Stages of Grief and Substance Abuse
Grief is an emotional state of intense sorrow. It is brought on by a sense of loss. The most intense grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one, but people can also experience grief following the breakup of a marriage, the loss of a job or for many other reasons.
The Stages of Grief
The intensity of feelings experienced when grieving can vary between individuals, but most people will go through somewhat predictable stages during the grieving process. Elizabeth Kübler Ross identified five distinct stages that people who experience grief usually go through.1
These stages of grief are:
Depression and Addiction
It is the fourth stage, depression, that most concerns people dealing who are experiencing a substance use disorder. Depression is an illness that affects the way people perceive the world and their place in it. It is often characterized by feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.2
People who are suffering from depression are often unaware that they have an illness. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to help them feel better. The problem is that any relief provided by drugs or alcohol soon wears off, often leaving different problems in its wake. Many people will then use more drugs or alcohol to keep their depression symptoms at bay, and some will go on to develop an addiction.
Healthy Ways to Manage Grief
Grief can cause many unpleasant emotions, and you may struggle to cope with them. It is important to know that grief may lead to being depressed. If you are grieving and feel the urge to turn to alcohol or drugs, you should consider grief counseling.
Many people find it difficult to release the emotions they feel when they are grieving, even with people to whom they are very close. Just being able to talk about how you feel can make a big difference. Counselors will encourage people to open up and to avoid suppressing deep emotions.
You should know that you are not alone in experiencing strange or uncomfortable feelings. A certified grief counselor can help you to work through your emotions in a healthy way. It is likely that other close family members are experiencing emotions similar to yours. You might consider participating in group counseling, which will provide each person with the opportunity to address their grief.
Dealing with grief takes time, and you must not expect the feelings of distress to disappear quickly. Avoid the temptation to use substances to suppress your emotions. The type of grief that is caused by personal loss can last for many years. You must accept that you will have uncomfortable feelings, but strive to channel them in a way that allows you to carry on functioning in your daily life.
Everyone experiences grief differently, but it often involves isolation. If you can, make yourself get out of the house and spend time with other people, rather than isolating yourself. Physical exercise also helps to ward off negative thoughts and emotions, so staying active can also benefit your well-being.