Addiction and Grief: The Connection

Grief is a natural response to loss and unwanted change. How it manifests — what symptoms an individual experiences — will vary from person to person, but especially when loss is extreme, even extreme symptoms are termed “normal” for a time.

When the response to loss and change is overwhelming and disruptive to a person’s ability to function in everyday life, however, it becomes a serious issue. Long-term grief — that is, grief symptoms that are disruptive for six months or longer — may be classified as a diagnosable disorder, but the fact is, long before grief reaches the level of mental illness, it can cause serious problems for the individual, including increasing the risk of the development of a substance use disorder.

As a correctional officer, you likely deal with grief and loss regularly in the course of your job. Trauma and trauma exposure in the workplace, the impact of the job on your relationships, and other changes that come as a result of your employment as a correctional officer can be significant in a very short period of time. Do you respond to the stress and grief related to the job by drinking and/or using drugs?

Grieving the Loss of Safety

More than a third of assaults that happen in a prison occur when an inmate attacks a correctional officer. As a result, on average, most COs will be the victim of two assaults in their career. This loss of safety on the job can be traumatic, and grieving this loss is only natural. However, if that turns into escaping through heavy drug use and/or drinking, then it’s time to reach out for help.

This often happens slowly. A beer or two after work turns into a six-pack or a night out at the bar. If other drugs enter into the mix, it can mean a higher level of intoxication and an increased risk of developing a substance abuse problem, especially if it becomes the “go to” choice for dealing with grief.

National Grief Awareness Day is August 30th. If you, or someone you love, are struggling with grief and a substance use disorder based on attempting to manage grief symptoms, what can you do to pave the way forward to a more balanced life in recovery?

The Answer Is Treatment

At American Addiction Centers (AAC), we offer the First Responder Lifeline program, a drug rehab program that is uniquely designed to meet the needs of correctional officers and others who face constant trauma exposure in the line of duty. Treatment provides:

  • Full assessment and a tailored treatment plan
  • Therapies available that speak specifically to PTSD, trauma, complicated grief, grief disorder, and other issues that are common among correctional officers, like exposure therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • EAP/MAP interaction
  • Assistance transitioning back to work
  • Support for family members
  • Aftercare support post treatment

Call today 1–844–646–4COS(267) to find out how we can help you or your loved one overcome grief and addiction related to the job.

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