When Sobriety Meets Grief (and grief meets sobriety)

General / General : Litsa Williams

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I have wanted to write an article about the convergence of grief and sobriety for a long time. However, the topic kept falling to the bottom of my 'potential post' list because it is complicated and I really wasn't sure where to begin. Each element - substance use, recovery, and grief - is complex in and of itself. Put them all together and things become really convoluted. Regardless, today I want to finally start the conversation. Because even if I can't cover all of its nuances, something is better than nothing and this is a topic that is way too often overlooked in conversation about grief, sobriety, and recovery.

How are grief and substances connected?

There is no one cause for substance use.  People start using substances for a diverse range of reasons and whether this use turns into abuse, dependence, or addiction really depends. However, there are two important consistencies related to this conversation.

Consistency #1: One trend that seems true for most human beings is that we generally don't like to feel physical or emotional pain.

Consistency #2: One trend that seems true for most substances is that the generally do a good job numbing physical and/or emotional pain.

This may not explain why a person starts using substances in the first place, but it is usually an effect that becomes obvious pretty quickly

Enter grief, stage left.

When someone dies the emotional pain is unimaginable.  For many, grief triggers the most distressing pain they have ever felt and in response to pain, human nature kicks in and a person may think, "How can I make this pain go away?"

How a person answers this question really depends on their unique coping strategies, support, access to resources, stress level, tolerance of emotional pain, and past history of negative coping.  However, some who have used substances in the past, even if they've only used casually, may feel that grief is a really appropriate time to take advantage of their pain numbing effects.  If a person turns to a substance to cope with grief on a consistent basis, all of a sudden someone who never had a substance problem can develop a problem, and someone who already had a substance use disorder can see that disorder get even worse.

But if you realize substances are becoming a problem, you can simply get things under control, right?

Not exactly.  Substance issues, regardless of how they start, can be very tough to get under control.  If sobriety and long-term recovery were easy we wouldn’t be facing a major substance use epidemic in this country.  There are a lot of complex neurobiological challenges to achieving and maintain sobriety.  There are practical issues and then there is the mountain of emotional challenges that build once someone stops numbing.

Numb? But I'm not even cold.

Whether a person was using before the death or the death instigated the substance use, using substances often mutes a person’s ability to feel, process, and find ways to cope with emotions.  As we already mentioned, this is why substances can seem appealing – they feel like a quick fix for immediate, difficult emotions.  The problem is, when you avoid tough emotions by numbing them, they don’t just magically go away.  Wouldn’t that be great if they did?  Part of grief is figuring out healthy ways to live with the pain of loss, making that pain easier to feel and manage over time.  That is something that can be extremely difficult to do while using substances.

Experiencing grief in sobriety

When someone gets sober and starts the recovery journey, it's not uncommon for grief emotions to come bubbling to the surface.  Whether their loss was five months ago or five years ago, whether they experienced one loss or a number of losses over time, a person in recovery often finds themselves facing the full depth of their painful emotions for the first time. No surprise, the onslaught of the emotions can feel so overwhelming that a person’s first instinct is to do what they have been doing for months, years, or even decades: numb with substance.

Identifying coping that doesn't come in a bottle, pill, or powder

Sometimes a person abuses a substance because they don't know how to manage painful emotions any other way. Sometimes a person may know in theory how to cope and care for themselves, but using the substance seems a lot easier.  Couple these scenarios with a neurochemical dependence and this can be a recipe for relapse.  If a person doesn't learn how to manage pain, discomfort, and distress (emotional and physical) in their recovery, they will continue to feel totally overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with pain when it comes up.

Hey, where’d my support system go?

When a person stops using a substance, isolation is common.  While using the substance, people often drift away from friends and family who don’t use that substance.  At the very least, emotional distance is often created, at worst years or decades worth of deep conflict, broken trust, or even estrangement can occur.  Whatever the situation, the person can feel like their “old” friends and family aren’t there for them in the same way which can feel isolating.

On the other hand, while abusing a substance people often make new friends in the community around that substance.  Whether they are “bar friends” or friends a person uses other substances with, these are often close and meaningful relationships.  Sobriety and recovery often force a person to distance themselves from these friends in a very deliberate way. Over time, these friends may have become the person's primary support, and suddenly they have to cut off the relationship in order to stay sober. This is a loss in and of itself and, worse still, others may act like the loss of those friends isn't as significant or important because those individuals were also using substances.

