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How Does Grief Impact Addiction?

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There is nothing easy about navigating the debilitating, intense feelings of grief. It can feel overwhelming, affecting one’s daily thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and even the use of addictive substances. However, drugs and alcohol are destructive when paired with grief, making it difficult to effectively process these challenging experiences while introducing further emotional turmoil. 

Understanding grief and its influences on the use of drugs or alcohol is essential to creating a dedicated, effective plan for coping with the effects of grief and addiction in tandem. 

The Forms of Grief

Grief comes in many forms, and each different form can be uniquely difficult to cope with. For many, grief is an intense feeling of loss, coupled with uncertainty, sorrow, feelings of betrayal, or the unfairness of their situation. The passing of a parent, sibling, or loved one is an intensely difficult feeling, and these feelings of loss can permeate one’s mind. 

The deterioration of close relationships, the loss of a pet, or any other feeling of absence or longing can all cause their own form of grief that requires a dedicated outlet to process. Each of these different forms of grief can greatly impact one’s emotional health, introducing feelings of depression, fatigue, and even compromise feelings of hope. The overall loss of a positive mindset can continue to impact one’s perspective and decision-making. 

Anger is also prevalent as a result of grief, as an individual may feel wronged or victimized by their loss. Difficulty regulating emotions and maintaining a healthy outlet to process negative feelings is a hallmark of those suffering from grief. It can inform one’s decision to turn to addictive substances as a coping strategy. 

Those suffering from grief may also experience: 

  • Anxiety
  • Prolonged periods of sadness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger
  • Mood swings

Each individual will have their own way of grieving or navigating these difficult feelings.

Grief and Addiction

Grief can be linked to addiction in a variety of ways. It is important to address both an individual’s use of addictive substances and the emotional impact of grief in tandem to overcome such a trying time. The emotional difficulties of grief will continue to build until addressed. While it is normal to want to push down these difficult emotions, ignoring them does not make them go away. 

Addictive substances are a fast-acting, dangerous way to further push down or hide from these negative thoughts and feelings. While their use may cause an individual to placate these difficulties for a moment, they still leave the source of their grief wholly unprocessed. Anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other negative emotions will continue to develop and become more intense beneath the surface. 

Others may not be looking to push down feelings of grief, but instead, use drugs or alcohol in order to think about something else for a moment. Grief can have lasting effects on a person’s mind. Thoughts and images of things and people lost can be experienced all throughout the day. Constantly having these invasive thoughts is taxing, and the desire to escape from these thoughts is completely understandable. 

Addictive substances do this at the expense of one’s physical and mental health. The desire to escape the feelings that accompany grief can quickly lead to a reliance on addictive substances to moderate an individual’s mood while imparting none of the core essential skills necessary to manage emotions. 

Lastly, an individual may attempt to fill a feeling of emptiness in themselves. As an individual uses drugs and alcohol as a coping strategy, this positive perception can quickly ingratiate itself into their mind. An individual may find themselves attempting to fill a sense of emptiness with addictive substances. While the idea that drugs or alcohol can somehow “replace” a lost loved one is rightfully based on a fallacy, in practice, the use of addictive substances can overtake a greater part of one’s daily routine. Doing so creates an unhealthy replacement that can quickly develop into addiction. 

Coping With Grief and Addiction 

There is no single path to cope with either grief or addiction, but it is important to address these things together in a dedicated plan rather than individually. Professionally trained care is necessary to explore how these two factors uniquely interact with each other in each individual. Coping with the effects of grief without addressing one’s use of drugs or alcohol can do little to address developing addiction. Additionally, it can compromise other coping strategies as one continues to engage with addictive substances. 

Likewise, addressing one’s use of drugs or alcohol without uncovering and navigating the effects of grief can leave these emotional difficulties and experiences wholly unaddressed. This increases the chance of relapse and other potentially self-destructive coping strategies. 

There is no easy way to overcome grief. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center we are prepared to help you address how grief has impacted your life and your use of drugs or alcohol. We understand the need to create a personalized approach to your sober future, and we champion the opportunity to create a dedicated recovery plan that addresses your unique needs and goals throughout the process. From your first step into our detox or residential treatment programs to our ongoing outpatient support, our team of caring, trained staff members are prepared to help you. We offer an array of programs, from medication-assisted treatment to individual, group, and experiential therapies, each of which can be customized to address your feelings of grief or loss. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call to speak to us today at (949) 426-7962.

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