Experiencing a Loss While in Recovery and Preventing the Threat of Relapse

Woman experiencing a loss

One of the most misunderstood factors of drug and alcohol addiction recovery is that getting off of drugs and alcohol is a journey, it is an ongoing quest, a lifetime adventure that one will continuously work on. In the media and in Hollywood movies, getting off of drugs and alcohol is sort of portrayed as this magical occurrence that one only has to do one time and they are suddenly “cured.”

There is this concept that all one has to do is go to a drug and alcohol treatment center on the beach for a couple weeks and poof! Just like that, they are free from an addiction for life. But in the real world, this is not how it is.

In the real world, getting off of drugs and alcohol is absolutely an accomplishable task, but it takes a lot more effort and determination than this to really accomplish it. In the real world, one cannot by any means hope to overcome a drug habit or an alcohol addiction that they have had for possibly several years, (maybe even a decade or more) in just a couple weeks at a treatment center. One simply cannot create a lifetime change in their existence and reverse a trend that has dominated their life for several years in just a few short weeks.

When a Drug Rehab Really Helps

When someone is trying to get off of drugs and alcohol, going to a rehabilitation or treatment center is really only the first step. An effective and qualified drug rehab that really has the intention of helping people is a treatment center that will offer services to their clients for several months or more.

One simply cannot hope to reverse lifestyle trends and ways of living that have dominated their lives for several years in only twenty-eight days, which is the usual amount of time that people spend in rehab. It simply does not work that way. So, the best treatment centers out there offer residential programs based on a result, not a length of time.

But even that is not going to completely “cure” someone of a drug habit. Going to treatment is the first step. A drug and alcohol treatment center can only provide the tools, it’s up to the individual to apply them and ultimately become a drug-free, happy, healthy, productive member of society.

With the help of a program that focuses on results, one is able to move forward in life, and is better able to conquer life’s challenges and problems on their own without having to resort to drug or alcohol use. Going to a treatment center gets one started on the path to recovery, but after rehab, it’s up to them to stay on the right track.

Tips on How to Work Through a Loss Without Relapsing

Happy gal with frineds

Here is a list of tips and guidance tricks that recovering addicts can utilize when they experience a loss and they feel their strength and fortitude quiver:

  • Spend time with your support group. Any recovering individual should have people to whom they ally themselves with, close family members, loved ones, and friends who support their sober lifestyle and who themselves are not using drugs or alcohol. During a loss, one’s ability to maintain their sobriety depends a lot on the support that they have through these troubling times. The worst thing that a recovering addict can do when they are going through a loss is to wall themselves up, close themselves off, and essentially step away from society. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, and in this case, supporting each other through grief is much better than trying to tackle it on one’s own.
  • Dive into your career and positive, growth-based activities. Any recovering addict should have activities and passions that they are very excited about. Part of starting a new life free from drugs and alcohol means pursuing a better lifestyle that involves pro-survival and positive activities. When a person experiences a loss, or other upsetting event or a problem, rather than backing off of one’s activities and career paths in grief, confusion, or sadness, one should have been given the tools to remain on the right path. It’s important to rely on these, rather than falling back on old behaviors.
  • Celebrate the person’s life. If one just lost a family member or loved one to a death, or if one just lost someone to a bad break up, rather than sitting in misery and in the grief of the loss, try instead to celebrate the good times and that person’s life and the positive effect that they had on one, be thankful for the experience, and that one was able to have that person in their life for however long they had them for. A good stable handling would be to focus on the right and goodness not the upset or wrongness or any given situation.
  • Focus on improving yourself. So often, experiencing a severe loss is immediately followed by stagnation and possibly even retrogression. These are the predecessors of relapse. When one experiences a loss, one should try instead to put oneself on a study course at the local learning center or college. Take a class, learn a new skill, read a book about a new activity. Branch out and learn something new regarding one’s career. Get a new hobby. Rather than stagnating in the loss, instead push forward into something new and interesting, not only to take attention off of the loss but to use the loss as an incentive to grow and bring new life into one’s day to day existence.
  • Help someone. One of the most common tools for getting out of a funk or for breaking free from a block is to go out and help someone. Helping others has a miraculous effect on our own health. When we help someone, we free up stuck points in our own minds and hearts and it allows us to not only feel good about ourselves but to break out of whatever difficulty we are currently faced with. Living a life of service is one of the most rewarding positions anyone can be in, and when one is struggling with the loss, there is never a better time to take time out of one’s day to help others.

These are just a few tips and strategies for preventing relapse after experiencing a major loss. Keep in mind that the important focus here is on forwarding growth, on celebrating the good things about the person, and on healing from the loss in a supportive fashion with one’s family members and loved ones. Unfortunately, experiencing losses is inevitable. It is just a part of life. One is going to experience loss whether one is a recovering addict or not. The important point to remember is that one should not let a loss be an excuse to relapse back to drugs and alcohol. Don’t let someone else’s death or departure from one’s own life be the impetus to harm one’s own life further.


Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.