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Grief Losing Someone You Lost Long Ago: An Addict Death Doesn’t Stop The Pain

 How can you say goodbye—again—to someone you’ve said this to so many times before? Addict death is not just once. It’s grief over and over.

            There were countless times I was sure I had lost my son, Josh, both emotionally, to addiction, and in reality, to death. It became Groundhog Day all over again, as they say. Even so, when his ultimate death came in early May, I was shocked and devastated. My daughter, Joelle, tells me she does not remember making the call to inform me.

An Addict Death Is Expected But Doesn’t Bring Relief

 I had prepared for this day—many times, many ways. It was only a matter of time. There had been many dress rehearsals: his many overdoses and attempts at suicide, and then his anoxic encephalopathic coma, myocardial infarction, a stroke involving his entire brain, and more, in 2009. He lived through death then—again. He’s been on borrowed time, and the sequels from 2009 continued to plague his health and worsen.

So, when he really did die—no coming back from the verge—I was surprised at how viciously I was shaken by actually losing him.

When you love someone who has an addiction, you learn to prepare yourself for the inevitability of what’s to come. There is so much to learn about and prepare for.  We, the loved ones, occasionally win the battle but there is no timetable, strategy, or tools (rehab, medications, counseling) of this war that you can count on. Despite what they all say: Love is not enough.

There are no set time tables for any of these fights and skirmishes.  Prepare for the fact that when you are fighting the foe of addiction, you rarely win this battle. Your loved one is the rope in the tug of war between you and the cult leader (addiction) and the addiction is usually stronger and more charismatic. The addiction, whether it is drugs, gambling, alcohol, sex or whatever, can soothe its prey with emotions and sweet words of promises that you can never match. Their addiction tool is there to take them out of reality and into Valhalla—temporarily. Nothing we can say, do, or provide will give our loved one the escape and feel-good cloak that their choice of addiction can provide.

            Addiction is the cult leader who promises your loved one comfort, escape, and release from reality, if only for a while. The cult leader smiles, knowingly, and envelopes them into the fold. But like all cult leaders, you must promise allegiance in order to feel good again.

We loved ones can only watch from the outside. Occasionally, we are able to pluck one out of that trap, but it takes constant monitoring to keep the addict from slithering back into the cult’s circle.  Our addicts do not want reality. It’s too hard, painful, and emotionally charged. I lost Josh to addiction years ago, and today I lost all of him to death on this plane of existence. Go with God my much-loved son.

Myths About Grieving

Myth: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.
Myth: It’s important to “be strong” in the face of loss. Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
Myth: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.
Myth: Grieving should last about a year. Fact: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person.
Myth: Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss. Fact: Moving on means you’ve accepted your loss—but that’s not the same as forgetting. You can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining the people we are.
From Help Guide

Check out Al-Anon for support

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How Pain Triggers Addiction

Overdose Grief Stigma


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Gail Dudley, D.O.
For more than twenty years Gail Dudley had a busy family practice with a hospital and nursing home component. Gail also obtained a MHA (Masters of Healthcare Administration) and completed a one-year health policy fellowship. Dr. Gail has worked in quality assurance and utilization review, hospice practice, and now works full time for a company that has contracts with Medicare and Medicaid to evaluate fraud, waste and abuse in the medical world. Gail describes herself as “a child from an abused childhood who ultimately decided to get ahead in life rather than remain a victim.” She became “a classic over achiever to make up for the losses and pain that accompany an abusive childhood as the daughter of an alcoholic.” The ex wife of an alcoholic and the mother of a son who has been struggling substance use since the age of 12, Gail is deeply familiar with the family disease of addiction. She is also the mother of a high achieving daughter. Gail is delighted to add her voice to Reach Out Recovery both as a medical professional and a mother who has experienced addiction from every aspect. "As someone surrounded on all sides (personal and professional) by addiction issues, I always try to help whenever and wherever I can."

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