Grief and Loss in Addiction Treatment

What could grief possibly have in common with addiction treatment and recovery you ask? Plenty! There are many thoughts, feelings and emotions that a recovering addict is trying to cope with during recovery. At times of stress in the past, a recovering addict would have taken their drug of choice and enjoyed the euphoric feelings and sense of calm and well-being. But in recovery, an addict has to handle all the physical, mental and emotional issues without any drugs or alcohol to numb their pain.

In recovery, the addict will feel the sense of loss from their previous lifestyle. Gone will be all the times of getting high and socializing with other addicts. The time and focus that the addict spent trying to purchase drugs will be gone too. Every drug activity will stop, but the mind hasn’t caught up yet. The mind is still remembering its past life because it is physically and psychologically attached to it. It is a great sense of loss that recovering addicts feel when their drug life passes away. That life has abruptly stopped and the addict in now heading in a new, unfamiliar and uncertain direction.

The recovering addict is going through a difficult time in recovery. Their biology is struggling to re-adjust itself to functioning without drugs and alcohol. There are withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings to deal with too, although medication intervention is available to assist the recovering addict through the withdrawal symptoms phase.

Afterward, the full weight of problems and emotions that were repressed by drugs and alcohol will return with a vengeance. The recovering addict will experience many mixed feelings of shame, grief, anger, disappointment and bitter regrets. This is a very heavy weight to bear alone, especially when the recovering addict is still so vulnerable. Individual and group counseling will help the addict get through this muddle of mental issues.  The recovering addict will also begin to grieve for all the time and relationships that they lost during their days of addiction. Losing loved ones, family members, jobs, income, housing, good health and more, the addict may grieve bitterly for the first time in their life. Gone also are the hopes and dreams of the future that substance abuse destroyed.

Stages of Grief

There is a flexible pattern of grief that people go through during the process of grieving. Denial is usually the first defense mechanism that a person goes through. Denial is an attempt at refusing to take responsibility for what you have done. Anger is another defense mechanism that places the blame on everyone else, while portraying your self as innocent. Bargaining is a phase where the addict will make excuses for their behavior, while promising to change. Bargaining is just talk with no real intent behind it. Depression is when reality starts to sink in and the addict realizes that they are out of control. The addict acknowledges that they have hurt other people and them self, and they begin to feel shame and sadness. They also experience fear in the thought of trying to live life without their drug or alcohol crutch. In the acceptance phase, the recovering addict begins to see clearly and has hope for recovery and a new life.

Grieving is a process unique to the individual. Some people may not experience some of the grieving stages and there is no set pattern to grieving. Grieving is a difficult phase for a recovering addict to endure, and it can become overwhelming at times. The person may experience anxiety, loneliness, irritability, depression, anger and more. To get through the grieving process effectively, the addict should accept their losses and work through their pain. They should not try to avoid, suppress or medicate the pain, but push through it to get rid of it. The recovering addict should try to adapt to their new lifestyle with renewed energy and focus on the good things that lie ahead for them.  As they enter the next phase of their life, the recovering addict should be filled with hope and joy for a healthy, productive future.

Getting Help and Addiction Treatment


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.