The reason why giving up drugs and alcohol is so difficult for men and women who are new to addiction recovery is because over the years, chemical substance has become nothing short of a best friend. In many instances, drinking and drugging begin as social events. Many addicts and alcoholics are first introduced to the substance of their choice in a social setting, and as the dependency slowly develops they will begin to seek out events, situations, and groups of people conducive to continued use. Addiction is a progressive disease, and as time goes on simply using in the presence of others will no longer be enough to satiate cravings. Eventually most addicts and alcoholics begin drinking and drugging alone, slowly shedding all other friends and acquaintances as they fall deeper and deeper in love with the chemical that may potentially kill them. Soon it is just the addict and their drug of choice, alone in a twisted and sick romance that needs to be addressed and terminated or will continue on until a devastating and morbid death.
Addiction Recovery is a Mourning Process
Addiction recovery typically goes hand-in-hand with an extensive mourning process – mourning your old way of life and grieving the loss of what has most likely become your dearest friend. Many residential drug rehabs will require that clients write a goodbye letter to the chemical substance of their choice. This exercise is beneficial in the sense that recovering addicts will obtain a greater grasp on the complicated relationship they had with drugs and alcohol by personifying the substance they used the most. The reality is, chemical substance served a purpose initially – it helped to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms of mental illness, or aided in one’s coping with painful memories of a traumatic experience, or simply made one feel okay in his or her own skin. As the relationship progressed, the dynamic inevitably began to change. Drugs or alcohol began to require more and more time, and the relationship likely became extremely abusive. The drug of choice was manipulative, and required the addict or alcoholic to stoop to moral and emotional levels he or she never deemed imaginable. Eventually the relationship will become exclusively abusive, and personifying the substance as an injurious and calloused partner will help the client to understand that the love has always been one-sided. If you have never done this exercise and are battling substance dependency, it may prove to be extremely beneficial.
The Five Stages of Loss and Grief
According to the Kubler-Ross model of recovery, there are five stages of grief, typically applied when one experiences the death of a loved one. These stages can easily be applied to addiction recovery – the stages being denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial is typically broken through early in addiction recovery, and the depression that follows an understanding that bargaining is futile may last for quite some time. Saying goodbye to someone you valued as a close friend, no matter how badly you have been wronged, is a difficult thing to do – but the bout of depression you are sure to endure will inevitably be well worth the effort in the long run.