Mourning the Past: Grieving over Addiction and Choosing to Move Forward

Mourning the Past: Grieving over Addiction and Choosing to Move Forward

When we’re in the throes of addiction, we become attached – whether we like it or not. Addiction triggers an influx of dopamine in our brain, which is a “feel good” chemical that becomes stored as a pleasurable memory in our mind. Over time, we develop a strong relationship with this addiction much like we would with a lover or a friend. All of our “good times” become centered around the addiction, and much like we’d feel when we’ve fallen in love, we find ourselves thinking about the source of addiction – or even how to get to that source again – when we’re not using.

It’s the moment when we’re seeking help that feelings of immense loss can begin to settle in. Much like breaking up with a person who served as a significant chapter in our lives, we may become depressed or anxious, even feeling a lack of purpose in our lives as what was once the center of our world has come to cease. If you’ve been finding yourself grieving over your addiction, know that you’re not alone – as something that’s been a profound part of your life for some time, it’s natural that you’d grieve over it.

Our Ties to Addiction

We don’t realize it at the time, but there are many ties that we form to addiction as it continues on. The following are some of the strongest ties we form, and these are what we must grieve over in addiction recovery:

1.     Emotional numbness

The Fix, a website dedicated to providing information on living sober, emphasized in 2018 a story of a man in recovery who grieved over his addiction. In a sense, his addiction served as a “protective bubble” that kept him numb from some of his greatest problems. He had become so comfortable in this “bubble” that when it came time for him to recover, he had to learn that the numbness he experienced from substance abuse was actually depriving him of living a happier and healthier life. By mourning the loss of what once was, he was actually able to find comfort in embracing relationships as a new and healthier form of coping.

2.     Social Groups

Researchers published a study in the British Journal of Social Psychology exploring how social identity often changes over time for those in addiction recovery, and they found that holding onto identities such as “substance user” can be detrimental to a person’s recovery and health. Over time, a person in recovery will explore a new identity – one that doesn’t’ involve substance abuse. With this comes the distancing that’s necessary from old social connections that were once centered around substances, as these connections are no longer conducive to recovery.

3.     Patterns of Behavior

A major part of recovery is retraining the mind and body how to react to different thoughts, feelings, and life circumstances. A person’s go-to when stressed may have been to reach for an alcoholic drink, but recovery demands they find alternative, healthier ways to cope with painful emotions. As this is often a period of uncomfortability for those in recovery, it’s always worth it because they find their sense of self and purpose in life is strengthened as they participate more fully in day-to-day life.


In 2015, Sue C. Wallingford wrote a poem about grieving over the loss of addiction. The poem was titled, Life Goes On. Here are just a few short lines from her poem:

I’m not sure when all that changed,

You exited as subtly and quietly as you entered.

Your power to make me feel stronger slipped away gradually, almost without notice.

Recovery involves a lot of change and leaving what was once comfortable to walk into the unknown can be a heart-wrenching experience. Allow yourself to feel those emotions but remind yourself of what addiction didn’t do for you. Don’t place your addiction on a pedestal – remind yourself of the ways it’s taken vitality from your life, and the feelings of emptiness it’s left you with.

A Path Towards Healing

Holistic healing is about recognizing the many ways in which you’ve been impacted by life and working through them in order to heal. Our past can leave many physical and psychological wounds which need addressing – and by being open to learning about how addiction affects the mind, body and spirit, as well as how trauma, mental illness, and other significant events of life can influence our perceptions of ourselves and others, we open up more opportunities for transformation and growth.

Author and teacher of alternative medicine Rachel Naomi Remen once stated, “Healing may be not so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.”

If you’re ready to begin your journey towards restoration of the mind, body and spirit, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center today.

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-924-0780.

Saving Lives; Healing Families.

Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.