of the emotion can lead a person to use drugs or alcohol. If you have developed a substance use disorder or suffered a relapse due to grief, you can rest assured that you will not be judged at Wooded Glen.
We are committed to helping you regain your sobriety via a personalized treatment plan that will see you through detox and rehab. And we will help you maintain your hard-won sobriety via our commitment to a continuum of care that can see you through the difficult early days of recovery.
A substance use disorder or relapse just compounds the grief you are experiencing. Let us help you set drugs or alcohol aside so that you can process your loss in healthier ways.