I’m talking about purposely looking for relief from the pain of grief with a substance, the most common of which is alcohol. I’m talking about unhealthy self medication.
I’m not talking about those who have lost a loved one and are suffering suicidal ideation, have reached out for help and are taking the appropriate medication. I’m not talking about parents who’ve lost a child and have a prescription to help with sleep in those first months. I’m not talking about people who take medication for mental health condition. I’m not talking about one glass of wine.
The truth is, mind-altering substances are not an effective anesthesia for life’s painful episodes and it has no proven efficacy for healing grief. Only causing it.
However, a trip to the bar seems to be the therapy people seek first–the first response of self care. It’s a crutch, a depressant and drinking to numb the pain is a slippery slope that doesn’t pay rewards but rather kicks you in the tail and throws three times the grief at you when you sober up.
Your mind typically gives you only as much as you can handle
Just when I thought I could not take it any more, the weight of grief would lift. It only seemed to do that if I resigned myself to it and went with the flow. At first, it seemed insurmountable and unbelievable. Ask anyone about their first year after losing a child, and they’ll describe the brain fog of grief brain.
Using a substance to numb it is cheating you out of a journey that is about the love you had for the one you lost. There is no secret salve that will heal your aching heart.
I don’t have the perfect answer. It’s hard. Damn hard.
Losing a child to suicide turned my whole world upside down and my life inside out. It changed me forever from that day forward. But I knew I’d not find the answer in a bottle of wine or whiskey. What’s more, I knew it would make things worse.
Healthy methods of coping
Everyone wants the instant fix. That’s why they turn to alcohol. Easy and available. Other methods require more of an investment of yourself at a time when it’s hard to find motivation or extra anything.
Meditation, writing, talking, support groups, faith, a personal therapist, hiking or other exercise are ways that help you learn to cope with grief.
I remember trying to run in the days after my son’s suicide. I thought there was no way I could do it. But since it was already a habit for dealing with emotional turmoil, I made myself because I was desperate to get out of my head and out of my house.
It was ugly, slow and my legs felt like they weighed one thousand pounds. I cried, I cussed, I prayed, I yelled at the air but I kept going and I didn’t ask too much of myself. I didn’t run for time, or to make an impression. I ran for me.
Every morning for a year and a half, I hated starting out. Every morning for a year and a half, I felt better once I had done it.
Don’t fall in the substance abuse trap. Please find your something.