The Connection Between Grief and Addiction

Home » Blog » The Connection Between Grief and Addiction

When thinking about the reasons why a person develops an addiction to drugs and alcohol, many people believe it centers solely around usage that got out of control. When a person begins treatment for a substance use disorder, they often find out something surprising. Often the addiction itself is not the problem; it’s the solution a person used to try to deal with the actual issues. For this reason, many people find that grief and addiction counseling pair well together. A lot of professional treatment programs incorporate grief and addiction counseling as a way to help their clients make the connection and begin to heal. 

How Grief and Addiction Are Connected

A lot of difficult situations in life can cause a person to reach for artificial ways to soothe themselves. Someone who got fired from their job or had a romantic partner end their relationship might reach for a few drinks to help soothe their pain. A deep-rooted painful issue such as grief may cause a person to habitually turn to drugs or alcohol. They mistake this for being a way to cope with the loss of someone. Unfortunately, what began as a stop-gap approach may turn into a full-blown addiction.

Using drugs and alcohol in relation to grief can go two ways. Some people will use substances in order to numb their pain. Others may feel so numb from the grief that they consume drugs or alcohol as a way to feel again. They hope it will jumpstart happier feelings, even if it only provides temporary relief.

Once a substance use disorder takes over, a person now has to cope with both their initial grief and the resulting addiction. If a related mental illness is also in play, like depression, this makes seeking treatment from someone who understands grief and addiction counseling important.

Many Life Events Can Trigger Grief 

Grief can be about the death of someone a person loves. This includes the deaths of spouses, parents, children, other family members, and friends. It can also involve the loss of a pet. Beyond just death, grief can occur as a reaction to other events. People often grief over a divorce or breakup with a romantic partner. 

People may grieve over the loss of a job that held great meaning for them, either by resigning from the job, being let go, or retiring. Many couples experience grief over a miscarriage or finding out they are unable to conceive children. For some people who experienced a childhood full of abuse or neglect, they end up feeling grief over the happier adolescence they wish they could have experienced.

Studies have shown that often when a person experiences some form of grief, their risk of developing a substance use disorder increases. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which makes using it as a solution for feelings of mourning and loss counterproductive. While ultimately the temporary high of drinking or using drugs may feel like it masks feelings of grief, it’s akin to putting a Bandaid on a broken arm. Much more intensive treatment is needed in order to address grief and help alleviate its painful manifestations. 

What Grief Looks Like

A person grieving may exhibit many signs and experience various temperaments and feelings. These include:

  • Crying
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Feeling physical pain
  • Numbness
  • Despair
  • Guilt
  • Inability to move forward
  • Difficulty conveying emotions
  • Cloudy thinking and decision-making process

Grief does not have a timeline. No chart can tell a person that they have X amount of time to “get over” the loss they are grieving. Some people move out of the grief stage more quickly than others. 

How Grief and Addiction Counseling Work

A focus on grief during addiction counseling provides a two-fold benefit. Working on the underlying grief helps a patient acknowledge the impact of their loss and strategize how to move forward through the stages of grief. This type of focus in therapy sessions can help an individual separate from the person or process that constitutes the root of their grief. 

Grief does not need to be from a recent loss in order to have a long-standing, negative impact on a person’s life and sobriety. Many people who seek addiction counseling end up making a connection between their addiction and a loss that occurred years or decades earlier. As long as the grief process has not reached a resolution, a person remains at risk for continued addiction.

As a person progresses through their grief process, the need for drugs and alcohol to cope with it will begin to lessen. Learning to separate the grief from the cravings for substance abuse provides a real lightbulb moment for many. 

Treatment for Addiction in California

Launch Centers offers a progressive treatment program that helps people with substance use disorders. We also treat co-occurring mental health issues and people dealing with grief. Our beautiful Los Angeles location combines clinical and holistic treatments, along with educational and career coaching, in order to give you a well-rounded treatment experience.

We offer multiple types of therapy, including CBT, DBT, EMDR, art therapy, and experiential therapy.  

Call us today to talk about how our unique program can help you get started on the path to recovery.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


Latest Blogs

Jun 26, 2024

10 Fun Facts About Pride Month

Pride Month is celebrated every June. It is a vibrant a

Apr 18, 2024

5 Great Jobs for Teens with Social Anxiety

Being a teenager is hard. When social anxiety is presen

Mental Health + Substance Abuse Treatment in Los Angeles
(877) 895-3231