dealing with grief

Advice for Dealing with Death and Grief While in Recovery

Advice for Dealing with Death and Grief While in Recovery

The loss of a loved one has been described as life’s most stressful event. It triggers a profound sense of grief, an outward expression of loss. Grief can be expressed physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Dealing with death and the grieving process can be especially difficult for people recovering from addiction. Grief and sadness are feelings so many of us want to avoid, and in the addict, they can trigger a relapse. But, there are things you can do to deal with grief and stay sober.

Understanding Grief

When someone we love dies, our sadness can feel overwhelming. Part of the grieving process is allowing ourselves to experience that loss and all the feelings that come with it. Some people may feel numb at first, but there is no “right” emotion or order of feelings. Common emotions may include:

  • Denial
  • Disbelief
  • Confusion
  • Shock
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Despair
  • Guilt

It’s important to understand that all those feelings are normal, and they can cause physical responses like anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, depression and thoughts of suicide.

Grief and the Recovering Addict

Grief can affect our ability to think clearly and process information. Dealing with grief is painful, and an addict’s reaction to painful situations is often to numb that pain with drugs and alcohol.

We often hear addicts say things like, “I just want to stop feeling this way”, or “I want the pain to stop”.

Helping addicts in recovery deal with grief and loss is often critical to protecting them against future relapses and worsening depression. Someone in recovery must learn to feel feelings and express them in healthy ways. If he doesn’t, those feelings will still come out, only in unhealthy ways. 

One mental health professional compares this struggle to avoid painful emotions to being stuck in quicksand. The harder someone struggles to get out, the deeper he sinks. Denying these feelings by burying them under drugs and alcohol will only delay them. But if the recovering addict can allow himself to experience grief and express sadness, those awful feelings will gradually begin to fall away on their own.

Dealing with Death in Recovery

A critical part of supporting an addict in recovery is to help him develop healthy activities, habits, and relationships. Newly-sober men and women often find themselves alone and helping them find support systems is vital.

Here are some ways to deal with grief and stay sober:

Ask for help. It’s not unusual for someone in recovery to isolate himself. He may do so as part of his recovery to stay away from the people he did drugs with, for example. But dealing with grief and loss alone is next to impossible. It’s important to reach out to family, friends or a mental health professional for support.

Be creative. People in recovery are often encouraged to write about their experiences in a journal or perhaps draw or paint them. This creative process can also help with grief. You might write a letter to the person who died and tell them all the things you wish you had said when they were alive. You might consider planting a tree in their memory.

Get moving. Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you’re grieving, but it can help to get physical. Make time for hobbies you enjoy. Those might include running or kayaking or simply walking outside. The idea is to get outside, both physically and mentally. Get outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Get out of your own head and focus on something physical as a way to take a break from your grief. 

Eat healthily. You may not feel much like eating in the midst of your grief, but it’s critical to maintain a healthy diet. If you’re not eating well, it’s even more difficult to think clearly and stay strong enough to resist the temptation to use drugs and alcohol again. Good nutrition will give you the physical and mental strength you need to deal with stress. You might ask a friend or relative to help you prepare meals and eat with you. 

Go to a meeting. 12 step programs are the cornerstone of recovery for millions of addicts. Even if you’ve been sober for years and haven’t attended a meeting recently, that support network can help you process your grief in healthy ways. Fellow addicts in recovery can help guide you through the sadness and loss in ways that don’t threaten your sobriety.

Pray or meditate. You may have learned about meditation in the early stages of your recovery. It can be very helpful now, as you deal with grief and loss. You might ask a friend to join you at a yoga class or simply spend time in quiet contemplation. Prayer and meditation can help you process all the emotions you’re experiencing in a healthy environment. 

Own your feelings. It’s important to understand that your feelings are unique and normal. Resist the urge to compare your feelings to someone else’s. Your path is yours and yours alone. There is no right way to grieve, and there is no right time to stop grieving. This can happen sometimes in families who have lost someone close to them. If you’ve lost a parent, you may compare your healing to your siblings’ and wonder why your grief seems so much worse. Feeling like there’s something wrong with you can trigger a response that’s not healthy, and a relapse will only make you feel worse.

