Grief in Addiction: Grieving the Loss of a Dream

[fa icon="calendar"] May 18, 2016 9:00:00 AM / by Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

woman-by-water.jpgI made it through another Mother’s Day.  As a person who loves to celebrate, I definitely love the aspect of honoring the loving, nurturing women in our lives.  And, yet, it can still be a reminder of something that is missing in my own life – something that I dreamed of that didn’t take place because of the disease of alcoholism.

During the time when my friends in my age group were starting their families, I was dealing with my husband’s active alcoholism.  In my outer world I was shopping for baby items, attending showers, and rejoicing in the arrival of these new little bundles.  In my home life I was dealing with my husband’s DUIs and house arrests and lost jobs and the loss of intimacy in our marriage.  My interior and exterior worlds weren’t in sync.  I used my exterior world as an escape from the pain of what was happening at home.

On days like Mother’s Day, it feels easy to sink back into that pain and ruminate the fact that the circumstances of my life at the time did not allow the option of becoming a Mom.  It’s easy to blame.  It’s easy to feel hopeless.  The loss of a dream can feel overwhelming.  But, luckily in the process I’ve learned as a family member in recovery, I can find my way back to hope.

I start at the beginning.  When first finding Step 1 many years ago, it helped me tremendously in seeing my part in the role I had played in my marriage.  I was powerless over his drinking, and my thinking anything else was part of what was making my life unmanageable.  It was such an important realization!  By admitting this truth, I was able to start focusing on me and how I was showing up in my marriage and other relationships.  Little did I know at the time that I would continue to use this Step in so many other ways throughout my life.

On page 46 in “How Al-Anon Works” there is a sentence that says “With this First Step, we admit that we did not cause, cannot control, and cannot cure the alcoholic, the disease of alcoholism, or the fact that we have been affected by this disease.”  No matter how many years or how many times I practice these Steps, I cannot change the fact that I’ve been affected by alcoholism and addiction.  There may always be these events, like Mother’s Day, that bring back the difficult emotions of living in the midst of addiction.  And, yet, there’s hope.

The hope lies in admitting the reality of the situation: I still have difficult feelings that arise from time to time.  The hope lies in allowing myself to feel those feelings – not wallowing in them, but not avoiding them either.  The hope lies in seeing where unmanageability takes hold if I let these emotions run my life.  The hope lies in knowing that there are other Steps to take, and that I can turn these emotions over to a Higher Power.  Turning things over to my Higher Power entails letting go of how I think things should be in order to take a look at how things actually are.

When I accept my life as it is, and trust that my Higher Power has been involved along the way, I can see how the things that have happened in my life that were not to my liking have been, and continue to be, healed.  I have a passion for working with other family members impacted by addiction – and especially their children.  If I had children of my own, there may not have been space or energy in my life for this type of work.  I adore my niece and my nephew, and have a wonderful relationship with them.  Would the depth of those relationships have been possible if I had been focusing my energy elsewhere?

The 12 Steps offers us a promise of a spiritual awakening if we implement them in our lives.  For some of us, the awakening is that our life is much fuller and richer than what we had thought it was or could be.  We find there is much to be grateful for in our lives, even if there is still addiction present.  We stop living in “either/or” thinking and move to “both/and,” which opens the world up to us.

It’s difficult to get to that gratitude without the First Step.  Admitting our powerlessness, although it feels daunting at first, creates a freedom to live life more fully.  That freedom allows us to experience all aspects of our lives.  That freedom can even help us to walk through grief to find gratitude.


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Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, family recovery, women in recovery, Family Sober Support, Chemical Dependency

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Written by Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery

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