I lost my mom in 2019 when I was still drinking. I can remember exactly what I had to drink after her memorial service – two margaritas and a very large vodka martini. I didn’t want to grieve. I wanted to forget.
Recently, I lost two very special people in my life within two weeks of each other – one like a father to me, the other like a sister. This time I didn’t want to forget like I did in 2019. I wanted to grieve. Funny how our minds work and how a few years can make such a difference. Stay with me as I share my journey from that dark place to where I stand today – a journey filled with healing, hope, and a profound shift in perspective.
The Complicated Landscape of Grief
At the time of my mom’s death, I wanted to forget the times I was not the perfect or even a good daughter and all the regrets of things left unsaid. I decided I'd rather escape the pain, even for just a little while, than actually deal with my feelings. So, I drank. Alcohol seemed like the perfect solution. It promised a break from the emotional storm, a brief respite from the hurt. But here's the thing, and I didn't or couldn't realize it in the moment – alcohol wasn't the answer. In fact, it made things even more confusing, and it significantly delayed my grieving (and healing) process.
Grief, unfortunately, is an inevitable part of the human experience, a complex and powerful emotional response to loss. It’s not easy. It has a way of casting a shadow over everything, making even the simplest tasks feel like monumental challenges. Grief affected me on every level – emotionally, mentally, and even physically. From sadness and anger to guilt and confusion, I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. It’s overwhelming to feel all the emotions flooding in. And it's not just when we've lost a loved one. We feel grief when we lose anything that held deep meaning to us – a job, a relationship, a pet – and the pain is real and valid. These emotions are a testament to the deep connection we share with what or who we have lost.
Escaping With Alcohol
Sure, I found momentary relief with alcohol. It temporarily dulled those intense feelings, but let me tell you, it’s a fleeting defense mechanism and it doesn't make them go away. It's like putting a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches – it might cover it up for a moment, but it doesn't actually heal the underlying hurt. And after that second or third or fourth drink, that's when the band-aid flies off and everybody better watch out for my emotional outbursts!
For about a year, alcohol tricked me into thinking I was doing better, but I was actually just putting off the healing process, and I fell into a cycle of avoidance. The grief of losing my mother hung over me until I dealt with it (sober) a year later.
The Power of Sobriety
On the first anniversary of my mom's death, I had been sober for about two months. That week I sat with my emotions. I did some mindful meditations. I wrote in my journal. I got out old pictures and tried to remember all the good times. I laughed and I cried. I grieved my loss. The next day I felt better, like I was finally able to heal a bit. I forgave myself a little. I talked to my friends about my mom. It was cathartic and healing, and today I feel a lot stronger. Of course, I still miss her – her (very loud) laugh, her awesome hugs, her comfort food cooking, and how she was one of a handful of people I could laugh with until I cried. She was really special. I wish she was here so I could tell her that.
Coping with my more recent losses involved various methods. I found solace in physical activity, such as working out, taking leisurely strolls, and practicing yoga. These activities weren't about pushing my limits but rather allowing my body to release those natural feel-good chemicals (endorphins). I also discovered the remarkable therapeutic value of creativity – using writing, drawing, designing, and sewing as outlets to express what spoken words can't. Meditation and breath work were instrumental in managing overwhelming thoughts. They didn't make the pain disappear, but they helped to put things into perspective and to navigate my grief with a clearer mind.
In the journey from escaping pain to embracing strength, I discovered that true healing lies in facing emotions head-on, in all their complexity. Grief is a process that takes time. It's hard! But sobriety is my superpower to navigate grief, and it can be yours too. We'll be able to find our way through the darkest of times by nurturing our physical and emotional well-being, expressing ourselves creatively, and practicing mindfulness.
Remember, you are not alone in your grief. Reach out to those who care about you, and seek support on your path to healing. It's in facing our pain that we discover our true resilience and emerge stronger than we ever thought possible. Embrace your grief, honor your emotions, and let them guide you toward a future filled with hope and growth.