Grief and addiction have a very complex relationship, and quite often the two are very closely intertwined. For people suffering from grief, substance abuse becomes a way of numbing the pain. For someone already suffering from substance abuse disorder, grief can actually be a wakeup call of sorts.
Nobody seeks to experience grief or wishes it upon themselves, but grief can have a very motivating effect. Despite the anguish that accompanies grief, the experience of loss can be the stimulation necessary for some people to completely turn their lives around. Mortality has a way of shaking us into awareness.
Just 12 years old when she started running with a gang, Tiffany also started to experiment with drugs. The experimenting exploded into regular heroin use, which led Tiffany to prostitution and drug dealing. For years, Tiffany said her mother begged and pushed her to change her lifestyle.
It wasn’t until she lost her mother that Tiffany realized she needed help.
“Shortly after I buried my mother and came to [rehab], I was broken, dazed and confused, stuck in a world I created and fueled. What got me here, the end of the road of my addiction, was my mother passing away,” Tiffany said. “My mom died. She chased me for 10 years and she tried to save me, because she saw something in me that I didn’t see for myself yet.”
As a graduate of addiction treatment, Tiffany now sees the world through a different lens.
“Today [my mom is] not able to physically be here. However, she’s looking down on me. She’s my guardian angel. And when I tell myself I can’t, she gives me the strength to do it. And when I hate everything around me, she fills my heart with love. For the first time in my life I actually have dreams. I know who I am. I know that I love the woman that I have become when I look into the mirror.”
Hannah suffered the type of heartbreak no child should ever have to endure. Her father molested her and then committed suicide when she was just five years old. By the time she was 12, Hannah had fallen into the trap of substance abuse. And by the time she was 15, she had attempted suicide; she couldn’t stay away from the drugs she used to numb her pain.
“One night, after taking a handful of pills and drinking whiskey, I felt my entire left side of my body go numb. I attempted to stand up, but fell face-first onto the floor, causing my teeth to be knocked out and my nose to break. I crawled to my cellphone and dialed 911. While I was at the hospital, I went into multiple seizures and flatlined. After two days, I woke up and told my mom and grandmother I wanted to go to rehab,” Hannah said.
This near-death experience shook Hannah to the core — enough for her to realize that she was going to die if she didn’t make a change.
To see her today is a marvel. A proud graduate of addiction treatment in Michigan, Tiffany has worked through her grief and reclaimed her life.
Eager to explain her transformation, Tiffany said, “I started taking classes and started to speak with counselors to release my anger and frustration with my father. While I was at [rehab], I learned how to play the guitar and write music, which helped me begin to heal. I became accomplished and became a regular at graduations for other patients. Being in recovery helped me untap a talent I wouldn’t have known I had otherwise.”
Like a phoenix, these brave women were able to rise up from the ashes and take back their lives. They will always carry their grief, but they now have the tools necessary to safely manage their pain and frustration.