What happens after you leave or lose an addict? The 5 Stages of Loss

Have you just left a relationship with an addict or lost someone you love to addiction?

Sometimes, knowing when to stop helping an addict can be a life-changer. Because we focus so much on the addict when we are in a relationship with them, once we have committed to leaving, we do not know what to do with ourselves. So much of our energy was given to their addiction and trying to save them that we lose our own identity. For most of us, the fears we felt about leaving confront us head on.

We have the time to ponder all of the “what ifs” we have discussed in previous articles that have kept us from leaving. Here, we address what you can expect when you DO LEAVE. We’ll review the Stages of Loss that are fairly predictable, and then offer you a section to share your story at the end. As always, we try to respond to all real comments personally and promptly.

What To Expect When Addiction Takes It All

When you leave empty-handed from a traumatic situation where there was no resolution you do not gain the closure most of us desire. Even if you are the one who decides to leave, loving an addict who rarely gives you the thanks and the recognition you deserve still hurts. You spent years loving them and trying to help them. In fact, many years are spent for most people trying to get the addict to see them and recognize that they would do anything to help them recover.

Leaving an addict can make your whole time with them feel meaningless. Coupled with the lack of gratitude and love you would expect to gain from your bold statement, you may also have anger, disgust and hate thrown at you on the way out the proverbial door. But the truth is that addicts affect families in negative ways. And there is a time to leave.

When I finally left the addict for good, I thought I would be immediately relieved but there was a period of time where uncontrollable emotions would come in stages.

It was Valentine’s Day, three months after I left my husband, and he had completely abandoned my daughter as a father so I had a great deal of anger towards him. But when the day came I cried like I hadn’t in months. I saw people buying flowers, heard friends making reservations for romantic dinners and I was a single, struggling mother trying to support myself and a child.

I got wind that he had a new girlfriend, a young stripper, and I felt the most horrific void and sense of loss and betrayal. Although I knew he was an active addict and that nothing he did meant much, I took a step backwards that day.

5 Stages Of Loss

When you leave, there will be a period of time where emotions run high and you will experience stages of loss. Similar to the stages of loss when a loved one passes away, I will give you my personal account of the stages of loss you may experience when letting go and leaving an addict.

Stage One: Denial and Rationalizing

This stage is shock. We leave and try to convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing and that if we leave maybe the addict will get help and come back to us. We keep tabs on the addict in small ways but deny that there is anything wrong with that. “I just want to make sure he/she is okay.”

The truth is that we are shocked the addict is not trying hard enough to make changes and win us back. This is a shock and a fear come true for most of us.

Stage Two: Anger

When we start to realize that the addict is moving on without us (in theory) and that we are left a broken mess, we can start to become angry. When reality kicks in we need a defense mechanism which usually comes in the form of rage. We want to know why we weren’t good enough to change for or why we are stuck paying the bills and raising the children while they are out still getting high. Each situation is different; however, if the addict leaves you, anger can be even worse because it was not our decision.

Stage Three: Negotiation

When the anger subsides and we realize that the addict is definitely no longer a part of our lives and perhaps still using or in recovery we tend to start bargaining. We start to wonder if we had done this or that differently, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Stage Four: Sadness and Depression

When all of the emotions that blind us to the feelings we must go through subside, depression may make its entrance. We no longer can justify, rationalize, negotiate, and make excuses for an addict’s behavior, indifference, lack of love for us and so on. We may realize that this is really the end and go through a very rough period of sadness.

Stage Five: Acceptance and Moving On

This is simply the stage where you are sick and tired of feeling the way you are and you may start to realize that you want more out of life than what you had with the addict. You start to feel a freedom and independence you have not had since before the relationship and you find a sense of hope for a new life ahead of you. This may take time and for some years but if you keep persistent in your own recovery, this can happen sooner than later.

