When Addiction Takes A Life..
For the record, our Valley Recovery Center blogs are for everyone. Yes, we often speak to people in the midst of addiction. But we also put out material for the loved ones of people battling substance abuse. Because, as we all know, this disease knows no bounds and can just as easily impact a family member who isn’t using. So for this latest article, we wanted to reach out to friends and family members who have lost someone because alcoholism, an overdose or what have you. These are always incredible tragedies, but it is important to pick up the pieces, try to cope and use the loss to empower others who are yearning for recovery.
Understanding The Stages Of Grief
First and foremost, it is important to recognize and experience the grief that goes along with a premature death. Psychologists have outlined five specific stages that everyone who mourns tends to go through.
Stage One can be classified as “shock” or the unbelievable reality that your loved one is really gone. With addiction, this can be even more traumatic, particularly if the person in question was hiding their habit. On the surface they could seem to have it all together, but behind closed doors a deadly vice was doing them in. Shock is a completely normal reaction and time is certainly needed to process the feelings.
Stage Two represents “anger.” Once you realize that your loved one’s death was caused by their own hands, it can lead to some very volatile feelings. This is especially true for a spouse or a child; who are now often left in precarious situations with that person out of their lives.
“Negotiation” is defined as Stage Three. Therapy and counseling can be helpful during this period, as loved ones tend to blame themselves or try to rationalize the logistics behind the death/overdose.
Stage Four brings on “depression,” which is an emotion closely intertwined with addiction. This is actually a very dangerous stage for the loved one, as sadness may actually tempt them to use (to escape the pain). Also, it’s a time to come to grips with the permanency and perhaps the loss of closure.
The final Stage Five is “acceptance.” It is here when you really come to terms with the situation and are able to let go. Now keep in mind, it can take months or even years to reach this stage. But it will come and when it does, peace can finally be reached between yourself and the bad choices your loved one had made.
Turning Loss Into Advocacy
As we mentioned before, it is extremely important to experience and process all of the above emotions before moving forward. And that can certainly take time. Don’t feel guilty if your grieving process extends long after the passing. That is completely normal and healthy for closure.
But when you do reach peace, you can hopefully take these experiences and channel them into something positive. At Valley Recovery Center, we have had countless family members speak and share the stories about their deceased loved ones. Turning this loss around and helping others who are in recovery will not only be therapeutic for you, it can potentially save lives and remove this type of pain from another caring family.