When people think of grief, it is most often associated with the loss (death) of someone or something with which you had a bond or relationship. Grief can manifest itself in many ways emotionally, physically, cognitively, behaviourally, socially, culturally and spiritually. People who are grieving the death of a loved one are handled with such care and compassion by society. They are looked after, checked on and in cases where they have ‘acted out’ are more readily forgiven, because they are grieving. And so they should be, the loss of a loved one is the most painful thing to endure.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines grief as ‘A kind or cause of hardship or suffering’. More modern translations describe it as ‘a deep or violent sorrow, caused by loss or trouble; a keen or bitter feeling of regret for something lost, remorse for something done, or sorrow for mishap to oneself or others.’ Sound familiar? As a problem drinker I know I have suffered this grief. Yet, alcoholics are not afforded anywhere near the same sympathy or good will as someone grieving the loss of a loved one.
Now the purpose of this post is not to compare a recovering alcoholic with a widow. It is to highlight what you, the problem drinker/ alcoholic (or whatever you call yourself) are going through, by getting sober, is grief. You are most likely grieving a number of things:
- The loss of a loved one (‘drunk you’). This is the person you used to hold in such high regard. ‘Drunk you’ was funny, quick witted, said what you thought, did things ‘sober you’ would never have had the guts to do. Although ‘drunk you’ may well have fallen out of favour with ‘sober you’ in the past year, you still hold onto an affection for ‘drunk you’. In the beginning it was fun.
- The loss of a friend (alcohol). Your friend was the best. They were always there for you. They were the one you turned to for comfort when you had bad news and they were definitely first in line for the celebrations. Who would you go to now? How will you journey life’s ups and downs without them?
And that’s before you even get to the bitter feeling of regret, remorse for something done and sorrow for mishap to oneself or others. How the hell are you supposed to navigate all these emotions, alone?
You feel this extraordinary sense of loss, but no one is actually gone. You feel embarrassed, like you are being dramatic and making a big deal out of nothing. No one else understands, not your partner, your parents or your friends. Amongst the whirlwind of emotions you are experiencing, one most probably is grief.
So allow yourself to grieve. Treat yourself with kindness, compassion and afford yourself patience, it takes time to stop missing someone, to move on. But you will get there, when one door closes another always opens.