Get professional help. Dealing with strong emotions can be frightening for people in recovery who aren’t used to all those painful feelings. If you find yourself in a dark well of sadness that you can’t get out of, or if you’re contemplating suicide, reach out to a mental health professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Final Thoughts

It’s not unusual for someone in recovery to find themselves dealing with a death that happened a long time ago. Using drugs and alcohol may have prevented you from grieving the loss when it happened. Your emotions now may be delayed grief, and they’re just as powerful as grief over a recent loss.

If you or someone you love is dealing with addiction, we can help. Please reach out to us any time for help with addiction and recovery. 

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Hundreds of Events Held During National Recovery Month

National Recovery Month is an annual observance each September that educates Americans on the fact that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. The main focus is to laud the gains made by those in recovery from these conditions as well as the efforts of those in the behavioral health fields who treat them.

Recovery Month is in its 24th year and spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health. It also promotes that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover every single day.

This year the theme was “Join the Voices of Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness”, which recognized that there are many different ways people can recover. More than 725 events were held throughout the country and over 80 proclamations were received in dedication and support of the month.

With 200 planning partners including government agencies, non-profit organizations, prevention services, treatment facilities, community groups and other affiliations collaborating to plan each observance, there is no doubt that they’re already on their way to making next year’s National Recovery Month yet another huge success.

To learn about some of the events, look at pictures, watch videos and read the proclamations as well as recovery successes, visit the Recovery Month website now.

If you or a loved one are in need of treatment or intervention services, then contact us now for effective solutions.

Staying Healthy in Recovery Weights Water Bottle - ATS

The Importance of Staying Healthy in Recovery

Recovery from addiction is an ongoing process that involves making better decisions and living a healthier lifestyle. During this phase, many people undergo various types of treatment and therapy to restore equilibrium after substance abuse. People in recovery benefit greatly from making healthier life choices that support physical well-being.

How Optimal Health Improves Recovery

When the body is healthy, it’s easier for a person to handle life’s challenges. Many people must relearn how to handle everyday life in recovery, and learning to take better care of the body should play a role in treatment.

Some of the keys to a healthier lifestyle and curbing the possibility of relapse are:

  • Proper nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Outdoor activity
  • Mindfulness exercises

Mindfulness Exercises

“Mindfulness” is the idea of being more self-aware of one’s choices. During alcohol and drug rehab, many people learn mindfulness through exercises, yoga, counseling and other therapies.

Being mindful helps a person make sense of a situation and understand the body’s reactions to stress, fear, temptation, cravings and more. Recovery doesn’t end with rehab: Recovery requires a daily reaffirmation of one’s commitment to living sober.

Mindfulness exercises and meditation typically accompany many other therapies and counseling structures in recovery, and it’s important for people in rehab to remember what they learn there so they may apply to their lives in recovery. These exercises also serve to rebuild self-esteem and help people in recovery remember they are more than their addictions.

Understanding and using mindfulness will also help the individual make better dietary choices and develop healthy exercise habits.

Benefits of Good Nutrition

Many people struggling with addiction cause serious harm to their bodies. Not only do many addictive substances alter the body’s systems and brain chemistry, but drug abuse often leads to self-neglect.

When a person is in the grips of a serious addiction, he or she will likely look for the next dose before addressing basic needs like food and water. It’s not uncommon for people who enter detox to be malnourished and dehydrated, and nutrition therapy can help their bodies recover so they can more easily handle rehab.

A weakened body will lead to a weakened mind, and it’s vital for people in recovery to physically rebuild themselves so they can handle the stress of rehabilitation. Many people who enter substance abuse treatment receive nutrition therapy and dietary counseling to help them recover physically. After rehab, good eating habits can make sober living easier.

