One of the awesome things about being an active alcoholic: You always have the option to repress the shit out of those choking, visceral feelings that threaten to seize that control you harbor so dearly. Dealing with horrible sensations like the loss of a loved one, loss of a way of life, or whatever your flavor of loss is this time around SUCKS. Period. But as many of us in recovery have learned, stuffing these problems into the bottom of a bottle has a way of making them expand like a sponge. And so we feel trapped. And alone. That loss begins to wrap around us like a suffocating cocoon. And it begs the question: without the option of drowning our sorrows, how does one go about dealing with loss as a recovering alcoholic?
You Need to Talk About It
Let’s just get the most obvious (yet difficult) point out of the way first. No matter what we tell ourselves, humans are physiologically evolved to be social creatures. Running in groups is good for our survival. Being around others, talking to others, and sharing our sorrows is scientifically proven to reduce stress hormones. And on a psychological level, just ask any professional in the field. They will all tell you the same thing: we all grieve differently, but recovering substance abusers in particular need to utilize therapeutic resources in times of duress.
Make a Playlist
But sometimes we just aren’t ready for that yet. Or we’ve talked ourselves out and need time to work stuff out upstairs. Music can be a great way to do this. Only one caveat: tread with caution when curating a playlist.
Music has just as much power to hurt as it does to heal. There’s a fine line between catharsis and ruminating, and it helps to remain cognizant of whether your music choices are helping or hurting the healing process.
This type of “listening to sad music” offers validation and understanding. The key to catharsis is that it releases emotions as an experience rather than making a bed for those feelings and inviting them to stay the weekend.
The more destructive version of “listening to sad music” when dealing with loss becomes an echo chamber. The lyrics become triggers that perpetuate the grieving process rather than help it evolve.
Recovering alcoholics benefit from “planning out” their grief playlists, so to speak. It’s okay to start off with cathartic ballads, but planning a transition into happier, more uplifting tracks can help us shift into a better mindset.
Remembering Hobbies & Creative Outlets
Somewhere along the road to becoming a busy adult, many of us forget about hobbies that once made us happy. Maybe it’s golf, writing, guitar, watercolors, or just going out to a park/shopping center to grab a coffee and chill. Whatever it is, your hobbies provide an opportunity to relax and consider your problems from a more tranquil viewpoint. That allows your grieving process to unfold in a healthy, emotionally constructive way.
Practice Gratitude when Dealing with Loss
Mindful living isn’t a new concept. Buddhists have been using it as a way to understand and contextualize life stressors for thousands of years. Several areas where gratitude helps:
We get so used to thinking of our jobs as required burdens. But those burdens work in our favor when they provide an opportunity to channel our feelings into useful actions.
Access to sufficient food and clean water calls for gratitude in itself. Getting your favorite meals provides an even better reason to be grateful.
In particular, group fitness classes really help channel positive energy while creating fellowship with others. But any kind of workout helps!
Family & Friends
Our loved ones are there for us when we need them the most, but it’s easy to them for granted.
Light Therapy in Dealing with Loss
Often, the way we feel is tied to abstract physiological factors. These influence our behavior on a level that’s easy to overlook. Our body chemistry constantly shifts based on environmental changes. One of those environmental factors is sunlight, and many of us don’t receive enough of it.
If your vitamin D deficiency can’t be solved by more time outside, there are more convenient alternatives. Light therapy comes in many forms.
- Open the curtains
- Get a light box for your desk
- Some gyms offer tanning beds
Light therapy is particularly useful if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Resources for the Recovering Alcoholic
Coming full circle on the issue: no matter how many isolated self-care routines you engage in, you need to talk about your feelings. There’s really no way around it. Meetings for the recovering alcoholic are available 24/7 in most major cities, particularly in the Southern California area. If you’re looking for ongoing support from a licensed treatment center, our alumni program offers free resources for all former clients. If you’d like to learn more about how a treatment program can help, call one of our addiction specialists today: 855-737-7363