Grief and Loss of a Friend – Alcohol or Drugs

An important process in the stages-of-change from drinking or drugging is that of the role of grief.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross outlines the stages of grief following any loss as; 

  1. Denial,
  2. Anger,
  3. Bargaining,
  4. Depression,
  5. Acceptance.

Others have added,

  • ‘Shock’ to the 1st stage – denial
  • ‘Guilt and Aloneness’ to the 4th stage – depression and,
  • ‘Hope’ after acceptance. 

When a person is acquainted with the idea that they may have lost control over alcohol they may experience grief just like any other important loss.  A second grieving process may be that for the loss of alcohol as a friend. Friends make us feel better, if only temporarily. And alcohol certainly makes alcoholics feel better, if only temporarily.Bill W., a cofounder of the original 12-Step fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous said; “Shortly I was introduced to Robert S., a surgeon. He was an alcoholic in a bad way. This time there was no preachment from me. I told him my experience and what I thought I knew about alcoholism. Because we understood and needed each other, there was a genuine mutuality for the first time and, as we now say in A.A., he soon “clicked” never to drink again. That was June 1935.”

“This idea of mutual need added the final ingredient to the synthesis of medicine, religion and the alcoholic’s experience which is now Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Amer. Jour. Of Psychiatry Vol. 106, 1949.

See also; Jennings PS. To surrender drugs: a grief process in its own right. J Subst Abuse Treat. 1991;8(4):221-6.



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