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Tommy Recovery Coaching

Navigating Grief during Recovery

The loss of a loved one is always difficult, but imagine having to deal with it at the same time you’re trying to recover from chemical dependence or compulsive substance abuse. This happened to the legendary musician Lou Reed, frontman for the Velvet Underground, about 20 years before he passed away in 2013 at the age of 71, and he recorded an entire album about the devastating experience. Magic and Loss is about cancer taking away two of Reed’s closest friends while he was working on recovering from multiple addictions. In a 1992 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Reed stated that dealing with grief and the realities of death was as devastating as the guilt he felt each time he relapsed.

Similarities Shared by Grief & Addiction

The ways grief and addiction can affect us are similar to a certain extent. Both can be driven by a desire to escape, and some people may feel numbing their emotions with liquor and drugs will help them get through the inevitable grieving process. Neurologically speaking, grief is like the hijacking of the brain’s reward system that happens with drinking and substance abuse. Compulsively clinging to memories or emotions for a temporary sense of comfort can become pathologically addictive.

Dealing with Grief in Recovery

Depending on how far people are on their paths to recovery, grieving could be easier to handle. People in recovery learn about handling intense emotions that could cause them to lapse or relapse, even to the point of needing an interventionist. Carlsbad recovering addicts should understand that some of the emotions include sadness, anger, and loneliness, which are hallmarks of grief. For people in the early stages of recovery, the loss of loved ones can hit them like a ton of bricks and compromise their recovery. This happened to Lou Reed, but he listened to a sponsor who urged him to compose Magic and Loss to avoid falling off the wagon yet another time.

When Grief Helps in Recovery

As painful as this sounds, grieving can be the final catalyst that sets addicts on the most direct path to recovery. When his two friends succumbed to cancer, Lou Reed had been lighting up, but not smoking, small cigars as a way to modulate his addiction to nicotine, the last substance he had to kick after heroin, cocaine, liquor, amphetamines, and barbiturates. After the double loss, Reed never touched tobacco again. He saw meaning in grieving because his friends had always scolded him for not giving up smoking, so he stopped to honor their memories.

Getting Professional Help

Trying to suppress grief is never a good idea, particularly during addiction recovery. If you feel grieving may throw you off the recovery wagon, seeking the help of addiction recovery specialists is always a good idea. If you’re part of a support group, start with your sponsor. If you’re in a residential program such as a sober living home, tell your counselor about it. If you’re working toward recovery individually, a sober lifestyle coach can help you formulate coping strategies that work for you. 

For strength-based support with addiction recovery, Carlsbad residents can rely on the trained recovery coaches at Sober Lifestyle Coaching. Our goal is to offer our clients maximum recovery support, especially in the first fragile days or weeks of early recovery. From helping you transition back into your home and create a healthy, sober living space to traveling with you to court cases or business events, we’ll be with you every step of the way. If you’re looking for extra addiction recovery support so you don’t risk relapse when you head into the danger zones, we’ll work with you to put together a game plan to keep you safe and sober as you accomplish your goals. Give us a call today.

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