6 Tips for Handling Loss Without Relapsing

6 Tips for Handling Loss Without Relapsing
Recovery July 23, 2019
Author: Ilana Jael

Dealing with loss is a challenge for everyone, but, for those recovering from addiction, it can also be a trigger for relapse. We may find balance and solid footing after recovering in a sober living facility until an emotional life event takes us by surprise.

We may feel grief or loss after a death, the loss of a job, a divorce, or any other traumatic life event. Mental health professionals now tend to agree that there are no specific stages of grief, but a wide range of emotional reactions that may arise in any order. These strong responses can cause a desire to escape, but they can also be managed with healthy choices and support systems.

What Is Grief?

When we lose something that is important, we feel a sense of loss. We mourn that loss by a process of emotional responses, and we may develop physical symptoms, depression, and anxiety. These feelings are normal and natural reactions to loss.

However, for those in recovery, there may be another strong feeling to deal with—the desire to dull the emotional pain or physical symptoms by returning to drug or alcohol abuse. The pain caused by grief presents a challenge both to seeking sobriety and to maintaining it.

Understanding what to expect can help us to work through this challenge in new and different ways.

Understanding the Emotions of Loss

Processing a painful truth engages all of our emotions. Some of these same emotional responses arise during recovery therapy in sober living homes or recovery programs, under supportive supervision. You should expect to have a unique grieving process, which may encompass some or all of these feelings:

It is important to remember that, in time, these feelings will resolve. While you may never stop missing a loved one, over time you will come to terms with loss and experience feelings of happiness and joy again.

Let’s explore some healthy ways to support your sobriety while dealing with these strong emotions during times of loss:

1. Prioritize Your Sobriety

Recognizing that this experience of loss might put your sobriety at risk is a healthy step toward preventing relapse. Be proactive by:

2. Allow Yourself to Grieve

Absorbing and processing our grief and loss is essential to our mental health. We need to experience our emotions and work through them. When loss happens during active treatment in a sober living rehab facility, individual counseling and family therapy would be immediately available to help a recovering addict deal with these strong emotions.

Even if you have been sober for some time, there may be unexpected thoughts of substance use which arise in response to past habits of dealing with pain. Self-medicating short circuits the grieving process, leaving unresolved emotions, which must ultimately be dealt with before they can be released.

The loss of a job, career opportunity, or housing may be deeply felt and grieved as well. Be aware that the emotions of loss you are feeling are valid and natural.

3. Limit or Delay Major Life Changes

Young people with problems having a discussion on special group therapy

When we are experiencing loss, our perspective is changed. Mental health professionals advise not making major life changes when depression or grief are immediate factors. Just like addiction, it takes time to recover from loss and regain the ability to see things clearly.

The amount of time it takes to mourn your loss is a personal and variable one. By remaining sober, and spending time in a sober living facility if needed, you protect yourself from making clouded decisions which might have a major impact on your future and cause further emotional trauma.

Some of the major life changes you should postpone if possible include:

We are resilient and can continue moving forward after enduring a loss. Daily activities and responsibilities might feel overwhelming at first, but, in fact, they help speed a return to a healthier frame of mind and a return to normalcy. Reminders of our loss can provide new purpose and direction as time moves on.

4. Lean on Your Support System

Family, friends, and support groups want to provide the help you need to fully process and recover from loss. Remaining isolated from others might make relapse easier and more likely. Make time to be with people who understand what it is to survive loss and remain sober.

5. Practice Self Care

During times of stress and emotional upheaval, taking care of your health and wellness is essential to healing. When we are under stress, our bodies begin to exhaust their reserves of energy and vital nutrients. Taking time to care for your wellbeing is a necessary and responsible step during times of loss, especially if you are responsible to care for others.

Make time for activities that make you feel good like volunteering, crafts, and walking or by dedicating efforts such as cooking or babysitting to help others who are dealing with loss.

6. Know When More Help Is Needed

man holding picture frame with sadness and depressive emoticon

Sometimes the emotions of loss might seem like too much to bear. Cravings and thoughts of addiction can return suddenly, or depression can reach levels that require medical care and professional guidance. The natural grieving process becomes “stuck,” and we don’t know how to move forward on our own.

During recovery, we strive to become more self-aware and better able to ask for the help we need before relapsing. When a loved one or you seem unable to recover, these steps can help:

All of these resources seek to help build your resilience and strength as you deal with grief and loss. The determination to find those sources of healing will bring you to the places, people, and experiences you need to recover.

Moving Past Loss While Protecting Your Future

Grieving a loss is a natural process that cannot be avoided and which will be experienced eventually. Refusing to turn to substances during this challenge will provide motivation and confidence for your sober life ahead. You can move through this process supported by your own resilience and the support systems you choose to embrace.

At RECO Institute in Delray Beach, Florida, we offer relapse prevention support during all phases of recovery and especially during times of major life changes. If a safe and sober living facility might help you or your loved one weather an emotional loss, reach out to us today.

Our caring and compassionate teams partner with RECO Intensive’s outpatient treatment programs to encompass all of the services needed to foster connections and achieve independent sober living. No matter how deep your feelings of loss, let us help you traverse this moment and emerge safe and sober for the next chapters of your life.

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