Grieving for an Addicted Friend

Do you have a friend who is still living an addictive lifestyle or who is attending an addiction rehab program? If so, you should know that it is normal for someone to be grieving for an addicted friend. You have lost the relationship you once had with this person. In fact, they may not even seem like the same person you once knew. If you are grieving for an addicted friend, it may be beneficial to learn more about the five stages of grief.

Stage 1: Denial 

When a friend is addicted to alcohol or drugs, you need to grieve over the loss or breakdown in that friendship. Most people will first be in denial of their friend’s addiction or the state of the relationship. This is mostly due to the emotional destruction happening within this relationship. You are overloaded with emotions and sensations. It can be difficult to process. Denial acts as a buffer to the truth and facts. It allows you to make up excuses for what your friend is doing. If you have been doing the following, you may be in this stage:

  • Rationalizing their behavior

  • Making up excuses for them

  • Accepting their excuses

  • Not admitting they have an addiction

If you are still in the denial stage, you won’t be able to heal until you begin to move out of it. 

Stage 2: Anger and Guilt 

Anger and guilt are part of the second stage of grief. You may be asking yourself why this happened to your friend. You see the reality of their addiction and are past the stage of denial. Now, you are angry or even feel guilty. These feelings take over your being. They are intense and you may even aim them at other people in your life, possibly even a stranger. You may resent your friend for causing you pain. The anger and guilt turn into a vicious cycle. 

Stage 3: Bargaining

Bargaining is the third stage of grief. You want to get control back over your life and maybe over the friendship as well. Since the addiction of your friend has brought chaos to your life, you now feel a bit helpless. You might feel vulnerable as well. You may stop at nothing to get control back over your life, even if that means no true changes are happening. During the bargaining stage, you may find yourself saying the following:

  • If only I gave my friend more attention…

  • If only I was there more for my friend…

Making deals isn’t going to make their addiction go away. It only keeps you and your friend further from the truth.

Stage 4: Depression

Feeling depressed is common during the stages of grief. You had a great friendship and then everything fell apart. You may feel depressed that you weren’t there enough for your friend. However, you must realize that their addiction is not your fault. You may feel depressed that the friendship may be over, depending on the circumstances. With time and healing, you can move past the depression stage.

Stage 5: Acceptance

While you may alternate back through some of the stages, depending on how you feel, acceptance is the last stage of grief. This is where you want to be. Some people never get past the denial or anger stage when they have an addicted friend. However, if you can make it to this stage, you can feel happier and more content. You can find peace with the situation. Acceptance is the best way to move through the past and into a better future. 


Do you have an addicted friend? Maybe they are still living an addictive lifestyle or they may be in treatment at a place like Willow Springs. Either way, it is normal, to go through the five stages of grief. Their addiction has affected you in many ways. You might be feeling a wide range of emotions. When it comes right down to it, these stages are going to take you a while to get through. However, if you can make it through them and into acceptance, you can find some peace with your friend’s addiction and finally let go of the pain you are feeling. 


About the Author
Adam Durnham is a freelance blogger from Detroit, Michigan who writes primarily about coping skills, addiction, and recovery from loss.