Addicts and family members in early recovery may be unaware of the significant role that the grief process plays in their experience. There are apparent moments when we regard sadness as a natural reaction to life circumstances, such as when someone dies or moves away, or when an essential job or asset is lost. However, grief is triggered not only by the loss of loved ones or goods; it is also triggered when someone loses a way of life or a way of looking at themselves that had been a way of life. Grief occurs during the recovery process from addiction in response to the significant changes that occur in an individual and in a family as the addiction problem is handled. Understanding and respecting the grief process makes recovery less mysterious.

Before delving into the grief process, it may be useful to identify some of the losses that may arise. The addict will miss their addiction, no matter how much damage or suffering the addict's drug/alcohol usage or other addictive behaviours caused themselves and loved ones, or how grateful they or others may be that the user or acting-out has ceased. They will miss the distraction, relaxation, intensity, and high provided by the behaviour or substance. The addict will miss their "easy" means of escaping tough sensations and situations and will be overwhelmed at times by what they are suddenly forced to endure without a buffer.

Certain patterns of relating become ingrained into relationships, particularly in those relationships where addiction is present. A partner who has been in the caretaking role for an addicted person, i.e., covering up their problems, smoothing over problems, making up for the addicts’ shortcomings (parenting, financial, etc.); will have a difficult transition in retaking the reigns of their own lives and trusting the addicted person to now actually be more responsible. Not being needed can be a difficult challenge for partners of addicts.

Stages of Grieving

The grief process itself follows a fairly predictable pattern, which was initially articulated in a seminal 1970s book called On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Dr. Kubler- Ross was able to identify and classify the stages a person goes through when grieving a loss in her book.

We now know that not everyone goes through each stage and that these stages do not follow a predictable pattern. Nonetheless, the sensations and experiences that people experience during the rehabilitation process might be related to these ideas. These stages exist largely to protect the bereaved person from becoming overwhelmed by their feelings and experiences. Grief is a process that requires time, support, and self-acceptance to go through.

Stage One: Denial

This is the first stage of the grieving process, and it happens when a person has not fully grasped or been able to absorb the magnitude of the change in their life. When confronted with a big loss, a person in denial will typically say things like "No, this can't be true" or "It must be someone else, not me or my loved one." Denial is a type of shock that serves as a protective mechanism against being overwhelmed by one's sensations. Addicts employ denial to avoid accepting responsibility for their substance abuse or behavioural outbursts.

They will be unable or unwilling to relate the effects of their addictions to the acts themselves. Denial addicts will blame other individuals and circumstances for their issues while denying any responsibility. "I'm not an alcoholic; those people live in the gutter and drink cheap wine; I only have a cocktail now and then" or "It obviously wasn't my being high that led me to be stopped by that cop; it was the officer's terrible attitude." When are those cops going to start doing their jobs instead of targeting good folks like myself?"

In the denial stage, spouses avoid making logical conclusions about the addict's issues. Instead of being able to see the difficulties of what they are, they will cover up or make excuses for the addicts' actions, sometimes even blaming themselves. "He doesn't gamble on a regular basis, only on weekends, and he only plays cards with his buddies and goes to the track on occasion." He doesn't go to Vegas to gamble, and we can afford for him to have some fun again and then."

Stage Two: Anger

The rage stage of sorrow exists to divert attention away from the genuine underlying addicted problem. Addicts and loved ones can appear to fling around responsibility for personal, family, financial, legal, and other problems by utilizing anger, accusing, nagging, and shaming without identifying and acknowledging the addiction problem itself. The addict will conclude that it is their partner's, job's, or children's fault that they use or act out. They will pick arguments or create unfavourable situations unknowingly but actively in order to justify their compulsive behaviour. They will blame partners for bad financial or childcare management, despite the fact that their addiction is the true source of these issues. Partners will express their rage on the addicts' friends, jobs, and leisure time. They try to cope with their dissatisfaction by controlling, complaining, and negativity, while loathing themselves for their actions.

Stage Three: Bargaining

In the bargaining stage of mourning, the person is beginning to recognize that there is or may be a problem, but they are working hard to avoid fully confronting the solution or reality of their circumstances. To negotiate is to strive to keep control and continue living without genuine change. This is the moment for addicts to say things like, "Just give me one more opportunity and I promise I will never..." Rather than truly surrendering to the problem, the addict is seeking to maintain control by inventing new reasons and promises to avoid the inevitable.

Bargaining is a last-ditch attempt by partners to keep the status quo. Partners may accept promises they know will not be honoured or try to make changes to make life easier for the addict in the belief that they will cease their addictive behaviour in order to avoid the risk of confronting the true problem. "If I merely appear like the ladies, he looks at online and delivers the same kind of sex as his websites, his cybersex habit will end." Alternatively, "If I simply keep the kids out of her way and give her more time on the weekends, she'll stop drinking during the day as she promised."

Stage Four: Depression

This stage indicates the beginning of full surrender to the magnitude and significance of the addiction condition. No longer looking for blame or a way out, addicts begin to experience the grief and dread of not knowing themselves as well as they thought they did. Addicts struggle to understand the significance of their history of addictive behaviours and the consequences these problems have incurred for them individually and in relation to people they care about. Addicts may be ashamed and bewildered in this early stage of recovery, and they may be unable to imagine a life without their acting-out behaviours or substance use.

