Life has its ups and downs, and no matter how much you prepare for eventualities, things will happen that catch you off guard. Whether it is unwanted divorce, the end of a friendship, job loss, or the death of a loved one, grief can create a tailspin in your life.
For anyone, any of these issues can be life-changing and potentially trigger cravings that are unsafe and unhealthy. For someone in recovery, if those cravings are indulged, it can be fatal. With a history of compulsive use of certain substances and engagement in other behaviors that threaten mental wellness and stability, grief becomes a very serious issue.
If you are struggling with grief for any reason, here are some tips to help you as you begin the process of managing grief in recovery:
Do not face your grief alone
It is natural to want to curl up into a ball and let the world disappear for a while when you suffer a huge loss. In fact, it is not only normal but healthy to feel this way, and it is healthy to give yourself a chance to do nothing but live in your grief for a period of time. However, it is essential that you not remain in isolation for too long. Spending too much time alone when grieving can increase the likelihood that you will relapse in recovery.
Understand that the urge to escape is normal
If you have concerns because you are thinking of using drugs or drinking, gambling, or otherwise engaging in addictive behaviors, know that this is a very common experience. Grief is painful and relentless, and it is exceedingly normal to want to stop feeling badly. The important thing is that you find ways to relieve your pain that will not contribute to how poorly you feel and any detrimental effects the change may have had on your life.
For example, drinking will not help you find a new job if you have suffered a job loss, and it will not help you to get over the loss of someone important in your life. In fact, it will only serve to make you feel worse in the long run and potentially lead you back to a life defined by addictive use of drugs and alcohol.
It may be the last thing on your mind, but everything you do to take care of yourself physically will help you to feel better emotionally. Eating a healthy meal with lots of fresh vegetables rather than skipping the meal entirely or grabbing fast food is a good start. Take a shower. Get dressed. Leave the house for any reason, even just to get something from the store. Going for a walk can be helpful, and if you are under the weather, go see a doctor and get tips on how to better take care of yourself. Everything you do that helps you to take care of yourself will assist you in the process of managing your addiction.
Give yourself a break
No one expects you to get over your grief overnight. There is no set timeline for processing grief and no way to rush the process along. You can and should take the time you need to fully understand what happened, register how it has and will impact your life and the changes you must make going forward, and then begin, in your time, to put those changes into practice. You may never fully “recover” from what happened, especially if you have lost someone you love, but you can give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself and try to be okay in this moment, making choices that will help you to be stable in the coming moments as well.
Do not ignore cravings
Addiction is a disorder that is chronic in nature. There is no cure; thus, cravings for your addictive behavior or substance of choice will likely recur throughout your recovery. During grief, cravings may be more likely to arise, and if you experience them, do not ignore them. You may have experienced loss but your loss will be far greater if you return to active addiction. Instead, reach out for help. Talk to a professional about what you are feeling and what you are going through. Get some advice that you can put into action and start working on processing your grief in therapy.
The Connection between Grief and Process Addictions
When we experience intense emotional pain, our brains release chemicals that can provide temporary relief. Process addictions can provide a quick and easy way to access these chemicals, leading to a cycle of addiction.
For example, someone who is grieving may turn to shopping as a way to distract themselves from their pain. This may provide a temporary sense of relief, but it can quickly become a habit that is difficult to break.
According to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, individuals who experience unresolved grief are at a higher risk of developing process addictions. The study found that individuals who had lost a loved one and had not completed the grieving process were more likely to develop addictive behaviors.
Tips for Staying Healthy during an Emotional Crisis
If you are struggling with grief and find yourself turning to process addictions as a way to cope, there are several things you can do to stay healthy.
Seek Professional Help
The first step in dealing with grief and process addictions is to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide you with the tools and support you need to process your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Self-care is essential during an emotional crisis. This can include things like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in physical activity. Taking care of yourself can help you feel better both physically and emotionally.
Connect with Others
Connecting with others who have experienced a similar loss can be incredibly helpful. Joining a support group or attending a grief counseling session can provide you with a safe space to share your feelings and receive support.
Identify the activities or situations that trigger your process addiction and avoid them as much as possible. For example, if you know that shopping is a trigger for you, try to avoid going to the mall or browsing online stores.
