There are dozens of barriers to sustained recovery: physical cravings, changed brain reward circuitry, triggers in your home environment, work stress, easy access to substances and a negative self-perception. 

As if recovery isn’t difficult enough on its own, experiencing grief and loss during the process can surely cause setbacks. If you’re in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and you’ve experienced the death of a loved one or another significant loss, here’s what you need to know to protect your recovery.

Grief and addiction recovery

It’s not uncommon for someone in active recovery to experience grief. According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, there is a high correlation between substance use disorders and mortality. It’s not uncommon for someone in treatment to experience loss due to overdose, suicide or broken relationships.

Grief is a natural response to death or a significant loss, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pose threats to recovery. Even the normal progression of grief leaves a person vulnerable to emotional distress and relapse. Trying to avoid grief and suppress emotions provides no security against relapse, either.

Grief and addiction recovery sound like a recipe for trouble, but in some ways recovering from one can help you recover from the other. Both tasks require hard work, emotional awareness, effective coping, social support and hard work.

Dealing with death and grief in addiction recovery

The way a person manages grief will have a lot to do with the type of loss experienced. Someone who is struggling to say goodbye to their old way of life when using substances will need very different tools than someone whose spouse has passed away due to overdose.

Dealing with death and grief in addiction recovery is an extremely personal journey, but there are some commonalities between the methods that have proven effective for those who have walked this path. Here are the top tips and tools to get you through this tough stage of life.

Lean on your social support

When you’re in rehab for drug or alcohol abuse you’re perfectly poised to repair damaged relationships. Your effort in treatment can be a catalyst for forgiveness and rebuilding a positive social circle. The support you’ve engaged can help you bear through grief, too, and they’ll know to be on the lookout for relapse warning signs.

Recommit to your goals

Grief and loss can shake your whole world, but don’t let them shake your resolve to stay sober. If anything, use the memory of your loved one to inspire you to move forward. Recommit to your goals and find motivation wherever you can.

Talk it out

Whether you express your feelings of grief to a loved one, a counselor or both, it’s important to release the emotions that are weighing you down. The pressure of recovery and grief all at once can feel overwhelming, and ignoring or suppressing your emotions is dangerous for your recovery. 

Cope with strong emotions

The coping skills you have begun to hone during addiction recovery will be tested in a period of grief. The more coping skills you have that you can use in a variety of settings for numerous emotions, the better off you’ll be. If you don’t have coping skills or they haven’t proven to minimize your triggers, you’ll want to address that immediately.

Know when it’s gone too far

When you feel like your triggers are too powerful to manage or your grief is taking over control, you need to have a plan for when things go too far. Reaching out for help is critical when you feel like your resolve has been overcome. Make plans for who you’ll call when it feels too hard to resist drugs or other harmful behavior. 

Take care of yourself

Healing is your top priority during rehab and grief, so check your actions to make sure they line up with what you want out of treatment and what your long-term goals are. This means you’ll want to prioritize sleep and healthy eating, give your best attention and effort during therapy sessions and apply what you’ve learned in treatment.

Take advantage of professional services

While your support system is an irreplaceable asset to your recovery and healing, your friends and family can’t replace professional and science-backed care. Your best shot at healing from a substance use disorder is with trained and certified staff in a facility designed to meet your unique needs. 

Real Recovery can offer the assistance you need as you cope with the most difficult period of your life. Evidence-based clinical services will give you the best shot at sustained sobriety, no matter what life brings. 

Call today to schedule an appointment and find true freedom.