Breaking up with drugs: Understanding recovery with the five stages of grief
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Dealing with a great loss in one’s life is a significant event. For instances such as death, trauma can be a common response. Similarly, going through a romantic separation of any kind can go one of two ways. A couple will either split up with equal, consensual feelings or they will end on a more sour note. In terms of the latter situation, some break-ups are extremely stressful and challenging experiences.

In other words, losing a loved one can happen in a host of different ways. Also, depending on how important and valued this loss is, a new split or separation can carry a great amount of psychological weight with it. For those who have succumbed to an excessive dependency to drugs, choosing a life of sobriety can evoke a comparable feeling of loss. An addict’s life revolves around the drug and using it whenever possible. Without it, one’s entire world can collapse.

The Kübler-Ross model outlined a very influential series of stages for experiencing loss and grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. For decades after its introduction in 1969, this model of loss has been applied in popular culture many times. When an individual puts a serious loss through the introspective lens of the Kübler-Ross model, a lot of informative details are revealed concerning the overall processes that occur during a separation from an addictive substance.

  • Denial: This stage is a good way to describe someone still gripped by a manipulative addiction. Although there may be conflicts and other complications in a person’s life directly caused by an overwhelming dependency, the addict will not address the fact that he or she has a problem. It is not until the individual realizes how deep the need is that any beneficial change can take place.
  • Anger: Anger may be one of the many emotions a person will feel after choosing a life of abstinence and detoxifying the body. Also, many drugs have even shown effects of heightening anger and violent outbursts. The first steps toward recovery are hard, especially because the onset of withdrawal can inflict a lot of distressing and even painful feelings. Becoming frustrated with this constant, psychological and physiological grind is understandable, but an individual needs to weather this initial storm in order to experience rest and rejuvenation.
  • Bargaining: This stage might happen at any point in the recovery process. In moments of low commitment or temptation, a former addict may imagine possible scenarios that will eventually lead to relapse. In fact, reusing the substance is the bargain. By promising oneself that things have changed and that he or she has better impulse control, restarting a relationship with drug use becomes a reward again and sets back treatment substantially.
  • Depression: In some cases, an underlying condition may secretly fuel addiction. Substance abuse can be traced to some sort of mental imbalance that needs to be dealt with as well. Once a destructive yet satisfying addiction is given up, the true reason for a person’s pain might sprout up from underneath the surface. It is important that serious cases of dependency are managed carefully and over long periods of time in order to prevent the development of additional issues.
  • Acceptance: A critical element of any recovery program is admitting that the person had and still has a problem concerning a specific drug. This stage also reflects the full transformation that takes place after a sense of denial. By understanding that one has a problem, the issue becomes defined and therefore much more manageable once it is identified. Acknowledging an addiction relationship is necessary to separate it from who a person currently is during recovery. It can be categorized into the past and the former addict can move on, just like with any large loss in life.

In a lot of ways, removing an addictive substance is very similar to losing other important parts of one’s life. The drug becomes the highest priority in the person’s structure of goals and responsibilities. When that element is taken out of an individual’s established routine, a lot of personal growth needs to occur in order for progress to begin again. Comparing this growth to Kübler-Ross’ five stages of loss is an interesting way to frame such a monumental metamorphosis.

Sovereign Health Group also views recovery as an ongoing journey made up of multiple steps and stages. We are aware that rebuilding such a core part of a person’s life can not only take time, but a comprehensive set of options that accommodates each client’s personal circumstances. Sovereign addresses multiple psychological disorders and is familiar with how connected many conditions are. To learn more about our treatment programs for addiction, mental health disorders or dual diagnosis contact an experienced representative online or call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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