“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I know it may sound strange to some, but being sober has thrown me into an acute sense of mourning. Facing addiction has forced me to consider how my sobriety is affected by the stages of grief:
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such a depth of sorrow, but the stark truth is I am truly grieving the loss of my addiction to alcohol.
Denial: Not Wanting to Admit an Addiction to Alcohol
I wanted a drink so badly. Though I imagined I could ‘handle’ the drunk me who inevitably emerged after a few drinks, I was now going to have to find another way to get lost from the things that haunted my mind.
I became emotionally numb, overwhelmed by the changes, ignoring reality for as long as I could. Denying my addiction and its destructive effects allowed me to avoid taking responsibility.
Anger: When It Feels Like All the World Has Done You Wrong
When anger hits, it hurts. Like a rolling wave of fiery emotion, anger would come on me so fast it was all I could do to make it through the storm. Suddenly, my addiction to alcohol was everybody’s fault but mine. I was angry with God for allowing my once-pleasurable pastime to turn on me and with every person I knew for one wrong deed or another.
The truth is, the anger I experienced over my addiction to alcohol was just a mask to the pain I felt over my whole darn life. It was easier to place blame on anyone but me; that way, I didn’t have to face my own reality.
Bargaining: Making Deals, Not Changing Behavior
Part of the grieving process found me bargaining like a car salesman at the end of the month, trying to convince anyone who would listen to let me keep my addictive lifestyle. Thankfully no one listened. All of my bargainings was useless in the face of the reality of my addiction.
Depression: The Dawning Dread of Addiction
Eventually, I couldn’t bargain or avoid any longer. I experienced a dawning realization of how deeply and frequently I’d hurt the people I love most. Realizing that I have an alcohol addiction led to a deep sense of depression coupled with shame and guilt. I had to learn how to live my life knowing how I’d acted in the past–and facing it all left me a depressing mess for a long time.
Acceptance: I Need Help Dealing With My Addiction to Alcohol
Understanding that I need help dealing with my addiction to alcohol was a beginning to my path to acceptance. Eventually, with the help of professional counseling, I was able to process the grief I’d been experiencing since becoming sober.
Yes, I have an addiction to alcohol.
Yes, I miss many aspects of my life as an alcoholic.
But no, I don’t ever want to go back. Because grieving my loss of alcohol addiction isn’t nearly as difficult as actually living the life of an addict, destroying treasured relationships and burning bridges on dreams I have for my future.
And that’s just not something I can accept.