Why Do We Mourn Our Old Lives?

Recovering from our addictions means recreating our lives and letting go of our former selves. We want to release all of the elements of our personalities and of our lives that were contributing to our unwellness. We want to shed the self-destructive patterns in our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. We often are open to embracing all of the possibilities that come with sobriety. While we are eager to become the person we were always meant to be, we also can have a hard time coming to terms with the loss of our old lives. One element of addiction recovery that we don’t always talk about, and that we often aren’t prepared for, is the mourning process we undergo, where we’re grieving our old lives and the people we once were.

Moving past our former lives means letting go of the things we held onto, for feelings of safety and protection. This often includes beliefs that we thought served us but which actually kept us small. For example, believing we are incapable of success can make us stay safely within our comfort zones rather than pushing ourselves up and out of them. Limiting beliefs around our abilities, our futures, and who we are as people, are all things we have to let go of if we want to move forward. We used these thought patterns to nurture and comfort ourselves, even though they often caused us more pain. They were what was familiar and comfortable to us, and it can be a source of grief to let them go and move beyond them. We can feel afraid to release parts of us we’re not ready to. We can feel resistance, which is another form of fear, often as avoidance, denial or suppression. All of these things can weigh on us and make us mourn the loss of our former selves and the familiar, comfortable ways of thinking, feeling and operating.

Letting go of our old self-image can be uncomfortable, even painful. We’re forced to recreate ourselves. We’re pushed to unearth our true selves that have been buried under layers of addiction and mental illness. In recovery, we’re shedding our ideas of who we were. We’re challenged to let go of the people and behaviors that contributed to our skewed self-perception. We’re starting to see just how much we were limiting ourselves and holding ourselves back, how much we were hurting ourselves when we thought we were protecting ourselves. We can mourn these experiences, all of the self-destruction and self-sabotage that took us away from ourselves and caused us so much pain but which we were clinging to because we were afraid to push ourselves to get better.

Mourning our old lives is a difficult but often necessary part of the recovery process. When we can openly and honestly confront our sadness and fear about this mourning stage in our development, we can open the gateway to our healing and create new lives that are full of meaning, happiness and good health.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and are here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.