Navigating the Stages

We’ve all heard of the stages of Grief..

  • Shock
  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • testing
  • acceptance

And we know that they don’t keep to a timeline, or necessarily run in a nice neat order; just like life follows its own path, so does the journey through grief.

And we grieve, not just the loss of people – through death, abandonment or separation; but other losses – jobs, relationships, health, pets, even dreams and hopes, when life turns a corner you weren’t expecting…

And while we travel the stages of grief, we naturally seek comfort from wherever we can find it – friends, whanau, sleep, exercise and of course substances. Many people’s journey to addiction and depression stems from an event, or a series of events that threw them off balance, changing the journey they were on. And sometimes those very substances, which lulled with a promise of healing and forgetting, roadblock us in a loop, unable to attain that final goal of acceptance and closure….

Every addict, or person with depression I’ve met, has some story, some point in their lives, when life deviated, and they found themselves using a substance to make it all go away. Either a bad start to life, or an unexpected loss along the way..  Of course, it isn’t that simple – otherwise everyone would be an addict – every person will have to deal with grief at some point in their lives. But for some of us, a setting is turned on or off, and we rely on a substance to get through the days. The fall out for addicts is often huge. They lose family, jobs, their health, their self esteem… all losses that can then add to the grief burden and reinforce the addiction.

I’m no grief expert, or addiction counsellor, but I can identify the points in my own life, that have led to me dealing with burn out, and using alcohol – to become “Comfortably Numb”…

And at some point we all have to make a decision – continue the downward spiral OR decide to seek something better. We choose Recovery. Which isn’t as easy as deciding I will just stop drinking, drug taking, or I will just stop being depressed or burned out… It is deciding to start a new way of living; a healthier way, and that might actually include dealing with more loss, as we lose the old crutches that supported us, maybe even changing the friends we hang out with, and the things we take for granted… There will be more things to grieve, before we can even start moving forward..

And central to every recovery, is the facing the things that we are grieving… facing the demons, the disappointments; the disasters… one day at a time, one thing at a time… this too is a process, one that has no fast setting, no instant reset button… And it is hard. Hard to change our habits, hard to acknowledge that we may be one of the problems…

And we have to accept that we cannot do it alone. Grief needs to be fought on several fronts, and we all need back up. Some join a programme; some will do it with counselling; some will do it with supportive friends and whanau. Some are finding comfort in an online community of strangers, who all have something in common, they know where you’ve been and they’re cheering you on from the side-lines…

Some of us will never finish the grief cycle, but we can find a healthy way to live and thrive without it dominating… Finding acceptance of our past, and consolation in our future..

I hope all of you find comfort, strength and support in your new lives. Because you have chosen a new healthier way of life,  you have made the first step. May you find the power to face the source of your grief and heal your way through the stages..

You will find me, and others, here cheering you on from the side-lines…

Navigating the Stages was contributed by @ChrisBzchris

Chris’ blog can be found at:

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