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The Link Between Grief and Alcohol Abuse

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Experiencing a traumatic event or losing a loved one can cause a person to experience grief. However, when grief becomes too powerful of an emotion to handle, it can cause an individual to seek relief through alcohol. Unfortunately, this can create a link between grief and alcohol abuse. 

What Is Grief?

The Mayo Clinic defines grief as “a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they, or someone they love, receive.” 

In addition, grief can include experiencing a traumatic event or loss that occurs suddenly without any time to prepare. For example, you could witness a violent act where numerous people die. Or you could be in a car accident and see a loved one die right in front of you. This type of grief is called traumatic grief. 

What Is the Link Between Grief and Alcohol Abuse?

Research from the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment has established the link between grief and alcohol abuse. In addition, studies have shown that mental health issues can arise in certain individuals attempting to cope with the grief that can lead to alcohol use. Unfortunately, as they continue to grieve and use alcohol to manage, it can eventually lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD).  

How Can Grief Lead to Alcohol Abuse?

There are several different ways that grief can lead to alcohol abuse and eventual AUD. It is essential to remember each person’s grief will vary in duration. Some people can grieve for several months, while others can go through periods of grief over the course of several years.  

As most people move through the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In other words, they slowly come to terms with their loss or traumatic experience. However, other people have a hard time moving through these stages, so they turn to alcohol for one reason or another.

Inability to cope without alcohol

Some people find they do not know how to process their grief, and the only way they can cope and appear to function is by drinking. Unfortunately, the more they drink, the more the body builds a tolerance to alcohol. As this cycle continues, their alcohol dependence grows.

Unable to face one’s grief

While acceptance is the last stage of grief, some people have difficulty admitting their loss. They are stuck in the denial stage and rely on alcohol as an excuse not to process their grief. 

Wanting to alleviate pain and suffering

Regardless of the grieving stage, the pain and suffering experienced can be so powerful of emotion that it makes it difficult to even get out of bed, let alone do anything. Turning to alcohol causes the release of neurotransmitters in the brain associated with pleasure, relaxation, and calmness. As a result, drinking can numb pain and suffering, so a person can appear to be functioning more normally. 

Filling the void with alcohol

People who experience grief often report having a void left when they lose a loved one that causes them to feel a sense of emptiness. However, as they progress through the stages of grieving, the sense of emptiness never goes entirely away but lessens. Sadly, some people turn to alcohol to deal with the sense of emptiness because they simply do not know how to overcome this feeling. 

Unable to share one’s feelings

Many men have a hard time expressing their feelings, including grief. They may have been raised to believe that men should not show negative emotions, like sorrow and sadness, as it makes them look weak. Social views of men also tend to reflect these same beliefs. Unfortunately, this can lead to drinking to deal with grief. 

How Alcohol Can Make Grieving Worse

Having an occasional drink while grieving is understandable. However, when someone relies on alcohol frequently to cope with their grief, they are making things worse. 

For starters, alcohol is a depressant, which, when someone is already sad, can cause them to become depressed. The more they become depressed, the more they can start to experience thoughts of self-harm and suicide. 

Next, continued alcohol use makes it almost impossible to progress through the stages of grief. A person is not able to process their emotions and emotional responses, so they can start to move forward through the grieving process. Instead, they end up stuck with unresolved grief that continues to fuel their alcohol use disorder. 

Unfortunately, using alcohol to cope with grief is only a short-term solution. In the long term, it causes addiction and deeper mental health problems. 

Grief and AUD Detox and Addiction Treatment in Murfreesboro, TN 

If you are having problems processing your grief and have turned to alcohol, Tulip Hill in Murfreesboro, TN, is here to help. We offer personalized grief and AUD detox and addiction treatment programs to help you process without alcohol. Contact us to get the help and support you need today.

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