Many people do not understand the connection between grief and substance abuse. While many social aspects and emotional difficulties can contribute to the development of an addiction to alcohol and drugs, often a person exploring their addiction in-depth comes to find out that grief played a role in its beginning.
What Triggers Grief and Substance Abuse?
Grief can come from any number of places in a person’s life. For many, grief has to do with the loss of a person they love who dies. It can be a family member, romantic partner, or close friend. Grief can come from losing a person through a divorce or the ending of a relationship, whether familial, romantic or a friend. Whether the person an individual grieves was lost through a long-term illness, a sudden death, or through the ending of a relationship, the loss can feel impossible to overcome. A report published by the National Institutes of Health shows that grief can contribute to a decline in physical and mental health and even cause an excess risk of mortality.
Other situations that can cause grief and substance abuse to develop include losing a job or retiring from a long-time career. Many people experience grief when they go through a miscarriage, move away from a supportive community to somewhere new, or lose their home or property in a natural disaster. Individuals who spent a great deal of their childhood in an abusive or neglectful home life can feel grief for what has been lost. The same applies to those who escape or are still in a relationship involving domestic abuse. Grief and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand in any of these situations, causing a person to need to seek treatment.
Grief and Substance Abuse Can Last For Years
While some people believe there exists an acceptable time limit for grief, in reality, it can go on for months, years, and even decades. A person who does not deal with their grief may find themselves spinning their wheels, unable to move past their grief. It takes the process of dealing head-on with feelings of grief and making peace with them in order to begin to heal. When a person either does not know how to do that or does not even recognize they are rooted deeply in a pattern of grief, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to help cope.
When grief and substance abuse co-exist without being addressed, the longer it goes on, the more difficult it may be for a person to achieve recovery in both areas. Many people dealing with these conditions feel so overwhelmed on a daily basis that the idea of asking for help can seem like too much of an effort. They continue to drink or use drugs to help reduce or cover up their feelings of grief, not realizing the cycle will not end until they seek professional help.
Common Symptoms of Grief
Recognizing that a person is experiencing grief helps them recognize they need help. Common symptoms of the grief process include:
- Feeling panicky
- Extreme sadness
- Difficulty talking about the grief
- Feeling the grief process will never end
- Inability to move past the grief
- Feeling unnecessary guilt or responsibility
- Feeling numb and uninterested in relationships and activities
- Physical ailments, such as headaches, body aches, and gastrointestinal problems
Professional Help That Treats Both Grief and Substance Abuse
When grief and substance abuse are coupled together, a lot of people assume they have to pick just one and start working on dealing with it. A better plan involves getting treatment for both situations at the same time. Many treatment programs, including residential, outpatient, and sober living homes, provide professional treatment that not only addresses substance use disorders but accompanying emotional issues, such as grief. Trained counselors and other clinicians understand how often grief can be counted as an underlying cause of alcohol and drug addiction.
A patient can begin to untangle their deep feelings of grief during treatment and acknowledge their loss, whether it occurred recently or long ago. They learn to complete the documented stages of grief and separate themselves from their loss. Because the individual is also in recovery and no longer using alcohol or drugs, it makes it easier for their true emotions to surface, instead of continuing to be covered up by their addiction. Complimenting this progress is the fact that as the person uses healthy coping skills to deal with their grief, it becomes easier to resist their urges to drink or use drugs.
Treatment typically begins with entering a detoxification program to help an individual stop using alcohol or drugs and receive assistance dealing with any withdrawal symptoms. Even after primary residential treatment has ended, sober living houses can offer the perfect last step before the person returns home. Sober living houses are modern homes that offer residing with peers who are also learning to live a sober life. Compassionate assistance with therapy and other needed programs combined with practice living as independent, sober adults helps build confidence and reduce the chances of relapse after residents return home.
Treatment for Grief and Substance Abuse in Los Angeles
At Riviera Recovery, we understand how living with grief and substance abuse can cripple a person’s mental and emotional health. We offer treatment to help young adults heal from both issues in our gender-specific sober living houses.
If you are ready to get the help you deserve, we are happy to help you get started. Contact Riviera Recovery in Los Angeles today and take charge of your life.