The following was written by Mark Meyer, Recovery Coach at PRC Recovery Centre, Sabie.
What do we do when everything is turned upside down? This pandemic we face has turned our world upside down. We’ve all likely had to deal with some type of loss over the past couple of months as job security, financial responsibility, familial health, and personal wellbeing have all suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recovery, these challenges become the promises provided by our program and Alcoholics Anonymous. We start living our lives upon the spiritual cornerstone decision you make in Step 3; we decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
But like recovery, this too is a process and nowhere is what we’re sharing with you only applicable to addicts but the information can help anyone who is currently going through the cycles of grief find comfort in knowing that what happens is not God but that God has a plan for your life.
Grief – A Part of
Although little has been written and researched about grief as well as how it relates to addiction, it is a major factor for all who are affected. Grief is considered a natural reaction to life circumstances like the loss of a loved one, or loss due to someone moving away or when an important job or possession is lost.
Loss is a natural part of the process of recovery. Many people use alcohol and other drugs to lessen, numb, or avoid distressing feelings of grief, sadness, depression, or anger related to loss. Avoiding or suppressing painful emotions is similar to being mired in quicksand. The harder we struggle to get free, the more anxiety and stress we experience, the deeper we sink the more stuck we become.
The avoidance of uncomfortable feelings inevitably backfires. Feelings invariably come out in indirect forms through behaviour, often engaging in behaviours that are unhealthy and self-defeating that only extend and exacerbates our emotional pain. The stages of grief had begun.
The Stages of Grief
In her book titled On Death and Dying, Dr Kubler-Ross stated that the process of grief itself follows a fairly understandable pattern and was able to identify and differentiate the stages a person goes through when grieving a loss. These stages exist primarily to protect us from being overwhelmed by our emotions and experiences. Grief is a process that takes time, support and self-acceptance to move beyond.
Stage 1: Denial
Like recovery, grief starts with the first stage of denial. The first stage occurs when we have not yet fully comprehended or been able to integrate the depth of the change to our lives.
Denial is a safety mechanism that protects us from being overwhelmed by our feelings. Addicts utilise denial to avoid taking responsibility for their substance use or behaviours associated with the disease and will not be able or willing to make the connection between the consequences of their addictions or the behaviours themselves.
In denial, we blame other people and circumstances for our problems as we deny any responsibility. Denial hinders us from drawing logical conclusions about our problem, instead of covering up or even making excuses for our behaviour, sometimes even blaming ourselves rather than being able to see the issues for what they are.
Stage 2: Anger
The anger stage of grief exists as an attempt to avoid the true underlying problem and in the case of addiction, addictive problems. By using anger, blaming, nagging and shaming, addicts and loved ones can seemingly throw around responsibility for the personal, family, financial, legal and other problems without identifying and acknowledging the problem itself.
In anger, we conclude that it is the fault of a partner, children, or job, etc. that causes them to use or act out. We unconsciously but deliberately pick fights or create negative situations to justify our behaviour.
We will blame partners for poor handling of finances or childcare even though our insecurity is the real source of our problems. We vent our anger on family, friends, work and recreation time and attempt to use the control, complaining and negativity to tolerate our unhappiness, all the while hating ourselves for the ways that we are acting.