Accepting Loss in Recovery

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It isn’t easy to cope with loss, but it’s something that everyone will have to do at some point in their recovery. (igor.stevanovic/Shutterstock)

It isn’t easy to cope with loss, but it’s something that everyone will have to do at some point in their recovery. (igor.stevanovic/Shutterstock)

We all lose things. Even people. These things and people may be quite dear to us, or they may be things without which we can live quite happily. But no matter what the circumstances, each and every one of us will encounter loss at some point in our lives. To expect any different would be absolute folly on our parts. And while we may cut our losses to some degree by entering recovery, loss will still be a major part of our lives after we become sober. This is why we must understand the nature of loss and learn to deal with it early on.

If you are under some false impression that this does not apply to you, let us relieve you of this belief right now. You will lose something or someone in your lifetime. Something or someone that you love. And this will most certainly pose a challenge to your sobriety, for it will be an experience like none other through which you have lived. If you truly wish to remain sober, you must understand the nature of loss and how to deal with it before it comes creeping into your life unexpectedly.

This article focuses on loss. Do not confuse it with our article on grief, which is more about the feeling than the overall experience. Below, we will cover a few of the major losses faced by people on a daily basis. We will then briefly discuss how you may deal with the concept of loss without suffering a relapse. This may sound like a great task, but you can make it if you are willing to put forth the effort. It will not be easy, but it is far from impossible.

The Loss of People

The loss of a loved one is among the hardest losses we will face in our lifetimes. (Twin Design/Shutterstock)

The loss of a loved one is among the hardest losses we will face in our lifetimes. (Twin Design/Shutterstock)

One of the hardest facts of life to accept is mortality. Not even just our own, but that of others. We will inevitably lose people we love, and we will almost never be prepared for it. Even when they have been on the way out for quite some time, their loss will often leave us shocked, dazed, confused, and absolutely devastated. These will be times of great depression for us, and it can be difficult to recover from such loss. But we have to ask ourselves one thing: Would they prefer that we waste away in depression, or would they wish us to move on and lead great lives?

If we truly care about those we have lost, then we cannot use their passing as an excuse to resume our substance abuse. We must honor the legacy of those for whom we care by leading the lives they would want for us. The loss of others should not be an excuse to get drunk or high, but rather incentive to stay sober because they would not want anything else for us. We must do our best to remember this, or else we will relapse. Not only that, but we will relapse quite harshly.

Whether we lose people to death or simply the end of a relationship, we must accept that this loss is a fundamental part of living. People exit our lives as swiftly as they have entered, and not everyone we hold dear will be able to stick around for the long haul. We may have also lost people as a result of pushing them away through our addictions, essentially causing our own isolation. We may regret this now, but there is little we can do to change the past. Those of us with certain attachment styles may have a harder time letting go than others, but we must let go nonetheless. All we can do when someone has left us, no matter the circumstances, is hope that their life has been and/or will be a good one. If we do not wish the best for them, then we cannot pretend to be sorry for their loss. We are only sorry for ourselves.

Financial Loss

We often fear financial loss for the concern that we may wind up homeless. (Fresnel/Shutterstock)

We often fear financial loss for the concern that we may wind up homeless. (Fresnel/Shutterstock)

The loss of money and material possessions may not be as depressing as the loss of a person, but it can still devastate us nonetheless. Whether we have lost our homes, employment, or other monetary gains, we will usually be filled with fear. This fear tells us that we will never be back on top, that we will never regain what we have lost. This fear tells us that we are failures.

This isn’t easy, to say the least. Nobody likes feeling as if they have failed. And while people may tell us that money doesn’t by happiness, the happiest people we’ve ever met were likely not homeless. This is the fear that grips us whenever monetary loss occurs. We fear that whatever we have lost is just the beginning, and that further losses are soon to follow.

The main problem with this fear is that it will often keep us from trying to come back out on top. We may be so paralyzed by our own dread that we do not bother looking for another job, or another financing option for our home. Instead of motivating us, our fear causes us to stand still and do nothing. Naturally, this will only make our problems much worse. And if we have a family to support, then we will be endangering them as well. This is why we must learn to let go of this fear. We must learn to cope with the loss and work as hard as we can to come out on top again, or else we are doomed to dwell at the bottom.

Losing Sobriety

The loss of our sobriety may pain us, but our willingness to return to recovery should be most reassuring. (Di Studio/Shutterstock)

The loss of our sobriety may pain us, but our willingness to return to recovery should be most reassuring. (Di Studio/Shutterstock)

While we may not technically be losing anything tangible, a sense of loss will often grip us when we have relapsed. We will feel as if we have lost time, not to mention the effort that we have put into ensuring that we remained sober. The chips we have earned since our sobriety date now feel hollow and meaningless, and we cannot help but feel as if we have lied to everyone who cares about our recovery.

These can be very troubling times for us, but we will often make it through them. As long as we had the integrity to admit our faults and tell someone about our relapse, then hope is far from lost. Remember that there are people every day who decide to continue drinking or using drugs. The fact that we were willing to come back to the fold is a good sign. It means that we are not through with recovery, that this slip has not signaled the end of our good intentions. In other words, it means that we still have some fight left in us.

This is not to say that relapse should be taken lightly, but rather simply that we should not treat it as the end of the world. While we may have suffered the loss of our old sobriety date, we have hopefully learned something from this experience that will help us as we move forward. This is important to note, and this realization will help us cope with the loss of our sobriety as we attempt to regain everything that we have given up through our return to addiction.

Coping with Loss

One of the best things you can do to cope with loss is to talk about it. There are people who are willing to listen, so talk to them. (racorn/Shutterstock)

One of the best things you can do to cope with loss is to talk about it. There are people who are willing to listen, so talk to them. (racorn/Shutterstock)

All of the above losses that we may suffer in our lifetime have the potential to absolutely ruin us if we do not respond to them correctly. We must learn to reach a point of acceptance, otherwise, we will allow ourselves to become shrouded in darkness, depression, anger, and fear. We must accept that people leave us, that our jobs are not always guaranteed, and that we may experience hiccups in our recovery. None of these concerns, however, should get the better of us if we are working an honest program and maintaining an air of mindfulness when dealing with our emotions.

When people leave us, we must do our best to hold onto the happy memories and accept the loss. The same goes for the loss of material possessions or jobs. Even the loss of our old sobriety date is not entirely an unhappy one. We likely had many good experiences during our first run in recovery, and those are not lost simply because we slipped up. They are only lost if we give them up by responding to the situation in the wrong fashion, and focus on the negative. Instead, we must respond to loss by doing our best to forge ahead and be the best that we can be.

Loss is a natural part of life, and it is one that cannot be avoided. If you need to talk to someone about a recent loss that you have experienced, then by all means do so. Use the people in your support system without hesitation, for they would rather you talk to them than continue your substance abuse and ruin everything for which you have worked so hard.

In short, never let loss get you down so far that you cannot get back up. Instead, keep your feet on the ground and keep moving forward. Do not focus on the past, but rather the present. Focus upon what can be done today to ensure that your life keeps moving in a positive direction.

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