YES.  So what do I do?

This is a complicated question.  However, if you are in recovery or thinking about getting sober, here are a few tips:

  1. Consider losses that may come up for you and the reality that you may feel emotions you haven't felt.
  2. Seek professional support, not just around recovery but around grief.
  3. If you're feeling isolated, seek community.  It may take time to rebuild relationships with old friends and family, but make efforts where it is possible.  Consider AA, NA, and SMART recovery meetings as places to meet other people who are sober.
  4. Develop new ways to cope.  We have a whole section on coping, so you can start by checking out the posts there.  Keep in mind that coping is more than just therapy and groups (though those are great) and can be creative expression, memorialization, and finding ways to take care of yourself.
  5. Know your triggers and have a plan.  This is crucial for recovery in general, but with grief, it becomes doubly important.  Grief triggers can quickly become relapse triggers.  Know what your triggers are, make relapse prevention plans around those triggers, and have a plan for those moments when unexpected triggers arise.

We really just scratched the surface here, so leave a comment with your experiences and observations so we can keep the conversation going! We'll probably write more on this topic down the road, so subscribe to get our new articles right to your inbox. 

We wrote a book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
real-life book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

Let’s be grief friends.

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34 Comments on "When Sobriety Meets Grief (and grief meets sobriety)"

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  1. karl bartlett  August 25, 2022 at 8:52 am Reply

    Drinking and grief.
    I thank everyone who has opened up with their experiences of addiction and grief.
    For me they were natural partners.
    I admit that for a number of years I’d gradually increased the amount and frequency of booze I’d been using – to deal with life, ah the 6.00 G&T…
    But when Marian died from Bowel cancer in October 20 following a diagnosis in Feb, my world fell to pieces, and drink was my only coping mechanism. Think about the impact of covid restrictions at the time, no treatment offered by the NHS, no regular support available, I became the carer on my own of my dying wife. Every trip to hospital and eventually the hospice was wrapped in plastic, masks and gloves, remember? No hugs, no visitors, no humanity. Only booze got me through the pain. I have no family and friends weren’t allowed to travel due to lockdown, no wonder I drank. But, of course it became an addiction, and I returned to work but as a functional alcoholic, just feeling worse as time went on.
    Post covid support was poor and therapy hasn’t been consistent or really helpful.
    I feel now pretty directionless but through turning to Yoga I’ve been able to give up on booze. But the grief is still there, and I now overpush myself in Yoga to feel physical pain instead of emotional pain. I don’t yet know how to process what I’ve been through, but I’m glad not to drink as part of dealing with the situation. Maybe time will help, I don’t know.
    I find WYG really helpful, thanks.

  2. DeLinda  November 19, 2021 at 12:23 pm Reply

    I really appreciate you for writing on this topic. I had 6 1/2 years of sobriety when I got the call on June 7th @ 1:06 pm of this year that my 34 year old son Joshua had been killed in a traffic accident at 12:02 pm that was not his fault!! I hit my knees and the breath was completely sucked out of me. My world stopped in that instant. I still have a hard time with the fact that ALL I could think about in that moment was the fastest way to stop this unimaginable pain. There was alcohol in the house that others drank but I never had an issue with it until this very moment. I literally ran for that bottle and never looked back. Everyday got worse and worse very quickly over the next few months. On October 19th, 2021 my brother texted me a song by Zach Williams called Chain Breaker….. This is how God works in my life. I called that very day and checked myself into detox and I haven’t looked back. Please write more on this subject, there is a lot of us out here that need it desperately!!! You are one of the only things I found when I googled it. May God’s blessings be bestowed upon you each and every day 🙏🙏❤️

  3. Robin  October 24, 2019 at 2:12 pm Reply

    I have been sober & abstinent from addictive foods for years & lost my precious love of my life, then my mother. I swear by A.A. & OA (Overeaters Anonymous) & regularly work with other addicts & attend meetings.

    I so disagree with folks who were told by others in their 12 Step Fellowships that “grief is an outside issue.” Grief is something all of us will or have faced. I did find a warm grief counselor who gave me a safe space to deal with my deep grief. I also continued working the 12 Steps, working with others, & attending meetings. I so agree with one person’s posting here that folks in our lives who have not experienced grief don’t understand much. They cited that an alcoholic can understand another alcoholic.

