When one enters into recovery we go through a process of grief, not much different than grieving the loss of a loved one. Losing our best friend, the only coping skill we know, our way of escaping or handling stress, the only fun in our lives, etc. can be extremely difficult.
Understanding the stages of grief can help us to understand what it is we are going through and to learn how to get to the other side of the pain.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross found that there are five stages to a person’s grieving process.
We can look at these stages as they relate to grieving substances and behaviors that have been troublesome in our lives.
- This is usually the beginning of seeing a problem where ofen we think and say things like:
- I don’t really have a problem
- I can quit any time I want
- I’m not an addict/ alcoholic or anything like that
As we begin to accept we have a problem and experience feelings of anger we are likely to make statements like:
- Why me
- This isn’t fair
- I can’t believe this is happening
- It’s all because of … Sometimes we blame others for our problem; family, job, stress, the law, ect.
This is the stage where we may be tempted to postpone the inevitable. We may be thinking and saying:
- I can just cut back
- I’ll switch to something milder
- I can just drink and not do drugs
- I don’t need to do everything they suggest in recovery I don’t need help I don’t need to continue going to meetings after treatment, I can do it on my own
As we begin to acknowledge the loss it’s natural to experience some sadness. Some typical comments in this stage are:
- I feel so deprived
- I don’t know what to do with myself
- I feel like my life is over
- I’m lonely
- How will I ever get along without …
As we enter into acceptance we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We may begin to think and feel more positive. Some comments in the acceptance phase may sound like:
I think I’m going to be successful in my sobriety I don’t like this but I can stick with it I would like to drink or use but I choose not to I’m going to learn to like this new clean lifestyle I’m in recovery!
The key to moving through these stages is all in our attitude. We can choose move through them with a sense of challenge, expectation, and excitement over what lies ahead for us!