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Experiencing grief as a recovering addict
It's been a long time since I've added
anything to WorldWideAddiction.com. The first 20-plus articles just seemed
to flow out of me and then the writing stopped suddenly. Since I ceased
writing, the email continued to come in encouraging me to write more; and
I've been truly thankful for that - but to this point I still haven't been able to write
My articles have been reproduced in a number of journals, used in schools and a variety of other places - I am greatly humbled by the attention that they've received.
Everything I wanted the web site to do, it has done - to educate, inform and offer some hope. Yet, through all this positivity, each time I told myself I need to keep writing; nothing happened.
Why? Because this is the article that needed to be written next and I found all sorts of reasons for not doing so. My inspiration for finally doing so comes from my Mother.
I haven't written an article since the last time I saw her - April of 2001. This article has been in my drafts since 2003 and now in June of 2007 I'm finally finishing it and already I'm thinking of new articles to write.
April 2001 was the first time that my family had been reunited for over ten years. The reason for us being together was that it was her dying wish.
My Mother died a few days later after we gathered from a horrible disease she didn't deserve that slowly wore her down for most of her life. The great tragedy was that she was misdiagnosed for so long and by the time the correct diagnosis was given, it was basically too late.
I was privileged enough to spend her last days with her and it was an experience I'll never forget. My father told me back in 2003 that she would want me to write this article - and while it was great motivation, I only half completed it.
After my mother's death, I experienced grief from the loss of a loved one as a "normal" human being for the very first time; and I'm still trying to figure it out. The best way that I can explain it, is that it is somewhat like going through the emotional stages of withdrawals. The emptiness, the anger, the confusion, but predominantly the guilt.
Now that I have something to compare it to, I can understand the old timers from AA who say that when you withdraw from drugs, that you grieve for them - it's a very similar set of emotions - and therefore it carries the same set of dangers.
While I never had serious protracted cravings in the time after my mother's passing, I was very aware that what I was feeling could very well set me up for a bust. One thing I believe that all recovered addicts should keep in mind throughout their lives is that while we are entitled to feel the same range of emotions as "normal" human beings; we cannot afford to feel the same intensity. It's just way too dangerous, as it's in these intense moments that even normal people temporarily lose touch with reality - be it sadness, depression, rage or euphoria.
Here's an example - When we gathered to be with my mother, we all knew she was going to die at any moment. So I guess our grieving began during those last days of her life. As Mom had chosen to die at home, we were able to be literally by her side 24 hours a day. My mother had been given a bottle of morphine syrup to help with the pain. Now, this is going to sound really bad, but on more than one occasion during those days, the though flashed through my mind of "trying" her medication.
Just to underline the insanity of this thinking; I loved my mother and it was very painful to see her in this way. I had caused her so much pain during my dark days; she was now dying and here I was considering, albeit briefly, getting off my face on the medication that was prescribed solely to relieve *her* pain. It's pretty disgusting. That should have been the furthest thing from my mind - but this really accentuated the fact that once an addict, always an addict. Recovered perhaps; cured, definitely not. Can you imagine what may of happened if I had actually taken some of her morphine? I don't think I could have lived with myself.
Even after all the years of being clean, my mind was still somewhat conditioned to react to uncomfortable situations by producing a craving for the very thing that nearly destroyed me. It doesn't happen all the time or for long, but when it does it can still be very intense and I must be on my guard.
The other big danger for a recovering addict when dealing with the loss of a loved one is the overwhelming guilt that can occur after their passing. In many instances, the person you lose would have also shared the part of your life when you were unwell. While the relationship may have healed, once the person has passed away, all the old injuries you caused them are likely to resurface and be amplified. They will slowly fade away to background noise over time, but what I've found is that certain triggers will bring them back to the forefront of my mind again. I guess this is due to not being able to have contact with that person any more; the reassurance that you are forgiven that even just seeing them used to provide. Worse still, what isn't resolved when that person dies remains unresolved.
Grief is a natural part of life; but for an addict it provides an extra set of challenges to get through. While a non-addict may be able to take a drink or a sleeping pill to help take the edge off a traumatic experience in the short term; it's certainly not an option for a recovered addict or alcoholic, no matter how many years of sobriety they have under their belt. Many people I met in detox and since had extended periods of being clean; only to fall off the wagon due to a traumatic event.
If you're an addict on the road to recovery, be prepared to experience emotions in a new way - the good and the bad; and be sure to have a plan in place to fight off the cravings while you're in that vulnerable state.
Copyright information.... This article is free for reproduction but must be reproduced in its entirety along with the authors' name and web site link. This copyright statement must be also be included. (c) 2001 - 2007 Michael Bloch, World Wide Addiction.com,. All rights reserved.
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