Grieving is something in which few aspire to be experts. Even non-alcoholics are poor performers in accepting and grieving their losses... but an Alcoholic in recovery had better not skip over the grief process. This excerpt from Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety shows the vital connection between successful long-term recovery and transcending loss.
You will not find recovery without the process of mourning. Most of us try to pull that off, but we can’t. Period. There is no conceivable scenario to avoid mourning in sobriety. You cannot go from drinking to recovery by skipping the pain of grief any more than you can go directly from Kindergarten to college. “After all, if our life is altered so dramatically by our trauma that we can hardly recognize it as our own, we might think it as a death,” says Kathryn Cramer. (Staying on Top When Your World Turns Upside Down, Penguin Books, New York 1990) “In a small but real way our life as we once knew it has died.” Death and grief go hand in hand.
You have a grievable loss. Failure to grieve, failure to grieve appropriately (e.g. without booze), or failing to even identify our losses as losses, sacks more attempts at long-term recovery than any other stressor. One thing few people respect or even notice about Alcoholics is the upheaval and loss we go through. Instead people seem more interested in the upheaval and loss we create.
Attention in group therapy is showered on abstinence. But look to those who have the most experience in their own recoveries and you’ll see people who have identified their losses, grieved them and transcended them. Every single one of them knows fully what he or she lost and is over it. Grief—the process, not the noun—belongs in treatment for Alcoholism. A full, real grief process. Not the infomercial version. It doesn’t happen in a series of handouts or a couple of DVDs. There are no shortcuts, and because there aren’t it is often overlooked in short-term treatment efforts. Mourning has to be an essential part of recovery’s curriculum. The carnage Alcoholism causes in our lives needs to be seen in the same light as grief counselors view a loss such as a natural disaster or untimely death.
-- Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pg. 72
Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, plus the new radio interview replay is available at alcohologist.com... and please read the new interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books. Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.