If we are getting treatment for substance use, we have obviously made a good choice for our lives. Things seem to be going fairly well as we progress in treatment, and then suddenly, we are hit with this powerful sense of grief and loss. Why am I grieving after substance use?
First of all, so many types of emotions come to the surface as we are coming away from substance use. Grief is only one emotional response we may experience. That said, many people feel grief for the loss of their way of life, their friends, and their activities surrounding substance use. It is an entire way of life, complete with people, that we have just turned our backs on and said goodbye to. If our families packed up our farm and moved us to the city, we would also grieve that loss. It is okay to grieve in recovery.
Loss of the Substance
Despite stigma about substances, many people who have used substances have a relationship with their substance, especially how it made them relax or feel good, at least in the beginning. While there are plenty of consequences to using substances, like a bad relationship, we might still regret that it is over.
Likewise, we had people, places, and things that surrounded our drug use, which was what we knew. We must leave all of that behind, too, and that is a big loss. Also lost is the time we spent seeking and using substances, especially hanging out with those fellow substance users. Now we have to find new things to do, new places to go, and new people to do things with to fill that time. That is change, and that is loss.
Loss of Events and People
We may also need to grieve the time that we missed with people in our lives during our substance use. The milestones in the lives of children, or even adults, which we were not present for. Coming out of substance use makes these missed experiences freshly painful. We may have also missed children growing up and moving on, friends or family who moved, and we were not there to say goodbye. Worse still are the goodbyes we cannot get back, saying goodbye to those who may have passed away while we were in the midst of our substance use. These losses can hit us hard when we are emotionally vulnerable in treatment, and the grief is very real.
Loss of Relationships, Livelihood, or Freedom
Sometimes, in our substance use, we have experienced significant losses. For example, we may have lost a relationship through a breakup, separation, or divorce. While in substance use, even if those breakups were happening, we may not have allowed ourselves to truly grieve these losses. The more powerful our connections were, or even the length of time we were with that partner can impact the level of grief that we are experiencing now, and that can be intense.
We may have lost our source of income or our job while we were using substances. Or perhaps we lost our housing. We may have also lost our health. All of these things are basic needs that we no longer have, making our lives more challenging going forward. When we lose basic needs, there can be a significant grieving process to navigate, which can be complicated by the use of substances and the changes we are now making to improve our lives.
A very significant loss that we may have endured is the loss of freedom because of our actions while using substances. Incarceration is also accountability for our actions and any harm we may have caused to others, but we still lost our freedom. Such a significant loss and change in our life is inevitably going to cause grieving.
Loss of Self
Often in substance use, we may have compromised our morals or values with some of our behaviors. This, along with other factors, can lead to the loss of our sense of self. We may have lost ourselves in our substance use, and that seems to define us now more than our values or who we were before.
We may also be grieving the loss of the dreams we had for the future. Particularly if our substance use has significantly impaired our financial, legal, or relationship status, or any other major influences. We may have to grieve the dreams we once had and make new plans and dreams when we have finished grieving.
Acceptance of Our Loss
At the end of the grieving stage, which can be different for everyone, we will finally find acceptance for the life we left behind and the people and experiences that we missed out on. This becomes easier to accept when we realize what we have gained in recovery.
Why am I grieving after substance use? Because we have lost everything. Our identity, our friends and relationships, our method of feeling better, and so much more. There is a grieving process when we leave so much behind and make such wholesale changes in our lives. That is okay. Grieving is just one part of the recovery process, and it is healthy to grieve. Face your grief and all of the emotions as you work to heal from substance use. Call to begin treatment today.
You can grieve your substance use. You can process all of your grief at AToN Center. Call (888) 535-1516 to learn how to process all of your emotions after substance use.