- Dealing With The Loss Of A Loved One From Drugs Or Alcohol
- Understand The Five Stages Of Grief And How To Get Through Them
- Reach Out To Others Who Are Affected
- Create A Support Group
- Books That May Help
- Don’t Let Grief Take Over Your Life
- Death of an Addict — Guide to Dealing with This Devastating Loss
- Beginning the Grieving Process After the Death of an Addict
- Go Online for Grief Support
- How to Handle the Outside World
- Healing After the Death of an Addict
- Raise Awareness
- Additional Resources on Dealing with the Death of an Addict
- Mourning The Loss Of An Addict
- Unresolved Grief and Substance Abuse
- Be honest with yourself — in every moment
- Understand the Stages of Grief
- Addiction, Grief, And Loss: What’s The Connection?
- How The Brain Grieves
- When Someone Can’t Cope
- Symptoms of Grief
- The Grieving Process
- Losing A Loved One In Recovery
- What To Do If You Need Help
- What it is to Lose a Family Member to Alcoholism?
- Alcoholism in a Progressive Disease
- When Alcohol Begins to Control Your Life
- End-Stage Alcoholism
- Dying from Alcoholism is the Hardest Thing a Family Member Will Ever Have to Witness
- Families That Lose a Loved One to Alcoholism
- The Dangers of Enabling Alcoholism
- How Family First Intervention Can Help a Loved One in Danger of Dying from Alcohol
- Contact Us to Speak with a Certified Interventionist
Dealing With The Loss Of A Loved One From Drugs Or Alcohol
Every year, drug and alcohol addiction claims the lives of too many people. According to the Center for Disease Control, 30-40 thousand people in America die each year due to drug addiction. If someone you loved is one of those whose life was cut too short by addiction, you are ly feeling heartache, confusion, anger, and grief.
Those feelings are understandable and important to feel. After all, nobody deserves to die due to addiction and the unique emotions caused by this type of death are difficult to process.
However, it is possible to not only deal with the loss of a loved one from drugs or alcohol, but actually help others in the same situation. In this way, you can make sure that your loved one’s death has a meaning to it.
Understand The Five Stages Of Grief And How To Get Through Them
When your loved one passes away, you may go through five distinct phases of grief. The fact that drug addiction caused the death is going to make many of these stages more troublesome to pass through, but with help, you can cope with and manage the difficulty of each step.
Here are the stages you can expect, as well as ways in which you can recover:
- Denial and isolation – Here, you are going to isolate yourself from grief by denying the reality of the situation. This stage is potent in drug deaths because they are often so sudden. You might ask somebody if they are “kidding” or even joke about the death in an off-hand way. This phase will ly pass quickly into the next.
- Anger – In a drug death, you are often going to blame everybody you can. Their dealer, their friends, yourself, people who used with them, people who didn’t, society, the drug: everyone will be to blame but your loved one. Get through this phase by accepting that your loved one’s behavior can be blamed on no one but themselves. A harsh truth, but one that must be understood.
- Bargaining – After you’ve gotten control of your anger, you may want to control the situation by “bargaining” with it. For example, you might say something “if only we had talked to them about their addiction sooner” or “if we had only sent them to rehab.” Understand that the situation is your control and that there is nothing you can do to change what has happened.
- Depression – Losing control of the situation will plunge you into depression. This phase is often the lengthiest and is caused by the sense of loss and, in drug deaths, it is also caused by a feeling of senselessness and pointlessness. It is wise to talk to a psychologist or friends offering support during this phase.
- Acceptance – This is the hardest stage to reach for anyone who has lost a loved one and it is especially difficult in drug deaths. How do you accept the loss of a loved one when you think it could have been prevented? How can you not be angry at someone who used with them? There’s no set path for you to take in order to reach acceptance, but understanding that your loved one is in a better place and there was nothing you could have done to change the situation will help.
Acceptance isn’t giving up on your loved one or somehow ignoring them. It is simply moving past the death and letting the reality of it no longer actively affect you. Yes, you will remember your loved one forever, but you can move on and live your life again. You might have a hard time with this, due to the nature of their passing, but it is possible in all circumstances.
Reach Out To Others Who Are Affected
When someone you love passes away, it is easy to feel you are alone in your grief and that their death has only affected you. This is especially true with drug addiction deaths as they can seem so fruitless and pointless. However, there are others who are just as affected as you and who need just as much comfort.
