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Strange but True: Recovering from an Addiction is a Lot Like Ending a Relationship


There are five stages of grief, which occur more or less in order—from denial, to bargaining, anger, depression, and finally acceptance—although this order isn't set in stone. Many people move back and forth between two stages during the grieving process, or stay at one stage for a long time. It's different for everyone. This is how we grieve for a person, so how does it apply to addiction?

According to therapist Lindsay Kramer, a romantic relationship is a good analogy for an addiction, in the way that each event progresses through a specific set of stages. The beginning of a relationship is all about the high of becoming intimate with a new person, just like an addict feels the strongest high at the beginning of their addiction. There's a kind of honeymoon period where things just keep getting better and better, the relationship becomes progressively more intimate, and you put a higher priority on spending time with your new partner. In terms of the addiction, however, there comes a point where getting high is no longer fun, it's a necessity, and the relationship with the drug tends to isolate the addict from their other relationships.

Lindsay Kramer doesn't specifically relate addiction to a dysfunctional relationship, but the analogy seems to be more apt when it's put in these terms. The relationship with an addiction is hardly a healthy one after all, and in that sense it can be thought of as being similar to an abusive or codependent relationship. These unhealthy kinds of relationships can themselves be addictive in a sense, or at least harder to end than a normal healthy relationship. 

This is why Kramer's analogy of grieving for the end of an addiction works so well, especially if it's applied in terms of an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship—because in both cases, it's something that most people will strenuously resist ending until it's almost too late. As the recovering addict goes through the stages of grief, they come to understand that they can't have a healthy and functional relationship with the object of their addiction, and saying goodbye to that part of their life causes real grief, even though it's a healthy step forward.

To learn more about grief and how the process of grieving works in terms of addiction recovery, you can read the full article at

 Original piece written by Lindsay Kramer, summary by Mel Stevens


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