Unacquainted with life outside of their addiction, the addict despairs ever feeling at ease or "in control," as they have known it. The depressive stage is one in which spouses begin to realize the magnitude of the losses and obstacles caused by addiction. Partners may lose hope that their relationships will ever be right if they do not completely understand how addiction works and the promise of recovery. As the addict attends 12-step groups and calls other addicts and sponsors, the spouse may feel left out of the process and scared of the new obstacles that appear to encourage separation rather than support and connection.

Stage Five: Acceptance

This stage is unavoidable if addicts remain in recovery and partners begin to participate in the process. At this point, the addict can see that there is a road mapped out for their recovery that others have successfully followed. They might begin to contemplate a fresh image of how their life would be lived in the absence of active addiction. Isolation and lies have been replaced by new healthy recovery relationships and support. The addict has been sobering long enough to start developing new ways of coping and managing their life situations, frequently employing hidden creativity and resourcefulness that was previously lost to their addiction.

Partners who have reached the acceptance stage can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Through their own support groups, treatment, and self-education, they are beginning to rethink their position with their addicted partner, their families, and themselves. The next paragraphs explain the distinctions between a grieving reaction and a depressive episode.

Because the symptoms of sorrow and depression are similar and often differ only in degree, it is important to seek the assistance of a professional counsellor or priest to help clarify and work through these concerns.

Tips for coping with grief in sobriety

Managing in sobriety is a struggle in itself; you must learn how to live and maintain an entirely new lifestyle. Recovery from addiction is an ongoing journey; what happens when a curveball, such as the death of a loved one, is thrown your way? Coping with loss without jeopardising your sobriety is entirely possible; here are nine tips to assist you.

1. Give Yourself Time to Grieve

The magnitude of your loss cannot be compared to that of another individual's. Your sadness is your own, but it does not mean you cannot seek assistance from others. What it does mean is that you are permitted to grieve and embrace your emotions at your own pace. One of the most effective strategies to overcome grief is to acknowledge and accept all of your emotions, good, terrible, and ugly. Then proceed. Yes, this technique requires patience and time. Be gentle to yourself, and you will see that your grief gradually fades away.

2. Be Consistent with Your Treatment Program

During a moment of loss, your commitment to your treatment programme as a recovering addict is crucial. Even if you do not feel like contributing or conversing, it is imperative that you consistently attend meetings. Visiting your addiction recovery therapist could also be beneficial during this time. Attending meetings provides you with a support network that others may lack. It will help you shift your attention, broaden your perspective, and reconnect with your treatment principles. Remember that these ideas can be helpful as you deal with your loss.

3. Surround Yourself with Positive People

During the grieving process, you may wish to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. In the early phases of bereavement, this approach is reasonable and even normal, but it is not a healthy long-term strategy. It is really crucial to interact with positive individuals. Whether it's a quick cup of coffee, a stroll in the sunshine, or a lengthy conversation in the park, seek out good, supporting friends and family during this time. You will obtain much-needed perspective and clarity as a result.

4. Avoid Triggering Situations

The truth is that you are more vulnerable after the death of a loved one, especially if you are in the process of getting clean. Keeping this in mind, it's important to stay away from other things that could cause you to become addicted. In short, now is not a good time to see how well you can stay sober. Instead, put yourself in situations and with people that will make you feel good. Stay away from things that make you feel uneasy, sad, or more vulnerable. Now is the time to take care of yourself.

5. Stick to Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits

It is very common for people who are sad to lose their appetite. This could be about food, but it could also mean that you no longer want to live. You might lose all motivation and start to eat and sleep badly while putting off exercise and your favourite activities. In reality, this only makes it more likely that you will slip up again. Try to stick to a healthy routine that includes whole foods, a lot of sleep, activities outside, and some exercise. All of these things will help improve your mood when put together. If you need help or motivation, ask your family or friends to plan their meals around yours or ask a friend to work out with you.

6. Ask for Help When You Need It

Now is not the time to be embarrassed about asking for help when you need it. Don't be afraid to ask for help, even if it's just to get the groceries. Helping a little bit goes a long way. Also, try to be as specific as possible when you ask for help. This will help make sure that your needs are met. And when the time is right, be sure to thank the people who helped you when you needed them the most.

7. Volunteer Your Time

If you're getting tired of thinking about yourself and want to help other people for a while, volunteering is a great way to do this. It's also a great way to boost your own sense of self-worth and make you feel better about yourself. Look for ways to help out at your local church or ask your friends and family if they need any help. Giving back makes your life more valuable, which can help you deal with your grief better.

8. Challenge Yourself with a New Goal

Setting yourself a new goal is another great way to bring more happiness into your life. Plan out how you'll get there, and do a little bit of work on it every day. It's important to pick a goal that really fits with who you are and that you can reach in a short amount of time. Choose a goal that you can reach in less than 60 days. This could be something small like meditating every day for 20 minutes, getting into a certain yoga pose, running 5 miles, etc.

9. Get Creative

Get your creative juices (and your feelings) flowing by taking up a new hobby, but make sure it allows you to be creative. Even though it sounds like a cliche, creative expression is a great way to show how you feel without having to talk. Simple things like writing in a journal, painting, drawing, cooking, or gardening could be on this list.


At Abhasa Rehab Centre, we are focusing mainly on patient well-being, that is, we will prepare them to lead a quality life. While we are focusing on the recovery, we include grief, because this might trigger them later. In Abhasa we are following our own concept of treatment, based on the Bio- psycho-social model.

Prepared by: Mr. Denny Prasad
LinkedIn Id: https://www.linkedin.com/in/denny-prasad-b55028124