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Good Grief: 5 Strategies to Cope with Loss in Addiction Recovery

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The process of grieving is uniquely painful but essential in accepting change and moving forward. For those in recovery, practicing healthy coping strategies is critical to avoiding relapse.

Anyone who has experienced a loss knows that the waves of emotion that accompany grief can feel endless. Despite the pain that grief can cause, it is an important and necessary part of processing loss and ultimately adapting to the life now in front of you. As a Zen proverb succinctly states, “The obstacle is the path.” 

For those recovering from addiction, feelings of grief can be deeply unsettling to a recovery, and in some cases can trigger a relapse. Maintaining healthy habits while ensuring access to professional support to guide you through the grieving process is essential in embracing new, positive coping methods and continuing your journey of recovery.

The Relation between Grief and Addiction

For some, grief is the starting point of an addiction, as the pain of grief becomes unbearable, people may turn to substances or negative behaviours to cope. What may begin as a distraction can develop into an addiction – drug or substance abuse, sex, excessive Internet use, shopping or gambling can all be used as ways to soothe extreme feelings of grief. Unfortunately for the person struggling with addiction, these feelings don’t actually get resolved, just numbed or suppressed.

Grief can also occur as a result of addiction. Loss is a common side-effect as a dependency begins to consume more and more of one’s time, focus, and resources. Loss of personal relationships including divorce, as well as loss of a job, or the death of a loved one, can precipitate grief and further fuel an addiction.

Why Professional Support is Critical during Recovery

Grief takes on a new dimension in addiction recovery, as emerging from old coping mechanisms can uncover previously buried feelings of grief, restarting a stalled process. New losses can also trigger grieving, which can feel frightening and overwhelming in the absence of old, destructive habits. In an environment without support, these feelings can pose a serious threat to continued recovery.

Though the intertwinement of addiction and grief can be complex, addiction specialists are highly trained in helping you sort through emotions and patterns of behaviour in order to advance through a process of grieving and build new, healthy ways to cope. Because dealing with grief can mean going through deep feelings of sadness, anger or anxiety, doing so in a safe environment with people experienced in the grieving process is extremely beneficial for your overall health and sustainable recovery.

Strategies for Dealing with Grief during Recovery 

Experiencing loss and grief in recovery is challenging, but using new methods of coping can help to ease the burden of grief and maintain your recovery. Here are some important things to remember during the grieving process:

1. Stay Healthy

The mind-body connection is powerful, and even more so in times of great stress or emotion.  Exercise stimulates a natural release of endorphins in the brain that relieves stress and boosts mood. Physical movement is also linked to better sleep, which can be helpful when normal sleeping patterns are thrown off during grieving.

However, experts recommend avoiding strenuous routines in favour of easy or moderate forms of exercise. Loss of stamina, physical aches and pains, a weakened immune system, and exhaustion are all common effects of grief. Gentle physical activity that is in line with your body’s present needs is important, and could include exercise such as yoga, walking, or Tai Chi.

2. Practise Mindfulness

A grieving mind can be an extraordinarily troubled one, and at times can feel overwhelming. Mindfulness techniques, including prayer and meditation, work to connect the mind with a sense of peace and calm, quieting the flood of strong emotion that is a natural part of grieving.

The relationship and faith in a higher power discovered through prayer, or the practice of being present and letting go in meditation, can both be extremely constructive during the grieving process. Practising mindfulness in a group setting with other like-minded individuals may also help to provide additional support and focus.

3. Allow Feelings

For those experiencing grief in recovery, the onslaught of feelings and raw emotions can seem relentless, particularly if you have been used to a numbed emotional response brought on by addiction and negative coping methods. However, it is important to remember that these feelings are both normal and necessary. The grieving process is the brain’s unique way of untangling and finally accepting a loss.

If you reach a point where these feelings are making you feel unsafe, close to relapse, or as though you cannot survive them, this is the time to reach out for professional help. Additional support can not only provide relief during this process, but also help protect and maintain your recovery.

4. Anticipate Grief Triggers

Many things can intensify or bring back feelings of grief. Going through a lost loved one’s things, the presence of old photos or texts, or the passing of important days such as holidays or anniversaries can all trigger a new wave of grief.

You can prepare for these triggers by talking to a trusted friend or loved one, or attend counselling sessions to begin to verbally process your feelings and prepare different coping methods.  By avoiding isolation and planning a response, you reduce your risk of relapse and strengthen your movement through the grieving process.

5. Lean on those You Trust

The depths of grief can make you want to isolate; to simply shut the door, turn off the phone, and retreat. However, entering a community of support can make a world of difference when you are grieving.

Connecting with those who you trust and are willing to provide a compassionate ear can give you comfort and encouragement as you move through the stages of grief. If you’re not already attending one, joining a support group can be extremely helpful in processing grief with others in similar situations. You may want to consider checking yourself into inpatient care if you’re feeling especially overwhelmed and in need of structured, professional support.

Recovery and Renewal at The Dawn

The Dawn is the only residential mental health retreat in Thailand.

If you feel like the waves of grief are pulling you under, it’s probably worth reaching out to an experienced specialist for support. At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab, we can not only help you navigate your grief, but develop and strengthen your coping strategies to ease your pain and ensure your continued recovery. We are a Thailand rehab and wellness facility designed to nurture personal growth and healing for people in all stages of addiction and mental health recovery.

Drug and Alcohol  Rehab in Thailand

Licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health and staffed by a compassionate and experienced Western-trained clinical team, our tranquil, riverside location in Northern Thailand offers an intimate treatment setting far away from triggers. Using our unique Twin Pillars approach, which blends the most effective Western psychotherapeutic techniques with proven Eastern wellness practises, we offer a holistic approach to healing and a sustainable recovery that offers immediate relief.

The Dawn is here to offer the kind of specialised, compassionate care and guidance you need to maintain your recovery and move through the grieving process. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your personal growth and healing.

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