Thursday, December 15, 2016

Recovery celebrates the gains people will experience when they let go of their addiction.
Improved health, restored dignity, healed relationships -- the gifts of recovery are innumerable,
and each day of abstinence brings even more peace and possibility to the addict’s life. Rarely,
though, do we acknowledge that recovery is marked as well by deep and profound loss.

Hidden Losses
Clients in recovery must say goodbye to habits, places and people that may have been the most
important parts of their lives for years, even decades. Many report that their drug of choice was
their “best friend”, the only constant source of support and relief they may have felt they had.
They can no longer spend time in the places they frequented when they were using; their using
crowd can no longer be the folks they count as their closest intimates. Even letting go of the
routines that accompanied their addiction -- the sound of the lighter against their cigarette, the
ritual of sharing drugs that accompanied most social gatherings -- are losses that may haunt
recovering addicts for months, even years. Despite the countless benefits people will
experience from choosing abstinence, their sadness and grief is as real and valid. Allowing
recovering addicts to own, feel and speak about their losses communicates an understanding
that change, no matter how positive, is always accompanied by e ndings. In this new beginning
of sobriety, people need to know that they have the right to grieve what they are leaving behind.
Despite the “friend” of addiction being an eventual killer, addicts often feel wistful about this
necessary cutoff. Embracing recovery means bidding farewell to meaningful touchstones of the
past, in order to enjoy the promises of a sober future.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Making Room for Grief 

Grief can stop time. We can be brought to our knees, unable to believe we will ever move beyond the gaping hole of loss that has forever changed the landscape of our lives. Enduring profound loss is one of the most painful of human experiences. But almost as excruciating is being witness to the grief of someone we love.

Healing Their Hurts 

When we love someone, we want to protect and shelter them from pain. We try to heal their hurt, or, even better, keep them from being wounded in the first place. But our instincts can be misguided, even hurtful, if we truncate the course of someone’s grief process. Rather than easing their pain, attempting to curtail grief can create a sense of minimizing the loss. People who don't feel they have the right or “permission” to grieve as deeply or for as long as they need to report feeling shame and guilt, and experience anger and resentment toward those who may have communicated that their grief is unwarranted. Even the best intentions -- an attempt to encourage a grieving person to “forget” their loss or to imply that the loss is “for the best” -- can cause deep pain and confusion. People who've lost a loved one, a job, even a coveted dream, most need validation. They need to hear that their feelings are valid, real and deserved. We must communicate that they have every right to their sorrow, to express it in ways that feel right for them, and that grief has no prescribed end date. Grieving people need to know we will remember with them, not push them to forget. Paying witness to another’s grief can be a powerful gift of intimacy and healing, confirming the value of the lost person, relationship or experience, and reminding us all of the preciousness of time and connection.