How Do I Deal with Losing a Loved One to Addiction?

How Do I Deal with Losing a Loved One to Addiction?


One of the most difficult things is to lose a person to addiction. So much energy, time and focus can be given to the other person’s addiction and trying to save the person from themselves that an individual’s identity can become lost. Learn what to expect when leaving a person with addiction and how to cope with the stages of grief.


Toll of Addiction

Loving a person with addiction can feel challenging at the best of times. An individual may spend years loving a person who is struggling, trying to provide help and recognize the damage being done. The person who leaves may feel a lack of gratitude and love coupled with a anger, disgust and hate. An individual may choose to leave and that can be a necessary step to healing.


5 Stages of Loss

After leaving, a period of time will go by when emotions are high and the loss feels great. Similar to the stages of loss when a person passes away, it is important to go through each stage in order to receive healing and move on which can take time.


Stage One – denial: Shock is the main feeling as the person leaves and tries to feel convinced that was the proper course of action. Perhaps the person with addiction will get help, perhaps not. Keeping tabs on the person with addiction may occur, justified by saying it is just to make sure the person is OK. It is hard at this stage to accept the other person is not trying hard to make changes to win back affection.


Stage Two – anger: Addict is moving on without the person who was seemingly there the most through everything. Reality sets in and a defense mechanism kickstarts which usually comes in the form of rage. Questions of why a person was not good enough to change for and feeling stuck raising kids, paying unpaid bills and other issues can prolong the phase.


Stage Three – negotiation: Anger subsides and it becomes apparent the person is no longer part of the individual’s life and may still be using or in recovery. Bargaining may begin to see if an outcome could have been different had things gone differently.


Stage Four – sadness and depression: When emotions blind people to feelings, depression can begin. No longer able to justify or rationalize or make excuses for behavior and other issues, it becomes apparent the end has come and sadness kicks in.


Stage Five – acceptance and moving on: An individual gets sick and tired of feeling the way he or she feels and starts to realize more out of life is desired than what was experienced with the person with addiction. Freedom and independence which was not available prior to the relationship brings a sense of hope for new life. Moving on can take years but with persistence it will happen and peace will come.


Grief is a normal response to losing a loved one to addiction. Recovery is available for everyone, regardless of addiction. If you or a loved one needs support after losing a loved one to addiction or help for your own substance abuse problem, call us. We are here to help set you on the path to recovery from addiction.