    Utilizing my 12 Step programs were some of the tools I continue to use, as well as exploring & utilizing grief tools kept me in my job, & waking up each day, even though I didn’t want to wake up again. Talking about grief often seems to make some folks uncomfortable. Until I had such deep grief, I was one of those people. I cared more about saying the “right thing” to grieving folks than their pain & listening. I hope to not do these ego – based things again to anyone grieving.

    Finding “What’s Your Grief” has & is a wonderful thing. I find comfort here & many things are addressed that I haven’t found articulated elsewhere. Thank you for this site & the honest postings found here.

    • Sally Peterson  March 29, 2021 at 2:01 pm Reply

      Robin, Thank you for this!!!
      I have been in OA for 40 years and AA for almost as long. I have been sober over 15 years and finally found a sane abstinence almost 4 years ago. I lost my twin sister 20 years ago to an eating disorder and my last sibling and family member to alcoholism this past June. I also work in a nursing home and the past year has been really challenging. Taking time to grieve has been hard. I feel that I just have energy for work, my husband and just showing up for life. I feel guilty because I do not have the energy to sponsor etc…. I need to stay connected especially to other addicts who have experienced grief. That part in the BB that says (Our primary purpose is to help other alcoholics ) really pisses me off because I’m exhausted just trying to process my new reality. Thanks for listing!!!!

  4. Paula long  March 31, 2019 at 6:02 pm Reply

    She’d asked me to go to rehab and I did for 4 months, I have 5 months on the 6th of march

  5. Paula long  March 31, 2019 at 6:00 pm Reply

    I only have 4 months clean, and my mom just died of copd! I only got to spend 8days withher, I had relapsed while trying to do it all, it’s funny how no one sees all I did! And 2 or 3 people were complaining about all the time they had to spend here, I had been doing doing all that and more allby mysekf for a year! Then I relapsed hard for a year, some of it while taking care of her! She asked me to go and she oassed8 days after I got home! My sister told me her oxygen had got turned down, why she told me this illneber know! But I’m haunted know… I’m sure I’d checked it several times but it was a stressful time , I once again wasn’t myself so I’m second guessing myself! I’m struggling hard with this and yes she’d been on hospice , I’m just having a very hard time! I’m 52 and basically have been using since I was 16, meth.

  6. Nancy  March 17, 2019 at 6:38 pm Reply

    I have been struggling with severe loss for the last 4 years. First with my husband’s severe bleeding stroke and then with the sudden, traumatic loss of out daughter about 2 years later. My husband survived his stroke but everything about our lives changed as a result. Our daughter’s life was taken by her husband a reality I continue to struggle with. I am struggling with a different sort of addiction and cannot believe how powerfully it draws me. I have taken up internet shopping to numb the pain. It does in fact distract me But I would like to at least temper it. I do a lot of mindless scrolling too and find that it now starting to make me anxious. I am glad I found this article and discussion. I have not seen much about different sorts of addictions.

    • Rebecca  November 24, 2019 at 9:57 pm Reply

      I am SO sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I pray a peace for you that passes all understanding.
      I am dealing with losing my fiance and family Trauma with my little brother. I am an emotional drinker so after a good 5 months of it and I had start dealing. I am 60 days sober tomorrow ; for the past 3 months i have been addicted to shopping and mindless internet scrolling- AND my anxiety has sky rocketed from guilt and financial fear which recently just clicked. How have you been coping? Any advise you could share would be so much appreciated.

  7. Ashlee Fisher  October 10, 2018 at 11:52 pm Reply

    Ive been in forced recovery for 6 months now. I coped

    • Tricia M  February 20, 2019 at 11:02 pm Reply

      I know what you are saying. I am being forced into recovery at present…and because I’ve been through treatment several times, I’m fully aware of the triggers and their subsequent pitfalls. My family hasn’t attended on Ala-non Group, or individual counseling, so they live with the pain of my drinking in the recent past and several sporadic years at a time in the last 25 years. I’m upset that they continue to hurt, and there’s nothing that I can do to make them feel better because I’m the addict. I feel that I have had to recover on my own, so many times, as groups trigger relapse and I am agoraphobic. I understand what you mean when you say, “I coped”. It’s still hard. I need to mentally prepare myself for the death of my father-in-law in the next few months, but not for my sake, for my husband’s sake. I need to be emotionally available for him, and I’m not quite ready for that as I am still new in my latest sobriety. It’s hard to be strong when you are normally the emotionally weak one. Unfortunately, my “plan” is not something I am ready with yet. Getting my thoughts out helps a little. Reading helps a lot. I’ll figure it out…I usually do. Life is hard. I’m sorry for everyone here, myself included, that has dealt with and is currently dealing with grief. It’s absolutely a part of life, and learning to cope is easier said than done…especially immediately after a traumatic event.

