Buena Vista Playbook: Processing Grief During Recovery

April 26, 2023

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

Grief will always be a natural part of the human experience. But it can be very prevalent when someone enters an addiction recovery center and starts their recovery journey. If the beginning of your recovery at Buena Vista, your reliance on drugs or alcohol may have been the only way you were able to process emotion. You may never have learned healthy coping mechanisms. 

When you enter treatment, you may start to feel a sense of grief. Maybe because you no longer see or interact with certain people. Perhaps you will grieve the loss of the life you lived with you were using substances, or you will feel the loss of the actual substance.

These are all valid feelings, and unless you learn to deal with your grief, you may return to right where you started. 

Grief Is a Natural Part of Life

Grieving is a naturally occurring process that many of us will encounter in our lives. Grief can be overwhelming, painful, and confusing. But it is important to take a step back and understand that grief doesn’t only affect us through the death of someone. Grief can occur anytime we lose someone, something, or any part of our life. You may grieve the time you no longer spend around certain people, or you may grieve the amount of money you used to spend on drugs or alcohol. 

Grieving is an individual process. No two people are going to go through this process in the same way. However, there are some general stages of grief that people usually cycle through as they process the grief.

  1. Denial: Refusal to admit something has happened
  2. Anger: Placing blame for the pain you feel
  3. Bargaining: Trying anything and everything before accepting the truth
  4. Depression: When nothing seems worth doing anymore
  5. Acceptance: The realization that there is no changing the loss

Grief and Addiction Recovery Don’t Always Go Together Easily

In the midst of active addiction, life is chaotic and unstable. You might be using substances to deal with deep emotions. Instead of facing them and working through them, you are covering up the feelings with the use of substances. So when you decide to get sober, it’s sort of inevitable that there will be some sort of grieving. 

You may be losing relationships now that you have stopped using, or maybe your use made you lose relationships that might not ever recover. Maybe you lost friends to overdose, and now that you are sober, you are finally feeling those feelings of loss. You might realize how much damage your addiction has caused, and all those feelings might come flooding in as you get sober.

During these moments, grief can feel completely overwhelming. It is important to have lots of support from friends and family, peers, professional addiction recovery centers, or inpatient programs as we offer here at Buena Vista. Without support, it can be easy to feel like going back to old ways and starting to use again to deal with the emotions.  

Loss of Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

A loss of self-esteem and self-worth is common during addiction recovery. Often, in active addiction, your self-esteem is tied to the use of substances. So when you stop using those substances, you can feel a huge drop in your self-esteem or self-worth. 

When you choose to enter recovery and start getting clean, you might lose some people in your life that you really thought would be by your side forever. But the moment you no longer participate in those activities or put yourself in those situations where those activities are taking place, people will walk out of your life. That can cause a huge hit to your self-worth. 

You may feel like you aren’t worth anything because no one wants to be around you anymore, which is not true. The relationships and experiences that will come from recovery are worth so much. They will create everlasting relationships that will help boost your self-worth, but it takes time. 

Buena Vista Teaches About Inability to Process Emotion

In early recovery, it may feel extremely difficult to process emotions and express them in healthy ways. During your addiction, you stuffed all emotions down with your drug use. However, this can be fixed over time; Buena Vista can help you with that. 

You may experience emotional numbness or not know how to process the emotions when you enter recovery. Many people who choose recovery may feel like showing emotions creates vulnerability or maybe even cause them to feel unsafe. This is probably what you experienced during your drug use. Therefore, you have conditioned yourself not to show emotion. These feelings can linger even after you have stopped using. 

Learning to express yourself and your emotions is not only important during everyday life, but it is also crucial during the recovery stage. So much self-reflection and healing are going to be taking place. Your brain needs to learn to be comfortable with processing strong emotions again. It is going to take practice, and it is going to be painful. But the future that lies ahead because of the work you put in at Buena Vista will forever change your life for the better. 

Grief will forever be a natural part of life. It is important for people in recovery to understand that they don’t have to go through this alone. The loss of relationships, self-esteem, and self-worth, can all be difficult during the recovery process. But with the proper support and help, you can get through this. There are many resources available to those struggling with substance use and feelings of avoiding emotions. At Buena Vista, we want to help you through this process of grief that will take place during treatment and recovery. Building a support system and learning these valuable tools will help prevent relapse. For more information, call (480) 741-9414 today.