Recovery celebrates the gains people will experience when they let go of their addiction. Improved health, restored dignity, healed relationships — the gifts of recovery are innumerable, and each day of abstinence brings even more peace and possibility to the addict’s life. Rarely, though, do we acknowledge that recovery is marked as well by deep and profound loss.
Clients in recovery must say goodbye to habits, places and people that may have been the most important parts of their lives for years, even decades. Many report that their drug of choice was their “best friend”, the only constant source of support and relief they may have felt they had. They can no longer spend time in the places they frequented when they were using; their using crowd can no longer be the folks they count as their closest intimates. Even letting go of the routines that accompanied their addiction — the sound of the lighter against their cigarette, the ritual of sharing drugs that accompanied most social gatherings — are losses that may haunt recovering addicts for months, even years. Despite the countless benefits people will experience from choosing abstinence, their sadness and grief is as real and valid. Allowing recovering addicts to own, feel and speak about their losses communicates an understanding that change, no matter how positive, is always accompanied by endings. In this new beginning of sobriety, people need to know that they have the right to grieve what they are leaving behind. Despite the “friend” of addiction being an eventual killer, addicts often feel wistful about this necessary cutoff. Embracing recovery means bidding farewell to meaningful touchstones of the past, in order to enjoy the promises of a sober future.