      • John  March 13, 2021 at 1:49 pm

        I have been with my wife 24 years very happy 3 weeks ago she died in plain site sober 2 in years she would be telling me not to take a trunk I will continue being sober for my decided wife we ho I loved very much it is very hard to let her go

  8. Mo  July 14, 2018 at 3:55 am Reply

    Great read and so very true. Thank you.

  9. Cheryl  July 12, 2018 at 8:22 pm Reply

    I was an active member of AA for 29 years. My 30 year old son struggled with Substance Use Disorder and mental illness (only diagnosed two years ago.). He died on 9/26/17 from fentanyl after being clean for 21 months and relapsing for a week and a half over a break-up. I went to two AA meetings after he died and felt really uncomfortable. I feel like I tried to help him with the tools that worked for me but so obviously failed to work for him for so long. I have since learned that compassion is the new word, not tough love, and that SUD is a health issue, not a moral failing. I have stepped away from my church and AA communities. I have found help in grief groups and I get the support needed. Thankfully after 30 years without a drink I feel like I can do this without a substance, a cigarette, shopping or food. But this is the most pain I have ever felt in my life.

    • Karla  October 26, 2018 at 11:23 am Reply

      I lost my 30 year old son to fentanyl 01/25/16. I have been sober for 31 years. I have not had any desire to drink or use any other substances and I am very grateful for that. But I still experience such profound sadness and overwhelming loss. AA was never intended to be used for grief… but many in the program seem to suggest that if I just prayed and meditated enough then I would be ok. Honestly I would have probably said the same thing … until it happened to me. In AA we share our experience, strength and hope… I don’t think it is an accident that experience is mentioned first. Just like only a person who has experienced alcoholism can relate rightly to another alcoholic… I now feel that only someone who has lost a child can rightly relate to another.
      Being alive holds very little appeal to me now. Don’t get me wrong- I do not want to die and have no thought or desire to kill myself. It’s just that I’m pretty blah about living in s world without my son. I am still going to meetings, reading my big book, taking inventory, working with my sponsor, praying and meditating and working with others. I’m hope the miracle happens soon because I’m tired of being so sad.

    • Karla  October 26, 2018 at 11:36 am Reply

      I lost my 30 year old son to fentanyl 01/25/16. I have been sober for 31 years. I found him in his room lifeless and cold. My husband was slowly dying from Lewy Body Dementia at the time and I was his caregiver. My husband passed away a year later- almost the same day as my son’s death.. I have not had any desire to drink or use any other substances and I am very grateful for that. But I still experience such profound sadness and overwhelming loss. AA was never intended to be used for grief… but many in the program seem to suggest that if I just prayed and meditated enough then I would be ok. Honestly I would have probably said the same thing … until it happened to me. In AA we share our experience, strength and hope… I don’t think it is an accident that experience is mentioned first. Just like only a person who has experienced alcoholism can relate rightly to another alcoholic… I now feel that only someone who has lost a child can rightly relate to another.
      Being alive holds very little appeal to me now. Don’t get me wrong- I do not want to die and have no thought or desire to kill myself. It’s just that I’m pretty blah about living in s world without my son. I am still going to meetings, reading my big book, taking inventory, working with my sponsor, praying and meditating and working with others. I’m hope the miracle happens soon because I’m tired of being so sad.

  10. Beth R.  July 11, 2018 at 3:38 pm Reply

    I have nine years clean. I was an active member in NA when my sister, who was also an addict, overdosed and passed away. Since then I have found NA meetings are extremely painful and a source of major grief triggers for me. It has made me reexamine the reasons why I used in the first place, which are thoroughly discussed in this post. For me, the trauma and sexual trauma my sister and I experienced in our childhood home resulted in both of us seeking solace in opioids. The silence and complicity of the adults in the home only added to the shame and secrecy of what was taking place. Although I am not triggered to use drugs at this point, I do find it hard to navigate “recovery” when what worked for so long no longer suffices. Great topic.