If you’re able, reach out to the following people in your loved one’s life to make a personal connection and to ensure that their death has a meaning:
- Other family members of the loved one
- Friends who did not use drugs
- Friends who did use drugs and perhaps feel guilty
- A spouse or partner
- Children of the loved one
It’s easy to feel anger at people who have used drugs with your loved one. You may blame them or think they somehow contributed. And people who feel no guilt or remorse are probably worth avoiding. However, those who feel guilt and want to change should be embraced. You may be able to help them beat their addiction and keep another person from drug-related death.
Helping another person this can help you better understand the nature of addiction (it IS a sickness) and give you a rush of positive emotions, however, you should also avoid investing too much of your emotion in someone who is struggling with addiction.
Often, helping another person suffering from a drug addiction may fill a void that was created by your deceased loved one. But, if this person struggles to get sober while you are involved or even passes away due to addiction, you are going to feel even more devastated. So the best advice is to approach them caringly, but maintain an emotional distance until they are clean.[bottom-inline-cat]
Create A Support Group
After you’ve reached out to other people who you know have been affected by the death of your loved one, bring them all together in a support group. Here, you can talk about your grief and find ways to move on from it together. Sharing stories, remembering positive moments, and engaging each other in constructive ways can help all of you move beyond your grief.
Utilize social media resources, such as and , to create a group where you can share memories and strength. Everyone will need someone they can trust and who has gone through the same experience. Banding together creates a circle of positive emotion that can bring happiness back into your life in a gradual, yet constructive manner.
You can even expand the nature of your group by volunteering for anti-drug groups that focus on education and prevention. Share your story with youths and others who could be affected by drugs early in life;help them understand how dangerous it is and why they need to abstain from use and avoid others who use.
This kind of activity can make you feel an active and vital member of society, one who is fighting against the epidemic of drugs in this country. Though it may be hard to believe, your story and your actions may help inspire others to either avoid drugs or quit before addiction becomes a problem. Anyone can make a difference, even if it starts small and subtly.
Books That May Help
If you enjoy reading and have recovered from grief in the past through literature, there are many fine books available that can help you get comfort during this difficult time. Each of these books focuses on healing through the death of a loved one due to addiction, many of them written by people who lost a child or a loved one due to this illness:
- Losing Jonathan, Robert and Linda Waxler
- One-Way Ticket: Our Son’s Addiction To Heroin, Rita Lowenthal
- When a Child Dies From Drugs; Practical Help for Parents in Bereavement, by Pat and Russ Wittberger
- Sunny’s Story, Ginger Katz
- Living When a Loved One Has Died, Earl A. Grossman
- I Am Your Disease: The Many Faces of Addiction, Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis
While these books feature many heart wrenching stories and difficult sequences, each ends with the writer recovering their hope and moving on from grief. They are poignant and gorgeously written books filled with many inspirational quotes that may help your heart experience the relief that it needs after losing your loved one.
Don’t Let Grief Take Over Your Life
Drug and alcohol addiction takes the lives of too many of our beautiful children and it can be difficult to move on. Grief can take a debilitating toll on the heart, one that demands your attention without mercy. But you can survive this loss and move on to regain your life.
If you need someone to talk to or have a loved one you want to save from addiction, please contact us right away at Vertava Health to learn more about alcoholism rehab and detox.
Death of an Addict — Guide to Dealing with This Devastating Loss
The death of an addict is something that some loved ones may have to deal with. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of injury death in 2012 was drug overdose. And the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that there are 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths worldwide each year.
These deaths leave behind many grieving loved ones, who may not have the resources they need to deal with the death of an addict. Following is a resource guide with advice and information for those who’ve lost a loved one to drug or alcohol addiction.
Beginning the Grieving Process After the Death of an Addict
Address feelings of guilt and shame. This two-part article on grieving after an overdose addresses how those who’ve lost a loved one to addiction often feel guilt and shame because they think they should have been able to prevent the death of an addict.
Part Two of the article offers resources, linked below, to help grieving loved ones begin to deal with these feelings:
Look for a support group in your area that deals with the death of an addict. As this article notes, GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), a group created by loved ones who’ve lost someone to addiction, has support groups throughout the country. Their meeting locations can be found here. This article offers a look at the benefits of grief support groups.
