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Addiction and Loss: Grieving a Lost Identity

a man with messy hair standing in a dark shadow area appears to be struggling with cocaine addiction

Addiction is more than just a medical and psychological disorder. For many who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, the prospect of getting clean and sober is not just about stopping the use of a substance. Ending drug abuse is about changing everything about how they live.

This includes who they spend their time with, their perspective on day-to-day living, as well as the treatment of other people and their goals for the future. It is difficult to understand why someone would continue to live in active addiction when given the option of treatment. The process of recovery always includes grieving the loss of personal identity and learning how to become an entirely new person.[1]

Changing Focus

Heating heroin in spoonWhen it comes to addiction, a person who struggles with substance abuse has one concern– getting and staying high. Healthy relationships with others, work, education, hobbies, responsibilities of day-to-day living – all these are inconsequential in light of the need to get more drugs and remain under the influence. It can take a long time to learn to replace the focus of getting and staying high with something new, interesting, and positive.[2] The day can seem long when life is without purpose, so one of the many things that an addict in recovery is tasked with is filling their schedule with things that move them forward in a positive direction rather than potentially triggering a relapse.

Some of these things include:

  • Therapeutic options, like support group meetings
  • Holistic wellness, like acupuncture sessions
  • Physical wellness, like personal training sessions or jogging
  • Educational/career growth, like a credential class or applying for jobs
  • Building a positive social circle by spending time with peers in recovery

Changing Social Circles

Addicts hang out with other addicts. When they stop using drugs, they must stop having anything in common with their old friends in order avoid relapse. Attempting to return to relationships associated with the drug culture after rehab often means a swift return to addiction. In any context, forging new connections and creating a new social circle isn’t easy, but when it’s done in the early, uncomfortable months of recovery, it can be even more difficult.

Recovering addicts are encouraged to:

  • Avoid places and people who use drugs and alcohol
  • Spend time with people in recovery support groups
  • Remain connected to their drug rehab and people they met in treatment
  • Rekindle relationships with non-drug-using family members

Find Help for Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Starting over is never easy, but admitting you or your loved one has a substance abuse problem is the first step. The right rehab program can help you rebuild your life and reclaim your identity, one step at a time. It can take time to feel comfortable in recovery but the benefits of living without drugs and alcohol begin in the first days of sobriety. Call us today at Michael’s House to get started on your personal journey to recovery.

[1] David Sack, MD. “Grieving the Loss of Addiction,” PsychCentral, June 9, 2015. Accessed April 3, 2017.

[2] Richard Taite. “Addiction: Identity and Connection Influence Relapse Rates,” Psychology Today, March 11, 2014. Accessed April 3, 2017.