  11. Louis  June 25, 2018 at 11:38 pm Reply

    Thank you for this article. YES, grief and alcoholism/addiction do go hand in hand and need to be talked about.

    I have been sober for 22 1/2 years. I lost my wife in May, 2017 after her 15 month battle with metastatic breast cancer. I thank God that I had the program of AA when she was diagnosed and being treated. As I took care of my wife, AA meetings and my circle of recovery friends helped me take care of myself.

    It has been a struggle. We have two sons, now 14 and 11. We just recently passed the one year anniversary of my wife’s passing. However, I really believe that my Princess is very proud of her three guys.

    The boys and I planted two beautiful Vitex (Butterfly) trees in the front yard on the anniversary day. One for her earthly birthday (May 27) and one for her Heavenly birthday (May 22). That completely changed the focus from enduring those tough days to celebrating them.

    One major thing I discovered after my wife died was that I almost immediately felt uncomfortable sharing my grief at my regular AA meetings. It felt (to me) as if my recovery friends were there for me during her treatment, but after her passing, they either didn’t want to hear about my grief, or they had unresolved grief issues themselves and couldn’t handle that kind of discussion.

    So, after about 5 months, with the help of a few recovery friends, we started a new AA meeting in my home town. It is an AA meeting with a focus on Grief in Recovery. We call it the “Good Grief Group”. It has been remarkable, and the group is growing in numbers and in closeness. Relapse can happen to any of us, and intense grief is probably one of the biggest triggers.

    I have heard people in AA say that grief is an “outside issue”. I could not disagree more. Grief is about as much of an inside issue as anything we might experience in life, and we must get it outside of us or it may kill us.

    Thank you again for the article and PLEASE keep the conversation going. Love your website. I refer friends to it all of the time.

    • Angela Brummer  January 23, 2022 at 2:13 am Reply

      I was looking here for this very idea. I recently lost my 23 year old daughter on Christmas morning, 2021. I have since been contacted by so many in fellowship who are also grieving. I do several hours of service work a day, being Gods vessel and following his instruction, so many look to my example. I feel called to start a group for this reason that will focus on grief. Call you give me ideas that you have implemented? We intend to start this soon. Thank you in advance, Angela

  12. Cindy  April 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm Reply

    Heipful thank you I am a mess lost both my sons.

  13. Cindy  April 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm Reply

    Heipful thank you I am a mess lost both my sons.

  14. Grace Jenn Ramirez  July 31, 2017 at 5:21 pm Reply

    The love of my life passed away from a drug overdose Thursday and this website has given me a lot of insight and advice. I am taking this loss extremely bad. I also struggle with depression and I am handling all of this on my own with no one here to give an opinion or explain to me how, or if, Im gonna get passed this. My ex mother in-law has told me to not call and told the family to not give me any details about an upcoming funeral, viewing, or celebration….. not being able to say goodbye or be there as he’s being laid to rest has made me feel like i have NO SENSE of closure. I can only try to leave a letter or note. If I do, does anyone have advice on what I should write, or HOW to explain how important this is to me????

  15. Donald McSween  July 12, 2017 at 10:13 pm Reply

    Your article is very well written and truly identifies what I have been through for the last 7 1/2 years. My wife was diagnosed with an incurable lung disease. She stayed alive for 3 years and passed away one month before our 42nd wedding anniversary. I drank some before all of this, but once it became apparent she was not going to be healed on this earth, I started to binge drink after my wife was asleep. I drank as an escape because the love of my life was fading away, and my prayers and efforts were of no avail. I took care of her mornings, evenings, and weekends while working full time. After she passed on to heaven, I drank just heavily enough to be numb at home but keep my job until I retired. One minute I was telling myself I should be happy she was healed and breathing heavenly air. The next 30 minutes my soul wept to hold her hand, talk to her across the table, and hear her laugh. After retiring, I lost all desire to do anything but drinking. I tried to hide it from my grown family and my friends. It wasn’t until I reached rock bottom that I prayed for deliverance. I realized alcohol was not my friend. It has been 3 months since I quit all alcohol. I tried the “only occasional drink”, but for me that was a route to failure. Now I am seeing a counselor, helping at my church, and have started doing my artwork for the first time in 7 1/2 years! I thought grief would be over after a time, but it is and always will be with me. I lost a part of my life, my heart, and my soul. So many times I have wished she were here to hold her grandchildren. Some of them were born just in the last three or four years. I look with happiness and envy at couples laughing, talking, and holding hands particularly if they are my age. I occasionally dream about her. She told me in one dream that she is alive and “doing fine”. I got to hug her before I awoke. Nothing in life prepared me for this grief. Please pray for me. Thank you for taking the time to write the article. It spoke to me that I am not in this alone. NOTE: One thing that helped on my road to a better life was creating a family photo album. It was such a joy to confirm that the two of us went through thick and thin together and raised a wonderful family.