Go Online for Grief Support
If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your grief in person, an online grief support group might be a good option. There are online support groups and forums specifically for people who’ve lost a loved one to addiction.
Speak with a grief professional. Though these tips for finding a therapist from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention were created for those coping with a suicide loss, they work well for those coping with drug addiction loss.
The tips provide great advice, such as asking your medical doctor for a therapist recommendation. They also provide links to organizations that can help you find a therapist, such as the U.S.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration mental health services locator, and those that can refer a therapist, such as the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers.
Help children close to the loved one. Whether you’re a parent or other family member of a child who has lost a parent or sibling to addiction or the parent or family member of an older child who lost a friend to the disease, it is important to know that children may require special help in coping with death and grief.
The Women’s and Children’s Health Network provides comprehensive information on how to help a child who’s grieving. It explains how children in different age groups—Preschool, Early Years of School, Later Primary School Years, and Teenagers—experience and express their grief. It also provides advice for parents on how to help them through this difficult time.
Use journaling to manage your grief.
This article discusses the helpful benefits of journaling when grieving and touches on the fact that many people don’t take advantage of the benefits of journaling because they find it “difficult, frightening, overwhelming, or counterproductive.
” It also provides tips for overcoming this aversion to journaling. For example, there are no rules when it comes to journaling–don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. And help yourself get in the habit by sticking to short amounts of time, 5 or 10 minutes to start.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Grieving is a stressful and taxing process. This article provides self-care suggestions for those who are grieving. For example, the article recommends participating in an activity you’re good at, taking a walk outside, listening to a relaxation exercise, and much more.
And be sure to get plenty of sleep. As this article notes, sleep patterns are often disrupted by grief. It provides tips on how you can ensure you’re getting enough rest as you grieve.
Listen to music. As this article notes, music can play a big role in guiding you through the grieving process. It recommends looking through the list of “Grief Songs: Music for a Grieving Heart” to see if there are any that appeal to you. Grief playlists can also be found here.
Don’t avoid your grief. This article from WebMD explains that those who’ve lost a loved one to an addiction may seek out ways to avoid their grief. The article notes that using drugs and alcohol, throwing one’s self into work, and avoiding feelings can greatly hinder the grieving process.
How to Handle the Outside World
Don’t blame yourself or others. This report from the UK’s ADFAM explains that it is common for loved ones to blame themselves after the loss of a loved one to an addiction.
Often, family members and friends search for ways they could have helped more or look for what they did wrong.
As the report notes, unfortunately, these feelings of blame prevent loved ones from being able to move on.
Ease back into work. The University of California, Berkley presents “Guidelines for Responding to Death.” This section on dealing with grief and work provides great suggestions on how to handle returning to work after the death of a loved one.
For example, it provides great help on how to handle communicating with coworkers: Consider what and with whom you want to share about your loss and know that while most coworkers will be sympathetic they may not know exactly how to express their concern to you.
Respect their limits.
Develop tools for coping. GRASP offers advice on how to develop coping tools that will help you deal with the “realities of living.” GRASP recommends sticking to a regular schedule. The group stresses the importance of understanding that the grieving process is slow, and you shouldn’t try to rush yourself through it.
Talk about it with family/friends. Talking through your grief is part of the healing process, and yet, it can be a very difficult thing to do.
This article from Psychology Today explains why it is so difficult—often others simply don’t know how to give you the support you need. The article also provides tips for grievers.
For example, it suggests first asking someone if it is OK to discuss your grief with them and then always thank them for listening.
And these tips provide great advice for those providing support to a grieving person. They offer a list of things not to say and explain that often the greatest role you can play is that of kind listener.
Don’t compare yourself to others. As this article on dealing with the outside world while grieving explains, we have a tendency to compare our own grief to that of others. For example, as the article notes, we might chastise ourselves for not coping with a death as well or as quickly as someone else who recently lost someone. These comparisons aren’t productive.
Avoid making money decisions. Grief can muddle your thinking and decision-making. Because of that fact, as this article recommends, it is a good idea to avoid making major financial decisions while you’re grieving. For example, the article suggests waiting to make decisions on selling your home or paying off a mortgage.
