“Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will; it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it? “ – Henry David Thoreau
If we are going to talk about grief and addiction, the simple fact that we can’t deny is that they are genuinely connected. In most cases, severe distress triggers massive addiction in us.
If the former increases with time, the latter will also become deep. Before we understand how grief can trigger addiction, we must understand how grief works in the human mind.
What is Grief
Grief is nothing but an emotional reaction expressed to a traumatic situation. Sudden death, loss, or trauma can hurt you in emotional, mental, social, physical, and spiritual aspects and cause severe grief.
We can observe the definition given in Wikipedia – “Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.
Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to that loss.
Grief is a natural response to loss, and it is the suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people. Still, individuals grieve in connection with various losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill health, or the end of a relationship.
Loss can be categorized as either physical or abstract, the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, such as losing a spouse through death. In contrast, other types of loss are abstract and linked to aspects of a person’s social interactions.”
Severe Grief can force a human being towards abusing substances and fuel addiction. On the other hand, due to addiction, sometimes we lose a loved one, which causes more grief.
What are the reasons for Grief?
Multiple reasons make people grieve. Some of the reasons may include:
- The demise of a close friend or family.
- Personal injury or illness
- Loss or change of job
- Financial problems
- Legal issues
- Sexual disabilities
- Significant life changes like a job transfer, job shifting, etc.
- Pre-existing bad habits like gambling
- Drinking and smoking
Now, how can you recognize that a person is in severe Grief? There are a few expressions that you can notice.
What are the expressions of Grief?
These are some of the common but significant expressions of Grief you can notice in a person:
- Keeping silence for a long time
- Getting depressed frequently or being sad
- Anger outbursts
- Crying or tearfulness
- Discussing loss
- Maintaining a diary about the loss
- Listening to sad music
- Overeating than usual
- Getting confused in simple things
- Always seems distracted
- Getting confused most of the time
- Working for long hours without resting
- Feeling guilty about simple issues
- Neglecting others
- Suicidal tendency
What are the stages of Grief that can trigger addiction
Losing your close one whom you love is one of the most devastating incidents you can experience. Failing someone can lead to psychological issues like stress and depression. As a result, you might develop substance use disorders to bear grief.
It is expected that people who lose their family members or close friend may encounter a range of emotions. Those emotions may fluctuate, and in response, that person may begin to drink or do drugs to get relief from the pain.
People with a previous history of substance abuse carry greater risk. Slowly, those people may use more and more drugs and alcohol to calm their emotions. That is how binge drinking and heavier periods of episodic drinking become a habit.
Due to grief, people may start taking drugs in small amounts initially. But soon, they become restless and need more heavy dosages to calm their emotions. This drinking and drug habit may then develop into a full-on addiction, and Full-on alcohol addiction is popular as alcoholism.
People use substances like alcohol and drugs when nothing can lower the pain. Alcohol and drugs may seem like an easy cure to suppress Grief and other emotional difficulties. But it is ultimately preparing the path of self-destruction. Abusing alcohol and drugs only makes your life miserable and invites more negative emotions.
A grieving person may feel all the emotions and go through some stages to control the mental pain of grieving. A study published in 2007 revealed that most people show some common symptoms of grief and reach a particular level of acceptance soon after the death of their close ones.
If we look closely at the records, America loses 115 people to drugs like Heroin, Oxycodone, and Methadone. In 2016, 17,087 people died due to opioid addiction.
So, if you have any family members or friends who have lost someone and going towards addiction, you can notice different stages of grief in them.
As per the experts, the stages are:
- Sadness – It is the most common and expected emotional stage. Through time, it can take many shapes. Being lonely, you will be broken like glass, and a feeling of emptiness and despair will be part of your mental state. Soon, it can progress to addiction.
- Shock and disbelief – It’s common to experience a time when someone you love left you alone, and people can’t accept that their loved one is gone. So, the initial shock and disbelief are overwhelming and can lead a person towards addiction and substance abuse.
- Sickness – Due to Grief and complex emotional situations, a person can often encounter severe health conditions. This includes fever, headache, pain, nausea with loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue, etc. Sometimes to get rid of these health conditions, people take the help of drugs or alcohol.
- Guilt – Many people experience guilt after their loved one passes away. This emotional attack comes with an alarming tendency, and the guilt can make them fall for drugs and drinking.
- Fear – Any kind of loss can make you vulnerable and unsafe. To fight that feeling and to gain courage, sometimes you may take the help of drugs or alcohol.
If grief doesn’t leave you quickly, or if you find that you are constantly leaning towards the dark world of the addictive substance, it’s time for you to wake up! Many health professionals can help you with compassion to fight against grief, addiction, or both.
The popular treatment options you can consider:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Nutritional programs
- Grief counseling
- Medically supervised detox and rehab
- Complicated grief therapy
Carrying the emotional trauma of a loved one might be a difficult battle to win. But you should know that enough support is available in the market. You just have to trust yourself and try to fight against the situation with confidence.