  16. Kim  July 12, 2017 at 10:01 pm Reply

    I lost my husband of 23 years 3 years and 3 months ago due to complications of a bone marrow transplant. Actually, I lost him a couple years prior to that due to sickness and disability. It was crushing to watch my vital, beautiful, intelligent husband suffer; unable to do what he enjoyed due to those complications. Both of our daughters were away at college. We were both in recovery from alcoholism, active in our AA community and able to be of support to each other at home. He died 4 days shy of his 29th anniversary. I had 23 years of sobriety when I first relapsed while he was ill – familiar, albeit poor, coping skill. We had a lot of high powered narcotics in the house and I fell in. I was able to share this relapse with him a few weeks before he became critically ill and eventually died. Our entire relationship had always been based on God first, sobriety second, our marriage and family 3rd. Without the first 2, we wouldn’t have anything else. My shame and guilt were enormous. Unfortunately I had become very isolated in my grieving for the husband and life I had and felt unsafe sharing at meetings and with my AA support system because some of my feelings towards my husband and his illness were very dark and ugly. I feared this would get back to him and I just could not do that to him. He was already feeling so guilty for “messing up our lives”. Flash forward to the few months leading up to his death. He became very ill a few days before Christmas and except for about 10 days in the next 2 1/2 months, he was in ICU, a bone marrow transplant unit or a nursing home. He came home to die and was in hospice care for about 4 days. The holiday season is extremely difficult for me. This past season – I let my AA friends and my family know I was really struggling. I reached out and no one reached back. I fell into a depression, full of self pity and isolation. I drank. I started smoking again,(after 25 years of a smoke free life). I did these things because at the time NOTHING else seemed to be working and I felt as if my grief would consume me alive. It took finding a therapist, changing up my AA mtgs, cultivating friendships with different women, asking for help on a regular basis, consciously making contact with my AA people and re-establishing my relationship with God. I had to jettison people from my circle. I had to learn to take care of me and that meant some hurt feelings. I found out very early on after my husband died that the people I thought would be there for me weren’t and people I never dreamed would be supportive and kind were. I clung to those folks. I still cling to them. My father in law committed suicide 13 months after my husband died; my father died of cancer 6 months after that and my stepfather in law died 10 moths after that. My in laws are extremely toxic people and came to the conclusion I was euthanizing their son and brother. It was all my fault he died. I thank God they live 12 hours away. I am happy to say I now have 3 months of solid sobriety. The urge to drink or use drugs has been lifted from me , just for today. My program and AA involvement are strong. I am able to share what I need to with my closest friends in the AA program without fear. I have a wonderful psychologist helping me navigate all the weirdness of my in-laws, my daughters’ grief and their reactions to life without their dad, my father in law’s suicide and the deaths of my dad and stepfather in law. I knew drinking, drugs and smoking were NOT going to fix anything. I just didn’t care anymore and I was so very weary of hurting and sadness and despair. It was the only thing I hadn’t tried after my husband died to cope with my grief. Please let me be an example of what does not work. I hope my experience can spare another pain. I am extremely lucky to have made it back to sobriety. I could have just as easily died. That is not a legacy I want to leave for my daughters. Thank you so much for addressing addiction/grief. It is a really big issue for a lot of people.

  17. Kaye  July 12, 2017 at 10:52 am Reply

    Thanks for broaching this topic. I agree that the surface has only been scratched. Another facet of this topic is the person with many years of sobriety suddenly facing intense grief. The recovering alcoholic/addict suddenly realizes they have a guilt free pass. What better time to drink? What better excuse? Who could fault? Don’t doctors, funeral directors and so many others have pills to help you sleep or “cope”? Let’s continue this conversation.

