Loss and the subsequent feelings of sadness are as much a part of life as breathing. It is an unavoidable and unfortunate truth that remains prevalent even when we find ourselves in a program of recovery. There are many different ways one may experience loss, and all the feelings that come with it are completely valid, sober or not. It’s important that when we do experience loss in recovery that we can adequately deal with the situation and navigate through the feelings sober. Loss can be one of the biggest triggers for relapse among addicts and alcoholics in recovery. Preparation for the inevitable is the best way to ensure our recovery survives another day.
Difficult situations aside, practicing our program of recovery should always remain at the forefront of our priority list. When we find ourselves in a 12-step program for the first time, it’s both overwhelming and confusing. We’re exposed to all new terms and mantras and we may feel out of the loop. But we stop feeding into our self-doubt and anxious thoughts. We sit down. We listen. We learn.
Before we know it, we’re reciting the readings in our heads and perpetuating the same sayings that were once new. Everything is going great. Then suddenly, our world is rocked by the loss of a relationship, a job, or even, God forbid, a loved one. Where we once stood firm in our convictions and our recovery, we find ourselves rocketed into a place of uncertainty and emotional turmoil. What do we do?
Back to Basics
The first thing we need to do when we experience loss in recovery and we find ourselves in the midst of such a severe blow to our emotional fortitude is to remember everything that got us sober in the beginning will still keep us sober now. Recovery is not conditional. No matter where we find ourselves in life, recovery is possible. All of the tools we need to successfully manage loss in recovery have already been provided to us; we merely need to pick them up. No amount of effort can ever really prepare us for the sudden and unwelcome arrival of loss in recovery, but that same effort can be the lighthouse that guides us through the storm and allows safe passage to shore.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Firstly, when it comes to loss in recovery, just because we may have weeks, months, or even years sober, doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in the initial feelings of overwhelming sadness and fear that comes hand-in-hand with these situations. You do not have to deny your feelings; in fact, it’s counterproductive and can actually lead to relapse. It’s imperative to feel your feelings when dealing with any type of loss in recovery. These feelings you’re experiencing are rightfully yours as well.
Whether it is a small or large loss, you should not have to defend the validity of your feelings to anyone else, or even to yourself. In the past, many of us used to cover up our feelings. Without the crutch of substances to lean on, these emotions can overtake us in a way we haven’t experienced in years. And that’s completely okay and even normal. We do not have to put a strong face in our moments of weakness. Recovery teaches us to recognize and feel our feelings, good or bad. It’s how we move forward that defines us.
You’re Not Alone
Part of the defining characteristics of recovery is our sense of community and camaraderie among our fellow recovering alcoholics and addicts. While our first and most natural response when dealing with loss in recovery for many of us may be to retreat into a place of isolation away from everyone else, it is crucial we do not do this.
Isolation during times of loss in recovery is a step toward relapse. It is during these times we need to lean on our sponsors and support system more than ever. We need to reach out to other recovering addicts and share our feelings and our thoughts, no matter how crazy or seemingly insignificant they may be. Keeping an open dialogue of honesty between yourself and your support system not only gives you a healthy outlet for all of your feelings and thoughts pertaining to the situation but also keeps you accountable in recovery.
Getting yourself to a meeting may seem like the absolute last thing you want to do during the initial blow, but it is during this time we are the most vulnerable and belong at a meeting. Even if you don’t share while at a meeting, being around other addicts and recovery in a time of loss is the safest and most comforting place to be. Just know that no matter what kind of loss you may be encountering, someone in the room has gone through it before and handled it sober, meaning you can, too. It is this message of hope we need the most when things seem so bleak.
A Return to Spirituality
During the course of our recovery, it is common to experience what is known as complacency. While it is not inherently bad, it can make us far more susceptible to relapse. It is during the difficult times that we need to be avidly practicing our spirituality more than ever. Being that spirituality–not religion–is the backbone of our program, it’s vital to have our channels of communication with our Higher Power open.
Through the power of prayer and meditation, we may find ourselves capable of handling the situation more successfully than in their absence. Recovery aside, prayer and meditation are often cited as a healthy coping mechanism during times of loss by mental health professionals. It is something proven by both science and practice to work, so why not implement it?
Time Takes Time
At the end of the day, handling loss in recovery is the based on the art of practice. Surmounting a significant loss in our lives is not possible in one day. But setting a realistic goal of just feeling a little bit better than the day before is a great place to start. By doing what we know works and continuing to do so, we can successfully navigate the situation without picking up a drink or a drug.
Some days will be better than others, and when we’re having a difficult and emotional day, it’s okay. It’s part of the process. We need to just continue on the path of recovery and consistently implement the tools we know work.
The only sure-fire way to cope with loss is time. They say time heals all wounds, and this is true. Some more intense feelings of loss may never fully go away, but we learn to live with them and live with them sober. By giving time the opportunity to work its magic, you’re also giving yourself a chance for maintaining recovery. We never have to use again, no matter what. No matter how dark and dreary it may seem, just as we’ve seen before, a brighter day is on the horizon. We need only give ourselves the chance to see and see it sober.
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, don’t delay on getting the help necessary. Contact us at Pathway to Hope to speak to someone 24/7 and see how we can help you or your loved one today! Call 844-577-8575 or contact us online now!
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