Don’t “throw” yourself back into your normal routine. As these tips on how to grieve point out, those around you will go back to their daily lives. However, that doesn’t mean you should rush yourself back into your normal routine. Don’t let the outside world distract you from your grieving process.
Be open to receiving help. This article takes a look at healthy and unhealthy ways to respond to grief. The “Unhealthy” section of the article cautions those who are grieving from thinking they have to do everything on their own. Recognize that you are going through a difficult time and know that it is more than okay to accept help from others.
Healing After the Death of an Addict
Help reduce the stigma. This article points out the stigma that still surrounds drug and alcohol addiction. It encourages those who know and understand what addiction is, to inform others in order to help reduce the stigma associated with addiction. In doing so, you can play a role in making sure people get the help they need.
A great way to heal after the death of an addict is to help raise awareness about the dangers of addiction and the pain it causes those who suffer from it.
The groups below, many of them formed by family members who’ve lost a loved one to addiction, work to raise awareness about addiction:
Give back. Giving back and the positive feelings that come with it can be an important part of the healing process. This article from the University at Buffalo provides seven reasons to give back. For example, the social connections that come from volunteering can be a great way to overcome loneliness, and it can also help people feel “needed and appreciated.”
Host a vigil. Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education Task Force (NOPE Task Force) is a group that encourages others to host vigils in remembrance of loved ones they’ve lost to addiction.
These vigils help participants heal from the loss and also raise awareness in the community about addiction. The group recommends three different types of vigils: Community Vigils, Campus Vigils, and Home Vigils.
Find out if there is a local chapter in your area here.
Leave a tribute. International Overdose Awareness Day offers a Tribute page on their website so that people who’ve lost someone to addiction can commemorate their loved one. Tributes can be added here. International Overdose Awareness Day recognizes that you may also want to remember your loved one in other ways. The organization offers silver pins to wear in remembrance of your loved one.
Campaign for changes in drug law and policy. An article from TheFix.com tells the stories of mothers who channeled their grief from losing children to addiction into creating change. One mother advocated for the passing of a 911 Good Samaritan law in her state.
These laws give fellow drug users some protection from drug charges when they call 911 for someone who has overdosed. The article tells about another mother who became involved in educating others about drug addiction and how to prevent it.
More information about becoming involved in drug policy reform can be found via the Drug Policy Alliance.
Commemorate your loved one in your home. This article provides great tips on how to commemorate your loved one through a home design project. For example, the article suggests planting a tree in their memory, displaying their photos, framing and hanging one of their favorite pieces of clothing, and other great ideas for commemorating the death of an addict.
Additional Resources on Dealing with the Death of an Addict
Mourning The Loss Of An Addict
For many people, grief is the process of mourning the loss of a loved one, moving through the painful yearning to have them back by your side. But what if that emptiness has been there for a while? How do you grieve for a conflicted relationship?
Unresolved Grief and Substance Abuse
Not every relationship is smooth or free of conflict. Many people have mixed feelings about the person that they lost. This is especially true when an addict dies, and even more significant if the two of you have been estranged for a while.
Be honest with yourself — in every moment
The first thing you can do and should do when losing a loved one to addiction is a promise to follow up each guilty, self-hatred thought with, “This was not my fault.” As hard as it is to believe, it is the truth. Addiction is a serious, often deadly disease, but any disease, no one person is to blame.
Allow yourself the opportunity to name your emotions, even the ones you may feel guilty about. Mourning an estranged addict loved one forces you to analyze every aspect of the entire relationship. You are bound to have these mixed feelings. Remember, no relationship is perfect.
Conflicted relationships can often complicate pain in the wake of death. It can be more challenging grieving, and you may fixate on the not-so-pleasant memories of the time and distance spent apart. Invite these feelings in, and open up with others about them. The more you hold in, the more damage you can cause.
We can help you overcome addiction and get your life back. Your calls are always free and 100% confidential.
Understand the Stages of Grief
During the bereavement of an addict or anyone you love, we spend different lengths of time working through and expressing different emotions, at varying levels of intensity.
Most psychologists call these the five stages of grief, but that description can be a bit inaccurate. Simply put, grief is just not that simple. However, it’s important to recognize that there are common emotions involved with the loss of a loved one.
They may not happen in any specific order, but many people experience them all before moving on to acceptance and peace.