  18. Tina Montana  July 10, 2017 at 11:26 pm Reply

    I need grief counselling. I didn’t know how much losing my little terrier mix, Lucy, would hurt & trigger emotions I thought I worked through. She crossed her Rainbow in January & I’m not doing well.
    Thank you for letting me vent.

    • Litsa Williams  July 11, 2017 at 12:29 am Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss, Tina. We have information here on locating a counselor:

      We also have a post on losing pets (furry-family, as I like to think of them!)

      Take care and I hope you find some support here on our site.

  19. Chris  July 7, 2017 at 4:36 pm Reply

    I lost my daughter to suicide just over a year ago. I am so grateful that I was sober (21 years) and had the support of my AA friends. Sobriety enabled me to be present for my family and deal with a lot of the difficult decisions that had to be made. Drinking never crossed my mind – unlike 20+ years ago when I numbed the death of my brother and father with heavy drinking. I strongly believe that you need to really feel and acknowledge your grief in order to work through it. Sobriety is helping me do that, one day at a time.

  20. hangingin  July 7, 2017 at 9:47 am Reply

    Would love to hear a discussion of when grief meets long term sobriety. I was sober for 28 years when my husband suddenly died and, 20 months later, I have not gone back to AA. The messages and lifestyle of the program are ingrained in me and I have not wanted to drink, but I cannot bear hearing how everything happens for a reason and how God’s plan works out for the best. I no longer have the tolerance that I had to listen to and assist with life’s small problems, nor do I have the energy to add meetings and service responsibilities to my life.

    • Terasa  July 7, 2017 at 1:53 pm Reply

      Last year, two weeks before my 25th AA Anniversary, my Mother died after I lived in & took care of her for the last 8 years of a rare blood cancer … I’m just starting to breathe again … I will get my 26 year chip in a few weeks because death (even though she was my best friend) will not take my sobriety & my life away too … I do not agree with the BS that people (in & out of the rooms) spout – Everything happens for a reason / It’s God’s plan or His will – This Earth is NOT what God planned … It’s what humankind did when believing in Evil. Pain, sickness, murder, rape, death, etc. etc. WAS NEVER GOD’S PLAN. Don’t feed into that lie … Remember, you do not have to agree with everyone’s opinion (especially the sickest of the sick) … I continue meetings in order to stay connected to the actual program (164 pgs) and I seek outside help (as the program tells us) in areas that are outside the realm of ‘staying sober’ (ie: Grief). I have embarked on a different journey that isn’t the same for those who have not lost & even for my own father & siblings. I am starting to see a deeper relationship with my God unfolding. I do not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it (including the pain of grief). I hope this helped you and pray you find peace & serenity.

    • Mark Schwietz  July 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm Reply

      I have been sober for 13, 700 days, one day at a time. I have had my share of loss, grief, and bereavement in my life, drunk and sober. AA has been a staple in my life, as have men’s circles. While I can appreciate the well meaning comments from others, sometimes they can be hurtful. Frankly, I have been on the giving and receiving end of insensitive comments. Yes, just because I got sober doesn’t mean I don’t still make messes, the only difference is, I can own it and do my part to clean it up.

      Two pillars of the program that have served me well is working with others and trying to perfect and enlarge my spiritual life. There are a number of ways to do each. Attending a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous is a sure fire way to find someone to help, to get out of self by focusing on another who needs more help than I might. Sure, I need what I need, and having a strong support system is critical. I need a place where it is safe to bring all of me. Often I find if I am spiritually fit, I can go most anywhere without consequences. At times families can be the toughest, but understanding we all are doing the best we can with the tools we have can help a great deal.

      One thing is for sure, isolation is not a solution. The only things that seem to grow in the dark are mushrooms and fear. For me anyway, I need to keep putting my sadness, grief, fear, etc. into the light. Often, it opens a dialog with an other who needs what experience, strength, and hope I have.

  21. Jessica S.  July 6, 2017 at 11:06 pm Reply

    This is a very real subject! I am currently going through this as we speak. I lost my mother and best friend in my arms, moved to a distant state and lost my husband unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 44 all within 6 months. I was a 39 yrs old orphan, widower and mother alone with a 5 yr old little girl!

