Surviving Relapse in Grief: How to Cope with Death
The Truth About Drugs and Death
No words express the emptiness loved ones leave behind in death.
In the pits of despair temporary relief in the bending of reality seems the only escape from the madness. In this, drugs become a portal of escape.
The first time I took a hit was when my mother died.
She was not my birth mother, but an adopted second-mother. Someone who took me into her home with open arms without a thought of repayment. She and her two sons became part of my closest family over ten wonderful years together. And then she was gone.
I’ve always abstained from drugs because of the stories my father told me of addiction when I was five. I never wavered throughout highschool or college, but when I was offered a toke, I didn’t say no.
And my first time didn’t help.
Neither did the second. Or third. Or tenth.
Drugs cannot replace the emptiness– they only distract, and then in soul-piercing clarity, reveal the dirge one tries so desperately to forget.
Lost in an abyss I was convinced would never relent, I allowed myself to wander in and out of sobriety and complete inebriation. Whether it was alcohol or drugs– I didn’t care. In the moment I knew what I was doing would not bring her back to life– but I could not bear to be alone with my emotions.
I needed a tranquilizer.
But here’s what I didn’t know:
Drugs are anything but tranquil.
Relapse Prevention: Coping with Death
Through my brief encounter with an addictive substance I quickly found myself relying heavily upon, I stumbled across self-truths which may reverberate with one of you. And if it is, then writing this piece is entirely worth it.
Drowning myself in alcohol forced my depression deeper.
Consciously I knew alcohol is a depressant, and therefore perpetuates foul moods, but I didn’t care. I simply didn’t want to feel anymore. So I drank until I couldn’t. I didn’t eat. I didn’t change my clothes. I engaged in behaviors I never thought I would have– too shameful to recount.
It wasn’t until I allowed myself to share my grief with my loved ones that I was able to part with the bottle. People need people.
People need the right people.
My best friend saved my life, despite losing his mother.
Lean On Your Loved Ones
When I fell into the pit of self-medication I was useless to everyone around me. I left my home to help ease the tumult of grief for my loved ones up north, but only contributed to it with my behavior. When you are consumed by the need to be consumed, cling to your loved ones. Spit out your feelings. Yell, scream, kick if you must- but do not internalize your loss.
Drugs seem the easiest escape from those demons we deny voice- and this is precisely what must be avoided.
Relapse is merciless and ever wakeful.
2. Acknowledge Your Feelings
Allow yourself to feel. Respect your feelings, and let them pass over you in waves outwardly. Oftentimes we entreat numbness over the raw grips of pain, but this leads to future heartbreak one cannot afford in recovery.
But, be smart.
Do not allow yourself to wallow alone. Reach out to your friends and family, sponsor, or sober group.
Even if you do not frequent AA or NA, make an effort to place yourself in an environment of recovery. For you this may take form in hanging out with your best friends at home or favorite coffee shop.
When troubled, I always find I wind up in a bookstore. It never fails.
3. Know Your Triggers
I was battling more than my newfound drug of choice– I allowed myself to indulge in self-harm. Grief is a special madness, deft in chipping away years of progress and overwhelming sensibility. Remaining aware of heightened fragility is absolutely essential in keeping relapse in check while coping with the death of a loved one.
Identify your triggers. Mine were being trapped in the house where she once lived. I stayed there for three weeks. I would have done better to have found alternative sleeping arrangements- but necessity dictated I remain with my family.
I mention this because in the face of tragedy, we may not be in a position to remove ourselves from our triggers. Finding ways to cope in active “trigger” areas is absolutely essential. I am heavily reliant on essential oils and crystals for mental health– whereas many take comfort n crochet or stress balls.
Find something portable and tangible that works for you. It may be an app, video chatting with your favorite humans, or losing yourself in a book. Find something to become the focus of your attention. Take your hobbies, passions, and loves, and get creative in finding ways to take them with you in a bag or pocket.
I’ll help you brainstorm in the comments below. What are you passionate about?
4. Know Time Heals All
Although major family and life events will paint anew grief, time heals. You will never forget who you have lost, but your sweetest memories of them will entice laughter again. When you’re in the throes of depression remind yourself “this too shall pass.” Though it may seem a feat of impossibility, time teaches us how to breathe again.
May our beloved darlings rest in peace.
About the Author
JessiRae Pulver-Adell is an addiction & recovery blogger for Harbor Village. She writes to elucidate the disease of addiction and is an activist for the homeless and animals. She enjoys furry creatures, Jrock, and towering bookshelves! Have a story or a pitch to share? Email her directly at Jupveradell@harborvillageflorida.com.