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 Dealing with Grief 
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Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2016 12:30 am
Posts: 1
State/Province/Country: North Dakota
Hi all,

I just wanted to share and possibly get some input. Yesterday I had to put down my dog. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. He was my best friend and companion, and I have been feeling very lost and alone. I loved him so much. This has been a very difficult process for me. I guess my question for you guys is how do you deal with grief and loss while trying to remain sober? I don't want to fall back into old habits but I'm afraid of the effects grief will have.

Thanks for all your support.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:16 am

Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:43 pm
Posts: 38
State/Province/Country: California
Personally, I'm an excessively rational person. When I find myself being forced to confront difficult emotions, I do my best to think them through: I examine them from every possible angle, until there's nothing left hidden. Because that's the painful part, IMO, is having something so big that it could swallow you up sitting as an ominous shadow underneath your metaphorical rowboat. For me, the pain comes from not understanding why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, and, as with addiction, acknowledging and accepting that you're feeling the feeling is the first step towards moving beyond it.

Pets are very important to us. They represent a purity of love and affection that is nearly impossible to find in other people. It's totally understandable that you would feel sadness after losing your best friend. They are normal emotions that anyone in your position would feel. Grief can, of course, be exceedingly uncomfortable, and you'd probably prefer to not be feeling the way that you feel right now—which is why you might be wanting to play video games. If it were me, I'd also want to distance myself from the world. To stuff my feelings and emotions down at the bottom of my subconscious sock drawer. To disappear into virtual reality.

But this is part of sobriety. By pulling ourselves out of active addiction—bringing ourselves up out of the murk and back into the real world—we open ourselves up to the entire spectrum. Nowhere does it say that the sober life is always happy and good. But in one sense, I see the bad stuff as a gift. Perhaps not a gift in the traditional sense, but still something worth having. Because the bad (as much as the good) is a testament to the fact that we aren't numb anymore. When we are sober, we can feel: and to feel is the greatest blessing.

P.S. Also, coming to meetings and talking about my feelings with a group of like-minded individuals helps me a lot when I'm in pain.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:43 pm

Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:21 pm
Posts: 147
State/Province/Country: NC, USA

I've been fortunate that I haven't had to deal with anything so difficult as the loss of a loved one in sobriety, but I have had to deal with lesser losses in my life in sobriety. These are the tools I use when I am feeling upset about a loss and need to go through a grief process:

1) Feel my feelings. There is, of course, a difference between "feeling" and "wallowing in" my feelings. "Wallowing in", to me, means I am falling back into my old habits of self-pity, and that is only going to get me the gaming equivalent of drunk. Feeling my feelings, for me, means taking time to sit in them and acknowledge them- cry if I need to cry, smile if I need to smile, be angry if I need to be angry- but in all cases do this with an eye towards moving through them rather than bogging down in them. This includes acknowledging and accepting any regrets I may have.

2) Space. I give myself a lot of space. Emotions take up a lot of energy and make it difficult for me to function normally, so I allow myself the extra grace to hangout with my feelings as I need to or to be "less productive" where work and school are concerned.

3) Self-care. This includes the daily things like eating and sleeping to also giving myself special, non-addictive treats. Exercise is also great since it gets the endorphins flowing. Sometimes self-care also means telling folks that I am unavailable because I need to hangout with myself and do some more of feeling my feelings, etc.

4) No major changes in plans. One of my tendencies when bad things happen is to decide that I can't do something because I am in too much emotional pain. Oftentimes for me that is actually just my self-pity and my disease trying to worm its way into my life by making me feel debilitated. I find it better if I keep moving forward with my scheduled plans and meetings as best as possible.

5) Honor the loss. I've found it helpful to simply honor the loss. This means both acknowledging what the good things are that are gone and then accepting that they gone- that that time or opportunity is passed. I do this often with little losses and it helps me to keep in a healthy space with them (e.g. fewer resentments towards myself, others or God). This includes acknowledging and accepting any regrets I may have.

6) Patience. As with all things in sobriety, patience is a big component of grief. "This too shall pass" is a great slogan to remember, as is "Easy does it."

7) As DGately mentioned, talking to others about the pain. "Better out than in, I always say." (Shrek)

8) Service work. For me this often is simply showing up early to a face-to-face meeting and helping with the chairs, but it can also include volunteerism, etc. It helps me to get out of myself and have a break from my feelings- because we need those to, when done in healthy ways.

Of course, at the end of the day, your grief process is yours alone to go through. Just as there is no right or wrong way to get and stay sober, there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of your friend. In both cases, "not making the effort at all" is really the only "wrong way"- and even that, sometimes, still works out for the best.

Glad you are here, Phil!

Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:26 pm
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