    I had had a drinking problem prior due to loosing my brother from possible suicide and my father to suicide 6 weeks before my wedding. Several other deaths impacted my grief and sobriety as well.

    I had agreed with my husband to seek help with my alcoholism and was in treatment for 1 1/2 days when I received a call he had passed at work. I left treatment and lived aimlessly for several months until I finally asked for help after my husband’s family took my daughter away from me and drove her several states away.

    After many financial and emotional sacrifices, I am pleased to be sober today and can look at the past as a benefit to my being. Although my loved ones will never be forgotten, they made me who I am today and I am forever grateful! Today I am a proud mother, friend, family member, member of the community and most of all……survivor!

    If I can do it, anyone can do it! I pray my story helps.

    • Tay  July 22, 2021 at 10:23 pm Reply

      Prayers truly from bottom of my heart to you all. Your stories I have read one by one and I feel comfortable now sharing a little of my Story which is still not at the ending it Should be but in my heart I know will be. I’m 30yrs of age with a small town country USA upbringing But in such a short time I’ve been and going through similar situations I Lost a Grandmother which raised my mom and I since she was 15 at time I took first breath then ended up losing her when she was only 39 unexpectedly in her sleep and as of last year the man I called Dad my mother’s husband passed away in same room in same bed my mother passed in he was the one piece of immediate family I had left and being only child. Long story short graduating College in big city starting life away from painful memories to me. I think I can handle ones death boom someone else, I took hydrocodones after being socially introduced to them and the fact it took away all the pain of mom and grandmother. I made excellent money and never missed work 1 pill turned into 8 and so on Its nothing but grace of God and my love ones that are looking over me and my Faith once dad died 7-20 I had already separated from husband whos ex put me in danger with out me doing anything I sware. Im overly nice it’s a country thing that stayed with me

  22. Kathleen  July 6, 2017 at 8:38 pm Reply

    I’m not sure this qualifies as a connection to the article however, I would like to add how alcohol fit into the second or third week after the death of my son. I am not a drinker, ever. I often wondered why and how people turn to alcohol in times of stress, sadness or any upset in life. Why would anyone want to alter their state of mind when wrestling with an already painful situation. Yes, judgemental and short sighted for sure.
    Well, after the death of my son I didn’t think I was hurting enough, ( I was hurting terribly) so I thought ahhh alcohol. I didn’t want to numb the pain, I wanted to feel it deeper. I wanted to go as deep inside my soul to the core of my being to feel as painfully as I could. I drank more in those few days than I had ever had in my life. It was not pretty. It was not helpful. I was sick and messy. After a few days of this behavior I realized my sober pain was as deep as my drunken pain but without the mess. It took a few days to get over being sick but I figured out pretty quickly alcohol was not the answer to what I thought I needed. What I needed was for my son to be sent back to me and that was not going to happen. I won’t ever judge others for trying to escape their pain in any way, but I learned a valuable lesson for my own grief.

  23. AloneTogether  July 6, 2017 at 3:19 pm Reply

    It is painfully true that people turn to alcohol and other substances in order to numb feelings. I’ll be brutally honest with my experience:

    When my husband passed away, I didn’t drink or eat for weeks. As a matter of fact, before he passed, I was giving up alcohol completely because we were trying to have children. After a few weeks, more and more changes came into my life – I had to break my lease since I couldn’t afford my apartment; I moved in with my parents at the other side of town, ending up far away from my friends; my commute to work tripled; I hated the town I was living in; family was coddling me and I had no privacy or alone time. Then I was prescribed antidepressants, which really messed with me at first. I seriously felt like my life wasn’t mine and it wasn’t worth living. I wanted to hide the pain, especially when headed to “that house”, so I started drinking on the train home, then started sneaking alcohol into the bedroom and continued drinking at night. I would go through four bottles a week.

    Another reason why I turned to drinking is because I was purposely killing myself. Since my doctor and therapist repeatedly told me not to drink alcohol with the medication, I did the polar opposite – I took it with booze, hoping that there would be some deadly interaction. So far, the only thing it did is made me jittery.

    As my life is starting to get back on track (now I live alone, close to friends, and my commute is better), I’ve been reducing the drinking. We had another loss in the family and I now realize that in order to be there for them, I have to be careful of how much and when I drink. Also, I don’t want to let friends or family down after all they did (and doing now) for me while grieving.


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