The Aftermath of an Overdose in a Loved One


The Aftermath of an Overdose in a Loved One

When a loved one or dear friend overdoses, it is hard to comprehend. If they survive the overdose, it gives birth to a never ending fear of when it will happen again. If they don’t, there are a million unanswered questions about why and what could have been done to stop it. In either situation, there are different stages of overdose that need to be dealt with. Here, we address the stages of overdose a person usually goes through when a loved one OD’s and survives.

Emotions of the Stages of Overdose and How to Deal with Them

When it comes to overdose, there are two different scenarios, one where the person survives, and one where they don’t. Exploring the two, there are certain similarities, but for obvious reasons they are completely separate animals. There are distinct stages in either case. Here are the most common emotions associated with a non-fatal overdose of a loved one.


This stage usually happens before a person actually overdoses. You know they are using, but you refuse to admit it to yourself or anyone else. In retrospect – usually after the overdose – the signs were all there and clear as day. You made excuses for their actions, minimized behavior related to their addiction, and may even have been unintentionally enabling them. More people should realize this is the stage they are in when dealing with a loved-one’s addiction. More people would probably be convinced to get help before they reach the point of an overdose. Learn to recognize the signs and get rid of self-doubt. Act to help them and prevent them and yourself from going through the next stages.


This is the crippling stage where you first hear that something happened and don’t yet know what the outcome is. For example, a wife getting a call that her husband was slumped over at work and taken to a hospital. Or, a father finds his daughter unresponsive in her bedroom. These are the most panic-stricken, awful, heart-wrenching, all-consuming moments a person who loves an addict can go through. The best thing to do is keep calm and find out what you can, without jumping to the worst conclusion. Luckily, with drugs like Narcan available to paramedics, many overdoses can be reversed, and more people are surviving.


Whether your loved one survives and overdose or not, you will experience a period of shock. While overdose is usually a “what-if” scenario up until this point, you probably never thought it would actually arrive. Now that it’s here, it is too soon, too unbelievable, and too painful. Everything seems completely unreal.


The anger related to an overdose is profound. If the person lives through the ordeal, it’s difficult to speak to them without lashing out. It is an attempt to try to convey the type of emotion they caused for you. All you want is to get all of your questions answered and to somehow confirm it will never happen again. You’ll feel frustrated because there are no words or actions that can guarantee any of the future outcome. There are so many unanswered questions, and it is easy to develop anger towards that person for being so selfish. It is important to realize that their actions were caused by their addiction, and were nothing personal towards you.


While none of these stages of overdose emotion are pleasant, blaming yourself for a loved one’s overdose is torture. Unfortunately, often it is inevitable. You are likely to question every scenario you were in with the person. You’ll wonder if you could have stopped it from happening. You may be thinking: “if only I were a better girlfriend/friend/husband it wouldn’t have happened.” This is normal to go through. However, if it begins to eat away at you; it is important to vent your emotions. Seeing a professional therapist is a good way to work through your emotions. You’ll realize that you can’t place the blame on yourself.


This is the point in which you need to realize what your world is worth. What place your addicted loved one has in it. If they survived an overdose you’ll live with the fear of it happening again for the rest of your life. Sometimes, that is enough for a person to walk away from a friend, husband, or parent. Other times, the bond is more important than the fear, and you will decide to stick it through. No matter what, it is important to keep putting yourself first. Don’t get swept up in the negative world of addiction yourself.


This means accepting the situation, yourself, and the person who overdosed. Key to moving forward, acceptance is important if you ever intend on living a normal life again. If a year passes and you still question your spouse every day about their habits, you haven’t moved on. The fear of another overdose will always be there, but you need to learn to live with it. Otherwise, both parties that are involved will end up hurt, frustrated, and doubtful of the future.

Overdose and Caring for Yourself

When a loved one unexpectedly overdoses, it is one of the worst things a person can go through. However, like with anything in life the situation needs to be addressed, and eventually all parties have to move on. There is no doubt that it is life changing for everyone. It is up to the people involved if they want to continue to work towards sobriety together or not.

If a loved one overdoses, the best thing you can do is get them into treatment as soon as possible. With treatment, they will be able to discover any underlying medical or emotional conditions. They will also be around professionals who will steer them back in the direction of health, and a bright future. Coming back from this kind of darkness is possible.

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