Addiction, Grief, and Loss

Addiction can be the result of a loss just as a loss can be a result of addiction. These two can go hand in hand more often than one might realize. Often addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, money, and much more can end up ruining or worse, ending one’s life. Moreover, someone’s loss of a friend, family member, home, job, identity, and purpose can ultimately lead their life to a path of addiction. As a helping professional, we have to realize how one can affect the other and how to recognize which is causing the other. Addiction comes in many shapes and forms that a professional must be able to recognize. Loss is something most everyone must deal with at some point in their life which will then lead them to grieve that loss. Some individuals are able to grieve on their own and still live their day to day life in a healthy way. However, others do not know how to grieve and need support and guidance in order to get through their loss.

“Grief and loss associated with substance abuse have been connected to early life losses, losses that occurred while abusing substances, and losses encountered upon entering recovery.” (Furr, Johnson, & Goodall 2015) This quote from a scholarly article is focused on the prevalence of grief and loss in substance abuse and in its treatment. After a loss, it is common to see individuals turning to drugs or alcohol in order to escape the emotions, pain and grief. During the recovery an individual may face many unresolved emotions and feelings that they weren’t fully aware of while under the influence. These emotions and feelings may be related from a death or loss of something that was important to them in addition to the withdrawals the may face from coming off of the substance. An addict might have already had a substance abuse issue before the loss however, the loss could cause them to relapse resulting in the  need for treatment for not only for the addiction but for the loss as well.

Those that are going through treatment for substance abuse might experience loss because of the situation they are in. For example, if you had friends that you drank or used drugs with before you became sober, it is likely that these individuals will not be your friends throughout treatment and afterwards when your sober. You may also see opposite scenarios where an addiction could have caused a major loss. This may be that the substance abuse caused a loved one to be injured or die or even the loss on one’s child being taken away due to the drug or alcohol abuse.

In conclusion, addiction and loss are one in the same and can both be products of each other. It is important to understand whether working with addiction or in bereavement, the effects that each of these issues can have on the other. We should always take any loss whether it be loss of identity, a parent, or a home seriously because grief effects everyone differently. Grief and loss are often unresolved and never treated in a correct and healthy manner, leading to substance abuse or other unhealthy behaviors that affects someone’s life in a negative way. I believe that an agency such as The Hope and Healing Place is much needed and speaks volumes for those who need help dealing with their grief and loss. This agency advocates for families and children who have dealt with a loss dealing with suicide, infant loss, a parent or family member, a friend, and much more.

Work Cited

Furr, S., Johnson, W., & Goodall, C. (2015). Grief and Recovery: The Prevalence of Grief and Loss in Substance Abuse Treatment. Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling, 36(1), 43-56.


Submitted by Katelin Mitchell, A Hope & Healing Place Volunteer