Addiction: Sometimes It’s Hard to Say Goodbye By Mellisa Davis

For recovering addicts, the thought of leaving a lifetime of addiction behind is no less than liberating and life-changing, yet most will also tell you that a big part of them also grieves the role played by addiction in their lives. An addiction to alcohol or drugs bears much in common with a dysfunctional or abusive romantic relationship: in the beginning it is all about the high, the thrill and excitement, but in no time at all, dependence takes over, bringing along feelings like shame, regret, and guilt.

As is the case with abusive and co-dependent relationships, most addicts know the damage that drug use is causing them and their loved ones, yet they often look for excuses to stop. They tell themselves that they are powerless, that they have caused too much hurt to start over, that they are stressed and drugs are the only way they can achieve the calm they crave.

Therapists should never deprive their patients of the right to grieve their addiction. In fact, many top rehabilitation centers currently use art therapy to encourage addicts to give shape to their emotions about addiction, and to talk about any ambivalent feelings they may have about quitting.

Grieving the death of addiction involves many stages, as first espoused by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who noted that those grieving loss pass through many stages, sometimes staying for a long time in one stage, and at other times fluctuating between one stage and another. The stages of grief include Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and finally, Acceptance. When a recovering addict accepts that they will inevitably miss some things about their addiction (good memories, a particular group of friends, etc.), nothing beats leading a life free of dependency. Acceptance is the long awaited celebration of the beauty of life.