When the End of Addiction is Like Grieving
Submitted by Mel Gaynor
Only those who are recovering from addiction, can truly understand the extent to which ending it can be almost like leaving an abusive relationship. When they first start using, the drug is an exciting escape, a rush, an intimate thrill. Once experimentation gives way to dependence, however, what once was so enthralling, gives way to feelings of shame, guilt and depression as relationships with significant others begin to crumble and the addict becomes caught in a spiral of lies, deceit and guilt.
Drugs take away everything we most value in life: our prized relationships with loved ones, our professions, our social networks… yet why is quitting accompanied by a strong sense of grief, as though one was losing a lover?
Grief therapy for addiction embraces the idea that ‘grief deprivation’, refusing the recovering addict the right to grieve for the things they most enjoyed about addiction, is counter-productive. It is a little like telling someone whose spouse has been unfaithful, to ‘forget them and get over it’. Even in unhealthy relationships, there is usually something positive to grieve, including memories and the sense of not being alone…
Grief therapy relies on the Kübler-Ross model, comprising the ‘five stages of grief’: Denial (addicts deem they don’t have a problem), Bargaining (the addict is keen to show that they can somehow control their addiction), Anger (the addict can become angry with their addiction because of the loss it has brought them), Depression (often out of a sense of being ‘abandoned’ by drugs) and finally, Acceptance. Art therapy is often used to reveal the the aspects of addiction that (albeit deceivingly) filled a void in the addict’s life. Ultimately, progress lies in seeing the problem in a realistic light and embracing healthier relationships marked by respect and love.