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How to Navigate Difficult Emotions of Grief and Loss in Recovery

Family and loved ones who struggle with addiction may go through varying emotions. Once they enter recovery, it is not a cure-all for their addiction. They will have times when they feel sad or when they feel like they need help dealing with the challenges. Grief and loss are real emotions in recovery. In the process of recovery, grief emerges in response to changes taking place with that person. The experience of grief is not only stimulated by losing loved ones but also because they are in a new state of being with sobriety and staying clean. These changes in their brain and body signal other changes, which can shift how they see themselves and their world. As they seek help, they begin to notice patterns emerging that held them back from being healthy. It is healthy to identify with the losses and seek a pathway forward to healing.

Losing Routine

The routine aspect of addiction gave the person a purpose. Their goal was to seek out drugs, alcohol, or the behavior on a routine basis. Maybe it was before work or after work, during breaks at school or in other ways. The patterns and behaviors they established need to be broken down and reshaped to work better for themselves in recovery.


Even if others are addicted to drugs, those become the people they choose to hang out with. They most align with that time of their lives. For some people, they love going to ‘happy hour’ socials, while others like to show up to parties their friends throw that feel safe and make them feel like addiction is under control in the presence of friends who do the same thing. It is easier to deny addiction when others are also doing it, too. The loss of these relationships to maintain sobriety can be difficult to deal with and may lead to further depression, anxiety, and isolation.


With recovery comes freedom. This means freedom to engage with healthier behaviors and not put one’s own life at risk (or others). Being accountable to oneself and others means stepping into a new life of letting others know what is happening and asking them to hold space for healing to occur. It can be a vulnerable place to be, but also a grieving process of losing some ‘freedom’ in other ways while gaining it in these new ways.

Caretakers and loved ones also experience grief and loss. They knew the relationship entirely differently while that person was addicted to drugs or alcohol. Now that has shifted their role, too, and they need to find a new pathway forward with them in recovery. Perhaps they are emotionally and physically different now than they were and continue to evolve in recovery. This is a healing process, but also one to grieve and learn to let go of the losses from the past to embrace the future.

Working on recovery is a family and community activity. Everyone in that person’s life is involved to some degree. Nobody should feel they are alone in recovery or the grief that accompanies this change in life. If you are feeling recovery is difficult or need support, there is help available for recovery and addiction challenges. Call us to find out how to get started: 1-855-483-7800