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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

02-02-17 | By

Recovery and Grief — On Grieving the Death of Someone Who Has No Obituary

2015 will be the year that my entire perception of reality changed. I grabbed a vodka bottle-shaped shotgun and aimed for oblivion in a friend’s house.

I took a week in a hospital to revive.

The Start of a Many-Year Long Journey.

That was one of many rocks at the bottom of my recovery. It was a horrible year as well as a pivotal turning point into what is now going to be a many-year long journey. But out of the many blessings my recovery has given me, my biggest one was that I was stopped chasing after a dead person.

I had to move across the country for me to pull myself out of my addiction. Not just my addiction to alcohol, but my addiction to my father. I was acting out in full-fledged insanity trying to get a man to conform to what I wanted and expected out of him. I actually had been for years. I expected him to still be the same father to me when I was 25 that he was to me when I was 12 or even 22. I expected that because I sacrificed many family connections for the support of our relationship, he would sacrifice any and all for me. I expected a perfect, ideal father that would go to the ends of the earth and walk through the fire with me. That’s who he had been for almost all of my life, and that’s what almost 20 years had conditioned me to know and expect.

However, people do change, and I was very bad at accepting not only the things I could not change, but the things I could not un-change. My symptoms manifested in drastic ways, and one of the many things that baffled myself and my sponsor the first few months of my sobriety was the hurricane of emotions that I was going through. They weren’t just the expected return of emotions that accompany no longer regularly dumping out the dopamine bucket in my brain, but instead were a mix of depression, anger, and desperation that resulted in bargaining-like phone calls to a man across the country.

My Five Stages.

I was going through an entirely different set of emotions, a set of 5 stages that mental health professionals have identified as the stages of grief:


My sponsor had had it up to the brim with me. She, for the life of her, couldn’t understand why I kept beating my head against a wall that wasn’t budging. Or worse, was sending me into suicidal fits of confusion. I kept reaching out to my father and trying to find ways to get him to let me come back home. New school, new plan of action, new way for him and my step-parent and myself to -maybe this time- actually go to therapy. I thought after the 700th “no”, maybe the answer would change.


The people I lived with were concerned for the manic state of my head. I would be relatively okay and happy, then reality would seep in. I would come back from a run and have been able to semi-process some of the absolutes that had become my life — and suddenly no amount of time on the treadmill could calm the hot, fiery hate that was flowing out of every pore. I hated men. I hated God. I hated that you had an idea of God. I hated science. Science broke my brain. I hated you, I hated your family, I hated you more because you had a family. I hated that you had parents, I hated that you knew love, and I hated that you hadn’t had your entire perception of consistency blown to minuscule pieces.


I then called across the country, and I tried explaining my side a million different ways. My mind would say, “He will come back if you say it like this,” remind me, “He was there for you when you did this, so if you do it again you’ll get a similar result.” I would try everything within me to pull him out of this own world and back into my reality. Dad, you were RIGHT there, I remember touching you, why couldn’t you hear me?


And my father just spewed back whatever I couldn’t handle hearing. This was my fault. I haven’t changed. I will never grow up. All I learned was how to not drink. Find a man to take care of you.


It took 9 solid months of cycling through this process before I could finally go to my sponsor and have half a clue of what was transpiring in my head. I had gone through the stages of grief over and over for someone who wasn’t physically dead. But he was dead. And that’s where the last and final home stretch is.

Accepting What Is.

The man that I knew for those 20 something years was dead, and I had to let it go. It isn’t my place to judge the health and integrity of the new person that’s there, but I was kicking and screaming and throwing combat punches at a rock-solid headstone thinking I could change reality. I wish I had that knowledge a few months ago because it could have saved me and my poor, poor sponsor a ton of agony as to what I was doing. I was miserable to be around. I was feeling such immense, wave-like and consuming emotions it’s a miracle I didn’t relapse. I can now rationally understand why those emotions had the same intensity that you feel when someone actually dies, but back then, because he had no corpse, no obituary, it made no sense why I was feeling such strong things.

Fortunately this perspective is now something I can share with others in recovery. It’s easy to chalk up a mix of wild feelings to “your chemicals in your brain are all messed up, and that’s what early sobriety is.” However, that’s only looking at the nature part of recovery. Addiction is 9 out of 10 times (I’d argue 10 out of 10) a result of both genetic and environmental factors, it’s nature and nurture combined. So if the two together brought your addiction, then the two together will be a part of your recovery.

You are probably going to have to grieve in early sobriety. One of the hardest things to grieve is the people you lose that are still alive. They could be toxic family members, or they could be friends that diverged onto a different path than the one that you’re now taking. However, the awareness that you’re grieving should give you a little hope that it will get better, and maybe a little insight on how to go with the cycle instead of running up against it. Grieving for the lives you’re losing is tough, but it’s a step in the right direction for the new life you’re recovering for yourself.


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