However, when you lose a loved one to addiction, your grief can be more complicated. Here are the stages of grief and ways you can make healthy progress when you are dealing with unresolved grief from substance abuse.
You may immediately feel this can’t be real, especially if your loved one has made frequent hospital trips due to his or her addiction. You may feel inclined, at first, to think they’re going to pull through, just the other times. It’s normal to try to rationalize these painful emotions, a strategy your mind uses to slow down the pain from the shock of the loss.
You may also find yourself denying that you care. You have been estranged from this person for months or even years, and though you love him or her dearly, they have caused you great harm. Don’t try to decide which emotions are right and which are wrong. Allow yourself to feel them without judgment, accepting them as a valid way to feel in this moment.
When the reality of the situation, and its pain, finally sink in, it’s going to hurt — a lot. These intense emotions, overwhelming our hearts and minds, can often be expressed instead as anger.
The anger may be aimed at the deceased — you gave them so many chances, spent so much time and money… why couldn’t they love you enough to go to drug rehab? Rationally, you know the person is not to be blamed; the addiction is. That may lead you to feel guilty for being angry, maybe even becoming angry at yourself.
Your anger at them for not beating their addiction can also swiftly turn into anger at yourself for not doing more.
Seeing a grief counselor or a therapist can help you talk through these emotions to face the reality of death. In 2016, 60,000 people, and maybe even more, died from an overdose. That number doesn’t even take into account people who pass away due to complications of their addiction, cirrhosis of the liver or heart attack from stimulants.
This can be a pretty profound emotional state for someone mourning the loss of a drug addict. This normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is elevated because you feel responsible.
You weren’t there recently and you weren’t there when the death occurred.
You may say to yourself, “If I hadn’t cut him off, I could have been there when he needed medical attention…” or, “If only I made her go to rehab one more time…” or even, “If only I had been a better parent…” Death from addiction is so complicated.
Keeping a journal of these emotions can help you reflect on them from day to day, and allow you to see any patterns emerging. For example, when you had to clean out the deceased’s apartment, how did you feel? Log a journal entry describing the experience. Being able to attach moments of bargaining to what you’re experiencing can help you move forward.
When mourning, depression can result from a general sense of worry about the costs of burial, correcting unresolved issues and going through their belongings. However, it can also result from not having seen the person for a while before their death, and imagining the worst.
This depression could convince you of a lot of things, creating scenarios that may or may not be real because you weren’t there to know. You might also feel depressed because of the stigma of death from addiction.
You may experience isolation or a lack of sympathy from people close to you.
During this stage, you should try to stay social and active. Go to the gym, join a running group or take long walks in nature. Visit with supportive friends and family members, even in small doses. Most importantly, when you feel overwhelmed, ask for help.
The grief from losing a loved one to drugs or alcohol doesn’t go away quickly or easily; it probably never fully will. You will have moments where you completely second guess yourself, and times when you feel peace and clarity.
It’s when those times of peace outnumber those times of depression that you’ve come to a place of acceptance. That doesn’t mean you no longer feel, or don’t get angry from time to time, but it means that you recognize you couldn’t have changed this situation and that this person’s death isn’t your fault — or theirs, either.
You make your peace with reality and focus your memory on the positive, hopeful times you shared.
Mourning the death of someone from drug addiction is so complicated that there is no manual, no how-to guide you can follow word for word. Your experience will be uniquely yours.
However, if any of the stages of grief seem prolonged, friends and family seem overly worried about you or you have taken to cope with these emotions with illicit substances yourself, you must reach out for mental health help.
You are not at fault, and you are not alone. Where there is a help, there is always hope.
At Vertava Health Massachusetts, formerly Swift River, we are here for you. Let us help.
Addiction, Grief, And Loss: What’s The Connection?
Loss is traumatic. Unfortunately, at some point in every person’s life, they will experience some type of loss.
From the sudden death of a family member to the cessation of a meaningful relationship with a loved one, losing someone significant can disorient and strip anyone from previous ties with logic. Loss can even increase the risk of someone developing addictive behaviors and unhealthy habits.
For this reason, the heartache brought on by losing a loved one is strongly correlated with the development of substance use disorders and relapse on alcohol and drugs. By understanding the link between addiction and grief, people can prepare for the ways that the death of a loved one can negatively impact their ability to cope with uncomfortable emotions.