Take Heart! Emotions Are Not Permanent

It is important to keep in mind that things are going to change as you go through these or your own set of stages. These feelings will not last forever so go through them and do not avoid them so that you can go through loss appropriately and not have chronic “relapses” of these stages later.

Dealing with loss is ultimately a deeply subjective and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But allow others, especially those who have had success with moving on, to be there for you and help comfort you through this process.

My main suggestion? Give yourself the opportunity to feel the grief as it comes over you. Fighting it only will prolong the normal process of healing.

2 thoughts on “What happens after you leave or lose an addict? The 5 Stages of Loss

  1. Here is my story, I have been married for 2 and half years my husband has been a heroin addict since a year or maybe more. But I knew that last year, but my situation is different he went to rehab for 3 days he told me while I was at work before he check into rehab 2 hours and his mum and his uncle and himself didn’t tell me which type of drugs he was talking they told me Tramadol but as I was the last one to know about the rehab I had no time to process everything. Then after he check ed out of rehab no one told me till the next day I found his mum called me and told me he went out yesterday of rehab and take money from her to HEROIN. Then I felt as I am in an action movie, like, is it real? Then I called him and he was crying then I told him calm down and go home till I finish my work and come home. Then the biggest drama had started, he stopped heroine by replacing it with Tramadol and keep like that for a month I guess. Then I found out he took money from his mum but she didn’t tell me then I start to notice that after I go to work, he immediately go out to buy a heroin. Then I confronted him and he was shouting and screaming at me. Then I told him it isn’t a big deal just tell me then we can see together what we can do, I took him to a doctor and the doctor told him you have to be the one who wanna quit heroin not coz of anyone else. Then next day he went to buy a heroin as nothing said with the doctor. Then I told him we can go to rehab just for withdrawal symptoms and stay a few days to be clean and come back home. He told no coz he had a so bad experience at rehab every time he was taking money and tell me I will use the same way ad take Tramadol to quit heroine but he can’t. All this drama has been in my life for more than a year then I told him you have to leave the home I really did my best and his mum and his family are blaming me coz I was knowing that he was taking and didn’t force him, they don’t wanna believe me when I told them no one can force him to stop but himself. they made a fun of me. then his mum doesn’t wanna take him and I called her and told her I can’t take it anymore. Guess what she said and did … She told me okay send him to me but there is nothing between you and him anymore and told me I left him in the hardest time after all I did even though she said that he was still in my home and didn’t leave but he called her to ask for money then she told him come at night to take, I was worried when she told him that but he didn’t listen to me. He went to her and found people was waiting for him in the street to take him to rehab be forcing him. Then his aunt called me to tell me he is at a rehab and prepare his clothes and they didn’t wanna tell me which rehab or even give my a phone number t check on him as am a dog not his wife. all That coz I said I can’t take it anymore for your info my health was really bad and my weight is 42 K. I couldn’t send him to rehab by this way coz he is a man and 33 years old. His and his family are keeping telling me he was okay when he married you, why he became a heroin addict. I swear of God it has nothing to do with me I even don’t smoke. What did I do wrong to treat badly like that from his family and his mum for even not knowing he is in which rehab. His mum is believing her lying while she is saying my son was okay before he got married but how on the earth I can let him to be a heroin addict. Before I know about his addiction, he was always make problem with me and go to his mum house and tell me he needs a break, my entire first year of marriage was too much drama and always leaving the home. What I can do now?


    • Asmaa,
      You are not to blame in this situation. Blame is something that addict’s and the families of addicts do to obsolve themselves of any responsibility for why this is happening. It is only the addict’s responsibility to do the work and go into recovery. You do not have to live in chaos because the person you married is out of control. This is not healthy for your or your children and anyone that suggests you continue on this way only wants to put the responsiblity on you because they do not want to feel guilty that they are not caring for the addict. the truth is no one should care for the addict at this point because all of it is enabling the addict and their drug use. You need to understand that and let go of the addict and the guilt.


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