Grief, Loss and Change


As with every other aspect of life, the recovery journey brings change; the ongoing commitment to change. It is important to build a foundation for recovery, through giving the space and time to mourn addiction, before that commitment to change can start.


‘If you suppress grief too much, it can well redouble’ ~Moliere


A natural aspect of the cycle of life is for things to come and go. People, jobs, opportunities, mood states, all come and go. Nature operates the same way. The changes of the seasons beautifully exemplify this rhythm. As human beings we naturally come to embrace certain things, people, events, and find ourselves attaching to the need for things to never change thereby, denying the natural flow of life. Grieving our losses or what has changed is a powerful way to enable us to let go. By its very definition, change implies movement, and in embracing this natural cycle of grief, loss and change, we come to understand that it offers ways in which to evolve, transform, and heal.

For those on the journey of recovery, change is inevitable. In fact, recovery is an ongoing commitment to change. However, for many the prospect of change evokes fear because it appears as though our sense of security is being compromised. The changes we have attempted to make on the external level at our own volition; moving house, changing partner or job, rarely offer the positive changes that we yearn for. For true transformation to happen, it is necessary to change from within.

Grieving the losses

Whilst we are addictive in our addiction the natural cycle of grief, loss, and change is hindered as the addict’s coping strategy involves not feeling. In our addiction we simply numb ourselves to the effect of loss and change, and resist grieving.Consequently our addiction served us well in keeping us safe from the emotional pain, the losses or changes that have shaped our lives. However, for true recovery to occur, it is vital that we bring healing to some of these emotional wounds, as opposed to merely becoming abstinent.

For most, having embarked on the journey of recovery perhaps the greatest loss of all is the loss of our addiction. It may appear paradoxical that the very thing that has caused so much emotional and physical harm is simultaneously our dearest friend, our crutch, and our safety. This complicated grief, can be difficult to acknowledge, since on a rational level we naturally long to distance ourselves from it. However, allowing ourselves the space and time to mourn the loss of our addiction, can provide the stable and healthy foundation from which to build our recovery.

While in recovery, we look at some of the losses and consequences that have resulted from our addictive behavior. Commonly people experience a loss of control, identity, sanity, relationships, and even emotions. These losses are perhaps not fully perceived until we begin to recover.

Taking stock can be a rather painful process. Allowing ourselves to honestly reflect on how deeply lost we were, will naturally cause us to grieve. The prospect of grieving can seem frightening, and while every fiber in our bodies is telling us not to enter the black whole that many perceive grief to be, in recovery we are surrounded by support that can assist us in this cathartic process.

In the face of grief we can respond in supportive and non-supportive manners. Where grief is denied, and pushed aside, it can pile up and become increasingly complicated. The refusal to feel the sadness that is seeking expression often causes it to come out sideways, in different disguises and in the shape of anger or depression.

Grief is a cathartic process. Grief is essentially a very loving act. Many addicts have relied on substances to manage their emotional pain, and will find that recovery can offer a unique opportunity to address some of these previously locked up feelings within a highly supportive environment.


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