Giving up an addiction to a new life can have benefits that extend far beyond anything you might imagine. However, it also comes with deep grief and sadness over the loss of the life you once had. Even if you suffered while addicted, you may long for some parts of those days that, in retrospect, don’t seem as bad as the sober ones that lie ahead. The grief that occurs in recovery should be acknowledged for what it is so that you don’t have negative feelings dragging you down, which can trigger a relapse.

Feeling Grief

When it comes to grief, there is no good way to do it. There is no one way that exists for people to feel all they have to feel and come to terms with the loss. The five stages of grief can be helpful in setting the stage that people will walk through when confronting loss. Even as the grief stages were meant for coping with death, they can be helpful when understanding how to say goodbye to the life you once had while addicted. 


While you’re in recovery, you may not be ready to acknowledge loss or impending death. Denial allows you to look at the news of what is happening so you can process it. With addiction, you might deny having an addiction at all or make fun of the situation. It is easy to deny until it becomes unmanageable and life is too difficult in recovery. 


Many people confront feelings of anger when they are in recovery. Directing this anger to friends and family, acquaintances and co-workers can feel good at the moment but isolate you from people who love you. Even if your anger is justified, you have to seek other ways of controlling your feelings. Otherwise, those feelings may threaten your recovery and make it hard to control yourself. 


This is the stage where you may try to make a compromise. Because you may not feel ready to give up addiction just yet, you may try to make a deal with God or your higher power, as well. It can feel like you are struggling with letting go and are trying to buy more time to do what you want to do rather than what you should do.


Feelings of sadness may come over you and it can have a lasting impact on you. You may not be able to deny the situation as it becomes clear bargaining is not an option. Even as depression begins to wreak havoc on your life, you may realize it is difficult to struggle with depression and you want a way out. Sometimes when you are depressed, it is because a breakthrough is coming and something is shifting. You just need some help from therapists or others to support your final journey to realizing you need help. 


Walking through this stage can feel heavy because you are finally accepting things as they are. With regret, sadness, and anger you are at the final stage of grieving where you know things have changed or are about to and you are okay with that. You can accept drugs and alcohol cannot be part of your life and you learn to move on through life without your lost loved one. Even as things look up, some days it will be easier than others. If you continue to reach out, you will find others supporting this journey of healing.

It helps to take care of yourself while grieving. Reach out to family and friends, even if you don’t feel like it. Avoid triggers that may lead to relapse and don’t spend time with people you don’t like. Don’t expose yourself to triggers if you can help it and show up for yourself when things are hardest. Write in a journal, exercise, meditate and focus on your healing. It will help you navigate this experience with open eyes to what is ahead for you.

A Step in the Right Direction provides quality care for clients seeking support for addiction recovery. We teach people how to live a sober life through programs, therapeutic support, and evidence-based therapies. Our recovery program is staffed by people who understand the power of addiction. For more information, sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call (877) 377-3702