Grief and Anger Accompany Quitting Drinking and/or Using


For addicts and alcoholics who begin coming to terms with the idea that their days of using are over, it can be a devastating, drawn out process of anger, followed by grief, confusion, irritability, etc., which boils down to fear.  Think about the relationship you’ve had with your drug of choice, and imagine walking away from a very long term, intimate friendship.  Humans do not acclimate to change easily, and addicts without their drug, is a toddler without its binky.  There will be some inner temper tantrums.  It’s another part of the recovery process.  It’s emotional, overwhelming and for some of us, terrifying. 

For me, the breakup with alcohol was a long, drawn out process, in which I slowly weaned myself, not off of the booze, but the idea of not having any booze.  It weathered with me as futile.  This was at the end of my using, and as I began coming to terms with my impending loss, fury rose within me.  I was in such a rage, that I wanted to hurt somebody.  I wanted to throw things.  I wanted to attack.  Sitting with it was overwhelming for me, so I went on a run instead, while listening to Lincoln Park on full blast; but the run was a full on sprint which lasted for about an hour.  Adrenaline peaked for me that day, and the run helped with the anger, but then, what followed was intense bouts of grief.  Instead of sitting with this, I drank liquor instead, but the repercussions at this point, were what brought my alcohol abuse to a end.  The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a detox facility, withdrawing in the raw, without any source of medical relief.  Two weeks passed without much sleep, while my head was full of confusion.  I was able to keep busy doing laundry for the clients in the days where nervousness peaked, but my days with the bottle were over, and I had to face this war without any armor.  It was just me and the mirror at this point, and the woman looking back at me wasn’t very attractive.  She was a hot mess and she needed help.

I had a counselor in treatment who provoked some of us to anger.  She did this knowing that it was a good start for us to deal with our emotions.  I was one of the ones she often provoked.  I think it’s because anger was the only emotion I was in touch with at the time.  I couldn’t hide it for shit, and it allowed me to cry because it came up as rage, and when I rage, tears follow.  This was the beginning of all that fear clearing for me.  It was the tip of the iceberg in my overall healing.

I don’t miss alcohol today.  It is an old, weathered relationship that took a bad turn, and needed to be severed.  I am so comfortable and safe with the stability of my emotions now; I would be frightened to take a drink and feel high, followed by the intense low.  I don’t know how I managed all that high and low stuff for so many years.  It seems horrible to me now, knowing that I never could sustain a high for very long, yet I ruthlessly kept trying.  What’s futile, is that stupid relationship I had with vodka.  It was so unpredictable.  

Yes, you will feel a lot of crazy, hellish feelings in the beginning of your sobriety.  Let them arise and figure out a healthy way to release them.  Get some boxing gloves and a bag if you need to.  I’ve done this as well. It also helps to detox with others like yourself, where you can all vent and laugh at the idea of giving up your drug. Just please don’t give up – and remember, this is not eternal.