Anyone who has struggled with loss–of a person, of a career, or of a home, among other things–knows that it brings a great deal of grief. The more we have invested in something, such as in a career or building a home in a specific town, or the deeper we have loved and expressed vulnerability in a relationship, the stronger those feelings of grief are. Unfortunately, grief’s impact on addiction is significant. Without learning to come to terms with grief and loss, individuals may be more likely to struggle with substance abuse.
Grief’s Impact on Addiction
We all experience grief when we suffer loss. Grief can be a result of:
- Death of a loved one
- Losing your sense of identity
- Changing careers
- Experiencing relationship changes like divorce
Grief is a powerful emotion, and many people do not know how to cope with it, so instead, they try to get rid of it or avoid it. This often leads to substance abuse. People use drugs or alcohol as a temporary way to block their grief or avoid feeling strong and negative emotions. But over time, this can lead to a lot of unresolved emotions, mental health issues, and addiction.
Unresolved grief mixed with addiction can have several devastating impacts. It can make it difficult to connect with other people, to find meaning in life, to experience any sense of hope, or to pull yourself out of depression.
Grief and Substance Abuse
When individuals are met with extreme loss, it can lead to different emotions. We can see some of these emotions in the five stages of grief:
You may not move through the five stages of grief sequentially. Instead, you may move through these emotions fluidly. You might start with bargaining, where all you can think about is how you would give anything to bring back a loved one, and then you might move to anger that is focused on the medical team involved with end-of-life care. Later, you might find yourself dealing with what feels like unmanageable sadness, but then you could quickly switch back into periods of anger toward other family members who weren’t there at the time of your loved one’s passing or toward yourself.
Sadness, or depression, may be the phase that people experience the longest. Sadness can last for several months or years, and it’s during this time that some people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
During sadness and grief, people may turn to alcohol to cope. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption can complicate your grieving process because it numbs you to your feelings so you don’t feel and resolve them. Failure to resolve your emotions can lead to compounded pain and depression.
Other people turn to drugs like stimulants to try and combat their feelings of sadness or lethargy and instead focus on productivity. But this is another form of avoidance, which prevents your ability to process your feelings in a healthy manner.
Only by learning about grief’s impact on addiction and ways to cope with grief and loss can you better express yourself, find meaning, and process unresolved emotions so that you experience a happier, more fulfilling life.
Coping with Grief and Loss
If you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction and unresolved grief, dual diagnosis treatment is your best chance at resolving those issues and treating addiction simultaneously.
At Ava Recovery, we offer personalized programs at our Austin, Texas drug rehab that integrate mental health treatment, potential medication management, group therapy, and holistic therapy to target underlying mental health concerns, addiction, and grief and loss.
These sessions provide opportunities to examine the loss in your past and to resolve negative feelings around it. The goal is not to avoid or hide from those feelings but instead accept them for what they are and move forward. At the same time, you’ll get addiction treatment at our drug and alcohol detox center in Austin, Texas, including residential and outpatient treatment options.
Coping with grief and loss is necessary for your mental health and can help you overcome any associated substance abuse disorders. With proper dual diagnosis treatment, you can get the care you need from facilities like Ava Recovery.
Reach out to our team today to learn how we can help you process grief, trauma, and addiction through our dual diagnosis treatment in Austin, Texas.