Drugs, Alcohol, and Coping
Grief greatly affects a person’s mental and emotional health, especially when that person is experiencing from addiction. It can cause depression, anxiety, and irrational behavior, in addition as substance abuse. People experiencing painful grief often turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb feelings of pain and hurt associated with their loss and many individuals enrolled in rehab or sober living programs may find that avoiding drugs and alcohol while grieving is particularly difficult.
On a short-term basis, drugs and alcohol may seem to help silence negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts, but in the long run, using addictive substances to cope with loss can only end in more pain and devastation.
Self-medicating with alcohol and drugs can already strengthen feelings of hopelessness and depression, as many drugs act as depressants on their own. When coupled with loss, substance abuse carries harsh consequences and has the possible to skyrocket into complete-blown addiction.
When treating individuals who have experienced loss (especially traumatic loss), drug and alcohol rehab centers and transitional housing programs should address both the addiction and the trauma because both play an important role in the overall wellness of the person.
The Five Stages of Grief
There are five main stages that a person may experience when they deal with loss. Psycom states that although not every person will go by all five or experience them in the same order, most individuals will experience at the minimum one of the following stages. Swiss psychologist Kübler-Ross describes these stages in further detail in her book, “On Death and Dying.”
- Denial – Many individuals are shocked and confused by their loss or attempt to avoid it thoroughly by adopting a mindset of denial. In a way, this helps the person survive the initial shock of the loss and cope with it.
- Anger – It’s natural to want to blame family members, God, or ask questions like, “Why me?” when faced with loss. Feelings of frustration, irritation, and anxiety can be overwhelming, and the anger can rule to a desire for separation from family and friends.
- Bargaining – When experiencing loss, some people may also try to bargain with themselves or with God as they struggle to find meaning in life.
- Depression – Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and despair may take over after experiencing loss. Many people find themselves withdrawing from everyday life and the people around them. They may already begin to have suicidal thoughts.
- Acceptance – Accepting loss in life is something that comes with time. It is a course of action of readjusting to a new way of life and it is never immediate. Acceptance will take time and patience.
A person may experience some or all of these stages and nevertheless not be able to cope with their grief. When drugs and alcohol become a part of the grieving course of action for a person in active addiction or recovery, it’s time to enlist the help of professionals at an addiction treatment center or sober living house.
Choosing to Grieve in a Healthy Way
According to Psych Central, healthy grieving and unhealthy grieving are two very different things thoroughly. There is not a single correct way to grieve, as this course of action is rare for every person, but there are several unhealthy ways of dealing with loss that can rule to further problems. Unhealthy grieving typically consists of things like:
- Ignoring feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety.
- Isolating yourself.
- Pretending to be okay already when you’re not.
If you are experiencing loss and you know you are at risk of relying on drugs and alcohol to cope, the Mayo Clinic recommends several things you can do to actively grieve in a healthy way.
- concede all your feelings. No one grieves in exactly the same way and you may feel some things that you think are untimely or unacceptable. It’s important that you let yourself experience the loss and feel all those emotions. You may need to proportion those feelings with a counselor or sober living roommate instead of your loved ones, but every emotion is important to the grieving course of action.
- Give yourself time. Just know that healing takes time. It may seem easier to disguise your pain and hurt with drugs or alcohol, but in the end, that’s all it does. Those emotions will nevertheless be there, and you’ll nevertheless need time to course of action them.
- Ask for help. Friends, family members, and counselors are great resources for grieving people. Although it is tempting to grieve alone, sharing your loss with others is an basic part of the healing course of action. Sober homes (also known as halfway houses ) are excellent resources for people in recovery because they provide intensive peer sustain in a way that other living situations may not.
- Prioritize self-care. During your time of loss, it’s extremely important to get sleep, eat well, exercise often, and practice good hygiene. Disrespecting your body and your mind with damaging thoughts or drug and alcohol abuse will only strengthen feelings of depression and sadness.
- Lean on your spiritual beliefs. If you believe in a higher strength, lean on that during your time of loss. Doing so may help you find meaning and purpose in life, already amid trauma and grief.
Grief and loss are extremely powerful but using drugs and alcohol as a crutch will only disguise the pain for a short time. To heal, you must allow yourself to experience the grief fully and course of action with patience.