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When we use drugs and addictive behaviors to cope with our grief, many of us find that not only are we not helping ourselves heal from the pain and sadness of our loss, but we’re making that pain worse by adding on all of the self-destructiveness and pain of addiction. We find that our addictions are in fact misguided coping mechanisms, not effective ones. They detract from our healing and add to the layers of things we need to heal from, compounding the pain we’re already feeling and preventing us from moving forward. How can we stop turning to drugs to cope with the pain of our grief?

An important part of the process is to learn this fundamental lesson: trying to escape our pain simply doesn’t work. The more we fear feeling our emotions, the harder they are to manage. The more we resist our pain, the more it grows. We want to stop fearing and resisting our grief and instead start seeing it as a necessary part of our emotional evolution. Grief is a painful but natural part of life. The losses we sustain impact us deeply, and the pain we feel stays with us. We can’t escape what is within us. We can’t run from the pain inside of us. We have to learn ways of coping with it that are healthy, that serve us, and that don’t add to our pain.

Our grief is calling for us to express it. It tries to get our attention in any way it can, usually by making us depressed or anxious, or causing us to act out in ways that hurt us, such as returning to unhealthy relationships or relapsing once we’ve gotten clean. We want to find healthy ways of expressing our grief. We can help ourselves heal by working with a grief counselor, joining a grief support group, journaling about our grief, and talking to loved ones who can relate to us and empathize with our pain. We can use creative self-expression to unlock the grief trapped inside of us and release it in cathartic and beautiful ways. We can write stories, poems and songs about our grief. We can share our work with other people who are suffering, potentially helping them along their healing journey. When we can find safe, supportive spaces and effective outlets to express our grief, it doesn’t stay trapped inside of us, causing us energetic blockages and worsened mental and emotional pain. We’re far less likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, namely our drugs of choice, as a result.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.