If someone sinks into a hole of addiction after losing someone close to them, substance abuse treatment programs and other support groups can help.
How The Brain Grieves
Grief isn’t “all in your head”; it’s also in your body.
Grief affects the human limbic system and disrupts our brain chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are thought to be deeply intertwined with mood, happiness, and emotional stress regulation. Coincidentally, alcohol and drugs affect many of these same brain chemicals.
Bereavement means “the state of being where someone is grieving the death of a loved one.” It characteristically includes a prolonged and indefinite period of suffering. One study by the Journal of Behavioral Medicine on health outcomes associated with the years of mourning found that losing a loved one, directly and indirectly, causes several negative health repercussions.
One of these adverse health repercussions was a declined sleep quality after losing a loved one, and another included an increase in alcohol consumption in the years of grief.
It’s no wonder that grief and loss can lead to someone developing a life-threatening addiction to drugs or alcohol. For, the brain and the body both feel loss, and loss can manifest as physical pain and biological complications.
When Someone Can’t Cope
Life is complicated, and death is an unavoidable part of life. When someone never properly developed the coping mechanisms necessary to deal with the loss of a loved one, they may have more trouble coping than their peers.
If someone cannot tolerate losing a loved one, or doesn’t have a proper support network to help them sort through their complicated grief, they may turn to external substances to take the edge off of their pain.
Of course, there is no one “right” way to deal with loss or grieve a loved one. However, drugs and alcohol can worsen grief and prolong the healing process. Proper coping mechanisms do the opposite. In fact, they help people find healthy ways to sit with and work through their uncomfortable feelings, so they heal wholly and avoid any dysfunctional adaptations to pain.
Symptoms of Grief
People who are experiencing grief will ly encounter a rollercoaster of emotions. Some of these most common emotions might include:
- Difficulty concentrating or inattentiveness
These symptoms may lead to or accentuate the physical consequences of grief, trouble sleeping, tiredness, and an overall disruption in eating patterns.
All of these “side effects” of grief are natural reactions to losing someone you love or experiencing an immense amount of stress.
The Grieving Process
While other animals grieve their loved ones, humans are particularly unique in our innate ability to form lasting emotional ties.
The desire to emotionally “attach” to others is a need rooted in human survival. This need is less a logical choice than an intuitive pull.
Therefore, the breaking of these emotional ties during death isn’t a rational process for people to tread through, either.
According to the Kubler-Ross Model, there are five distinct stages of grief one can expect to experience after they lose a loved one. These stages include:
People who mourn do not always experience these stages in chronological order, or for any particular time. Sometimes, people experience these stages more than once, or seesaw between a few steps.
It may take months or even years to return to “normal” after losing someone you love. This is typical and it’s crucial to be gentle with yourself while grieving.
Losing A Loved One In Recovery
Many people recovering from substance use disorders, drug addiction or alcoholism, experience the death of a friend or family member while in recovery.
Unfortunately, death and pain can make many people question their sobriety and prompt the return of an urge to use drugs or alcohol.
If someone in recovery from addiction loses a loved one, it might be a good time to develop a healthy relationship with a higher power and reach out to a strong and supportive network of peers. Or, it may be time to intensify your relationship with a self-defined entity that is greater than yourself and any earthly afflictions.
Relationships are the foundation on which humans develop and thrive. When someone loses a loved one, they often find themselves groundless, lost, and scared.
Sometimes, it can shake peoples’ faith and disrupt their ability to make and maintain healthy connections with others.
In such a vulnerable time, developing a strong social network of understanding friends and family is necessary for addicts and alcoholics in recovery.
What To Do If You Need Help
If you or a loved one recently lost a friend or family member and may be dependent on drugs or alcohol, seek addiction treatment today. Treatment facilities Hotel California by the Sea can address the recent loss of a loved one and provide addicts and alcoholics with the coping mechanisms necessary to stand through their grief.
Multiple support groups exist for people who’ve lost a loved one, if attending a treatment center for addiction isn’t your top choice. However, proper mental health and addiction treatment can help people who are grieving develop the necessary coping skills to build resilience and live life bravely.
Reach out to our inpatient treatment center today if you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction. Our admissions staff is ready to assist you with any questions or concerns.