Proper nutrition will help a newly recovered person process stress and stay focused on sobriety. When a person is unhealthy, malnourished or dehydrated, it becomes very difficult to handle stress and stave off cravings, and the risk of relapse increases.

Living Healthy, Active Lifestyles

Exercise and outdoor activity are also important in recovery. Many people dread their daily workout routines, but in recovery, it’s a good idea to find a few exercises or physical activities that help release endorphins and keep the body fit. During rehab, people recovering from substance abuse will have the opportunity to explore new physical activities that help them release stress and manage cravings in healthy ways.

People who complete substance abuse treatment often cultivate new hobbies that afford them healthy outlets for stress relief and a way to connect with others. One of the lesser-known benefits of increased physical activity is making new friends. This is important because many people who complete substance abuse treatment often leave to find themselves isolated from their old friends and acquaintances.

Team sports, learning new physical skills like martial arts, yoga, rock climbing, hiking and other activities help keep cravings in check. Additionally, seeing the results on one’s own body after committing to regular exercise and physical activity is usually positive motivation to keep on track with a healthier lifestyle.

Rebuilding Emotional Stability

While mindfulness exercises, nutrition, and physical activity are crucial to the healing process after completing treatment, it’s also important to rebuild one’s emotional health. Addiction can cause feelings of regret, low self-esteem, sadness and guilt for pain caused to others. People who enter rehab learn how to confront and address these feelings in healthy ways. After rehab, it’s vital to use those lessons learned and apply them to daily life.

Finding the Right Treatment

If you’re wondering where to start in searching for the right drug or alcohol rehab program, Addiction Treatment Services can help. We connect individuals and families all over the country to the best treatment centers, therapy programs, counselors and other substance abuse resources – from intervention all the way through outpatient treatment and aftercare.

Before you start looking for a program to help yourself or a loved one recover from addiction, understand the different levels of care that are available to you. Contact us if you want a more-detailed explanation or some assistance in your search for the right treatment program.

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What to Expect at Your First AA Meeting

Attending an AA Meeting

Millions of Americans have had their lives hijacked by alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA for short, has helped many reclaim power over their addiction and turn their lives around. Anyone looking to change their life and get help for their alcoholism will find helpful resources in their local AA chapter.

If you’re unsure if AA is right for you, or you’re thinking about recommending AA to a loved one who is addicted to alcohol, the following material lays out all of the details about how AA works so you can decide if this type of program would be a good fit.

What Is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith with the intention of providing a safe and supportive environment where those with a drinking problem could talk candidly about their addiction and support one another in taking steps to achieve sobriety.

AA is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization. It does not provide any sort of detox or treatment services, nor does it try to get people to enter any type of program.

To really benefit from AA, people must come to the meetings with a willingness to acknowledge their drinking problem and have a self-motivated desire to change their situation. Practically speaking, however, many people attend their first AA meeting due to pressure from family or a court order. Some of the people who are coerced into attending end up enjoying the meetings and deciding to continue, but the success rate is much higher for those who attend voluntarily.

The structure of AA meetings is fairly simple: People who struggle with alcohol gather to share their experiences, provide encouragement to one another, and learn about the practical steps to alcoholism recovery using the famous 12 steps.

What Is the AA Big Book?

The “Big Book” is a term commonly used to refer to the Alcoholics Anonymous book that describes the AA philosophy of how to recover from alcoholism, as written by one of AA’s founders: Bill Wilson.

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Who Can Attend AA Meetings?

While no AA chapter charges membership fees or dues, certain policies do vary by location. Some chapters open their meetings up to anyone (including family members), while others hold closed meetings for alcoholics only.

Some AA chapters serve particular demographics of people – a group specifically for men, or for teens only, for example.

Before you go, contact your local AA chapter to find out the details about its policies or restrictions, as well as times and meeting places.

What to Expect in an AA Meeting

Each AA chapter is run by local volunteers, so although each is similar, the experience varies across the board. And each meeting within a chapter can be different since people can share and discuss things can take the conversations in many different directions.