Find Healthy Ways to Cope
Finding healthy ways to cope with grief can be challenging, but it is essential for your long-term well-being. Some healthy coping mechanisms include journaling, meditation, and creative expression.
Understanding the Different Stages of Grief
Grief is a complex and highly personal process that affects individuals in different ways. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving, understanding the different stages of grief can help you better navigate your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Denial is often the first stage of grief. It is a natural response to an overwhelming situation and can provide a temporary sense of protection from the shock and pain of loss. During this stage, it is common for individuals to feel numb or disconnected from reality.
As denial wears off, individuals may begin to feel anger towards themselves or others. This anger can be directed at a specific person or situation, or it may be more generalized. It is important to recognize that anger is a normal part of the grieving process and should not be suppressed.
Bargaining involves attempting to negotiate with a higher power or oneself to avoid or lessen the pain of loss. Individuals may make promises or try to find meaning in their suffering during this stage.
Depression is often the most difficult stage of grief. It involves feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, and despair. During this stage, it may be challenging to engage in daily activities or find pleasure in things that were once enjoyable.
Acceptance does not mean forgetting or moving on from your loss; rather, it involves coming to terms with your new reality and finding ways to move forward while still honoring your loved one's memory. This stage can bring a sense of peace and closure.
Understanding these stages can help you identify where you are in your grief journey and provide insights into how you can best care for yourself during this time. Remember that there is no right way to grieve, and everyone's journey will look different. Be patient with yourself and seek support when needed.
Acknowledging and Accepting Emotions during Grief
Acknowledging and accepting one's emotions is an essential part of the grieving process. It can be tempting to try to push down or ignore difficult feelings, but this can lead to long-term emotional issues.
Instead, it is crucial to allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up during the grieving process. This may include feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, or even relief.
By acknowledging and accepting these emotions, you can begin to process them in a healthy way. This can involve talking about your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist, journaling, or engaging in other forms of creative expression.
It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone's experience will look different, and it may take time to fully process your emotions.
By taking the time to acknowledge and accept your emotions during the grieving process, you can begin to move towards healing and finding a sense of peace.
Strategies for Managing Stress during an Emotional Crisis
Managing stress is essential during an emotional crisis. Here are some strategies that can help you cope with the stress of grief:
Deep Breathing and Meditation
Deep breathing and meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down, take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this process several times, focusing on your breath.
Physical activity is an excellent way to reduce stress and improve mood. Even a short walk around the block or some light stretching can make a big difference.
Limit Social Media and News Intake
Constant exposure to news and social media can increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Consider limiting your intake or taking breaks from these platforms altogether.
Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This can include things like noticing your surroundings, focusing on your breath, or engaging in activities that bring you joy.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for both physical and emotional health. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and try to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can better manage the stress of an emotional crisis and promote overall well-being. Remember that self-care is essential during this time, so be patient with yourself and prioritize your needs.
Setting Realistic Expectations during the Healing Process
It's common to want to rush through the grieving process and return to feeling "normal" as quickly as possible. However, it's important to set realistic expectations for yourself during this time.
Healing from grief is a journey that can take months or even years. It's essential to recognize that healing is not a linear process, and there will be good days and bad days.
One way to set realistic expectations is to break down your goals into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, if you're struggling with depression during the grieving process, your goal might be to get out of bed and take a shower each day.
By setting achievable goals, you can build momentum towards long-term healing. It's also important to celebrate small victories along the way. Recognize when you've achieved a goal and take time to acknowledge your progress.
Another way to set realistic expectations is to practice self-compassion. Be kind and patient with yourself during this time. Avoid comparing your healing journey with others' experiences or placing unrealistic demands on yourself.
Remember that healing from grief takes time and effort, but it's worth it in the end. By setting realistic expectations for yourself and practicing self-compassion, you can move towards long-term healing and find a sense of peace.
Dealing with grief is never easy, but it is essential to find healthy ways to cope. Process addictions can provide temporary relief, but they can quickly become a habit that is difficult to break.
If you are struggling with grief and process addictions, seek professional help and practice self-care. Connect with others who have experienced a similar loss, avoid triggers, and find healthy ways to cope.
Remember, healing takes time, but with the right support and tools, you can get through this difficult time and come out stronger on the other side.
If you are struggling with grief in recovery, take the time to talk to someone who can help. Learn more about the support options available to you today.