14 Mar Coping With Grief and Staying Clean

For those who are in addiction recovery, managing grief can be a difficult process when you’re trying to stay clean and sober. In the past, you probably managed grief by sinking down into substance abuse and trying to numb the pain. Suffering a loss during recovery can make you long for old habits, but you can maintain your recovery and manage your grief by employing some healthy coping strategies.
Relax Expectations of Grieving
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways. Healthy grieving might not look exactly how you expected it to, and that’s okay. Allow yourself to be open to expressing your emotions in any healthy way that relieves pressure and eases your pain. If you need a shoulder to cry on, don’t be ashamed to enlist the help of a friend. If you feel like yelling, punching a bag, running, baking, or laughing out loud, do it! There’s no set-in-stone way to grieve, so find something that works for you, and let it flow.
Find an Outlet for Emotions
There are a lot of ways to grieve, but holding everything inside is not one of them. Your emotions are going to come spilling out in one way or another, and if you want to avoid falling back into addiction, you need to set your grief on a healthy course. Keep a journal, see a counselor, exercise, or find some other way to express your emotions that is safe. Participating in a support group is a great way to get things out in the open without feeling judged. If you find yourself bottling up your emotions and isolating yourself, make a conscious decision to get everything out on the table where it can be worked through.
Work Through Your Feelings
The operative word here is work. The idea that you “just have to give it time” is untrue, and can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated. You can confront your grief and take steps to move through it. Some tasks that will need to be completed in order for grief to pass might include :
  • Accepting loss
  • Acknowledging and expressing feelings
  • Adjusting to the changes in life brought on by loss
  • Saying goodbye and finding peace

These tasks will be tough to tackle alone, but you don’t have to. Enlist the help of friends and family, and include a professional counselor on your team of grief management helpers.
Kris Groves is a Advanced Substance Use Disorder Counselor and has been working in the field of substance abuse since 1996. Kris is the Program Director for Renaissance Ranch. She has worked in general outpatient and intensive outpatient programs. As a volunteer for the Family Home Evening Program at the Utah State Prison, Kris educates women about addiction and recovery. As a family systems specialist, Kris works specifically with the shame-based family system model that addresses the family needs as well as the needs of the client. Kris’s passion and commitment for people and assisting them in their healing and recovery is a great joy for her.
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