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about what to expect in AA meetings:

‘Do I have to speak in an AA meeting?’

We are all familiar with the “Hello, I am (so and so), and I am an alcoholic” that takes place in AA meetings, thanks to Hollywood’s on-screen AA scenes in films. AA chapter leaders do indeed encourage members to start their meetings in this way because it helps newcomers feel welcome and comfortable. The goal in the meetings is to show support for everyone who is taking steps to get sober.

While all members are encouraged to speak at the meetings, no one is pressured into talking.

‘What should I not say in AA meetings?’

To keep discussions from going off track and to respect each individual’s experiences without judgment, members are encouraged to speak about their own experiences and discouraged from using “crosstalk.”

Crosstalk is responding to what someone else said by sharing your own opinions or giving advice. As much as you may be tempted to weigh in enthusiastically with your two cents, avoid interrupting to give advice. If you experienced a similar situation, you can certainly share your own experience when it’s your turn.

Respect each person’s story as their own, without judgment, and know that you will be given this same courtesy. This is part of the magic of AA meetings.

‘What is discussed in AA meetings?’

During meetings, some chapters choose to read a portion of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, or the group may study the 12 steps in depth.

In some cases, chapters may bring in experts to help the group learn more about certain aspects of recovery or treatment. The agenda is very flexible, depending on what the group leader decides is most needed.

‘How do Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors work?’

The feature of AA that is most well-known is the sponsor program. Sponsors are assigned to each new member to help support newcomers to take on sobriety. Because the founders and leaders of AA firmly stand by a total abstinence policy, the sponsor program is used to bring people together to help each other stay strong when they are tempted to drink.

‘How will I be received in my first AA meeting?’

In your first meeting, don’t be surprised if you are approached by other members with offers of support and encouragement, and even hugs and phone numbers. Some members are a bit alarmed at the enthusiasm of other AA members who want to get to know them. Most of these people are well-meaning and want to support newbies because they remember what it was like to start this process.

However, do listen to your instincts if any interaction feels uncomfortable or inappropriate. Remember that you don’t have to be friends with anyone outside of AA meetings if you don’t want to.

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Understanding AA Meeting Types and Codes

There are two main types of AA meetings:

  • O – Open Meeting – Open to both alcoholics and guests (such as family members), though usually only those who are fighting alcohol addiction will speak.
  • C – Closed Meeting – Attendance is limited to alcoholics only.

There are many other codes that designate the topics that are to be discussed. Here are some of the most common codes, which can be combined with “O” or “C” to designate if it is a closed or open meeting. For example, OBB would indicate an open meeting where the Big Book will be discussed.

  • D – Discussion – A chairperson shares his or her own experience and then leads the group in further discussion.
  • BB – Big Book – Reading and discussion from the Alcoholics Anonymous book.
  • S – Step – The book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” is used to focus on one of the 12 steps.
  • BS – Big Book Step Study – The focus is on some aspect of the 12 steps from the Big Book.

When AA Isn’t Enough

Because the success of AA depends on the participant’s willingness to initiate change is his or her own life, the program can’t really help those who aren’t yet ready to own up to their problem and take corrective action.

Also, many alcoholics need to detox from alcohol dependency first, which requires medically supervised detox in an alcohol and drug rehab facility. Attempting to self-detox can be fatal and is strongly discouraged by medical professionals, but there are plenty of drug and alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation centers to guide a recovering alcoholic through the detox process.

Intervention Help for Families of Alcoholics

For families who want to help a loved one recover from alcohol addiction, the first step may be learning how to stage an intervention for alcohol addiction.

Addiction Treatment Services can assist in pairing you with services for all aspects of addiction intervention and treatment. We can:

  • Connect you with a professional interventionist
  • Help you find the right detox and treatment program for your loved one
  • Assist you in managing the insurance process
  • Help you identify the right aftercare program and connect with local AA chapters

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