What it is to Lose a Family Member to Alcoholism?
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One of the biggest misconceptions about alcoholism is that it takes a long time to take effect. Many believe that serious health concerns about alcoholism require years of drinking before a full addiction and alcoholism can occur.
Alcoholism in a Progressive Disease
Admitted alcoholics will tell you their alcoholism dates from the earliest days of their drinking; it just took years to admit their alcoholism. Some alcoholics will even admit that the first time they got drunk, they knew their drinking was going to be a problem – but denial prevented them from admitting to themselves just how bad it could get.
The Progression of Alcohol Abuse to AlcoholismUsing Alcohol to Manage Mood, Stress, or Anxiety
When Alcohol Begins to Control Your Life
There is a saying that goes, “alcohol creates a need for itself,” an idea that is very familiar to alcoholics. With an alcohol dependence, alcohol rules everything in one’s life and determines what one does. Daily behaviors are controlled by the need for alcohol. As such, alcohol is in control, not the alcoholic.
At this point, an alcoholic won’t engage in activities or go out with friends and family if it hampers the ability to access alcohol.
The alcoholic’s whole life revolves around a schedule designed to keep an adequate level of alcohol in the bloodstream and to minimize symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
To others, it becomes obvious that alcohol is in control of the alcoholic’s life, but the alcoholic feels he or she is successful in managing the problem.
Generally fatal, end-stage alcoholism is marked by significant health problems and the inability to quit drinking – even with all the health problems being experienced.
Heart and liver problems, pancreatic issues, and cognitive issues are common at this point, and alcoholics are usually given final, desperate warnings by their doctors that alcohol will kill them.
A decision must be made by alcoholics: will they allow alcohol to kill them, or will they fight to survive and quit drinking?
If an individual quits drinking, there may still be hope. If an alcoholic cannot quit drinking, even at the end-stage, a sad and slow death ensues.
Dying from Alcoholism is the Hardest Thing a Family Member Will Ever Have to Witness
Losing a family member to a terminal, progressive disease can rip right through the soul. Seeing a loved one struggling to stay alive while the body gives out is heart wrenching and frightening.
Many families have to watch a family member die from various terminal illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and leukemia.
These diseases are agonizing, too, but end-stage alcoholism is truly a horrendous end to the gift of life.
Families That Lose a Loved One to Alcoholism
After a loved one dies from alcoholism, families experience significant grief, and the most common things that family members say afterward are:
“If only we had acted sooner to get him help.”
“He said he had it under control; why did we believe that?”
“What more could we have done that would have saved him?”
Families often blame themselves for the death of a loved one from alcoholism, but the family and friends of alcoholics should not blame themselves. As long as families have done everything to make help accessible to the alcoholic, then they have done what they can to help turn their loved one’s life around.
All that families can do is provide their alcoholic loved ones with an opportunity to help themselves. The most important thing not to do is enable the addiction, i.e., make it easy to continue drinking as the loved ones continue edging toward end-stage alcoholism.
The Dangers of Enabling Alcoholism
Counterintuitively, families sometimes enable their loved one’s addiction love, believing they are helping. Enabling alcohol addiction is not helping, even though motherly and fatherly instincts would seem to indicate.
While the idea of enabling alcoholism can be difficult for families to recognize and address, it is something that MUST be addressed.
If families continue to enable their loved ones’ alcohol abuse, even when they are slowly killing themselves with their drinking, then the families are contributing to their death.
Those words may sound harsh, but they are truthful. Enabling an addiction does not benefit the welfare of the loved one. Rather, it lessens the chance that a change in lifestyle can occur. In cases of alcohol addiction, no change in lifestyle can easily lead to death.
How Family First Intervention Can Help a Loved One in Danger of Dying from Alcohol
When we work with families on alcohol interventions, we look at the big question: “Why hasn’t this person received treatment. Why hasn’t this person been able to recover? What are the roadblocks impeding sobriety, and why does the prospect of drinking to death seem to be this person’s only choice?”
When dealing with the risk of alcoholism progressing into the end-stage, we aim to remove roadblocks to recovery, obstacles such as enabling behaviors, guilt and shame, and underlying conditions that have prevented recovery in the past. Serious alcoholism must be dealt with as an emergency situation, and our certified interventionist professionals can help your family deal with this emergency before it is too late.
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