Sobriety Can Cause Grief

Sobriety can cause grief reactions. It seems counter-intuitive because everyone who struggles with an addiction iStock_000022766206_Smallwants to be well and to do better. However, there are several losses that occur when we get sober. It helps to confront them head on so you can understand them better and resolve them.

Identifying the Losses of Sobriety

No matter how badly things turn out, we began our substance use with positive expectations. Very simply, we want to feel better. As time progresses, we come to rely upon substances as a chief coping strategy for life in general. Suffice it to say, our substances mean a lot to us even though, in the end, we couldn’t continue on with them. Here are some of the more specific losses we experience when we give up our relationship with substances:

  • We lose the ability to have a quick mood alteration whenever we want one.
  • We lose our circle of using buddies.
  • We lose our daily life structure that was once filled with substance-related activity.
  • We lose our identities as people who ‘party’, rebel, live on the edge, etc.
  • We lose the ‘protection’ of intoxication—the ability to ‘check out’ when we don’t want to participate or deal with the immediate reality of our lives.

The Losses of Addiction Compound Our Grief

The losses we experience during addiction add to our overall grief when we sober up. Not only do we have to say goodbye to the ‘benefits’ of using, but we have to deal with the negative consequences of our use, too. Here are some of the losses we can incur during active addiction:

  • The loss of a significant relationship
  • The loss of physical and/or mental health
  • Loss of self-respect and self-esteem
  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of family members
  • Loss of job, income, academic career
  • Missed time and milestones with loved up
  • Loss of freedom through incarceration
  • Loss of a sense of control and life manageability

Resolving Grief

Recovery gives us the opportunities we need to confront our losses and successfully grieve them. With counseling and the support of other recovering people, we can move through the stages of grief in a natural process as we would with any other grief experience. We learn to:

  • Identify our losses
  • Feel genuine feelings without avoiding them or medicating them
  • Process our feelings in appropriate ways
  • Identify the benefits of letting go
  • Saying goodbye
  • Working toward goals in our new lives