Many of us have been there — the heartache, the loss of appetite, the endless Morrissey loops on Spotify, and the list goes on. Ahh, breakups. For most humans, breakups just suck. Period. For those of us in addiction recovery, however, they can be some of the most difficult things in life. This doesn’t mean that the pain won’t pass, but it does mean that it’s a time to become extra diligent in our sobriety maintenance.
So just how do we get through heartbreak in sobriety without traveling to the dark side faster than the speed of light? Here’s a list we’ve compiled with some survival tips for making it through that lonely breakup without slipping back into old behavior. And guess what? We can almost guarantee you’ll grow as a result if you continue to access these tools. And you’ll be prepared to love on a deeper level than ever before once you’re ready to get back out there (cue “Kumbaya” with acoustic guitar)…
1: Stay connected to your compadres. One of the worst things a sober addict can do, particularly when times are really tough, is isolate. Unfortunately, this is generally what most of us want to do when we’re hurting and it feels impossible to face the world. You may have heard the saying in your twelve-step program (if you have a twelve-step program), “take contrary action.” This is one of the times where you’ll want to apply that principle. Old behavior may have you home alone, in the dark, crying, and burning old love letters. If you go back in time far enough, it could very well mean that you were drinking or using as well. So the first step is to do the opposite of what you’re tempted to do if, indeed, you’re tempted to stay home alone, you know, in the dark. Crying. Burning old love letters. Get yourself to a meeting if you do the twelve-step deal, or call your friends and invite them over for a movie night. Surrounding yourself with close pals is the best way to avoid isolating. They’ll keep you laughing and thinking about your ex a little less. You might even have some fun while you’re at it.
2: Let. It. Out. As in, cry. And then just keep on crying. Those tears absolutely cannot stay in. Really. Crying is a totally natural process, and you’ll feel a whole heck of a lot better once you let it all out. It literally helps relieve stress as well, thus preventing things like damage to the heart and more. So cry your heart out, have some chocolate, and then take a nice long nap. But don’t stew in it for too long. Let the crying run its course, and then pull yourself up and get yourself out. But do allow yourself the time and space to heal, and allow those tears to flow as long as necessary. Your weary heart will thank you, and you’ll probably feel much more at ease when you’re done.
3: Consider no contact with the ex. As in zero. Unless the split was amicable, but we’re assuming that if you’ve read this far into the post and you happen to be going through a breakup at the moment, you’re likely hurting a bit. That said, you may want to wipe that phone of yours clear of his or her contact information, delete them on social media, and stay away from places you know your ex likes to go. Deleting and wiping contact information may be extreme for some of you. Only you know, and it really depends upon your level of self-control. But if you find it impossible to stay off their Facebook page, and unable to refrain from calling or texting, then you just might consider the delete method. You can always back their info up somewhere that’s not readily accessible so that you can reconnect when the time is right. But by cutting off contact initially, you’ll slowly be able to get back to living your own life. Try going for 90 days in the beginning — it takes about that long to break a habit. By the end of that ninety days, there’s no guarantee you won’t miss your ex. In fact, you probably still will miss your ex, but it will become a lot easier. And if you decide that you want to talk it out down the road so that you can maintain a friendship or, at the very least, keep things cordial between you and your ex, then consult a buddy or two before you do it. Try reaching out to people who know you really well. Your closest friends are the ones who are likely able to determine whether or not they think you’re ready, and they’re also the most likely to be honest with you. Listen to them. Broken hearts and love do funny things to our brains, so this is a really good time to lean on loved ones for advice.
4: Pamper yourself. Using whatever means you have. Whether you indulge in a spa treatment, or simply just indulge in some quality chocolate and a feel-good movie. Or maybe you just want to go out and buy yourself a nice new something — a pair of shoes, a new watch, or a fun new gadget. By all means, treat yourself if you can afford to. Or perhaps adopt a pet if you’re past the stage of utter meltdown (i.e., the first thirty days after your breakup) and ready to care for an animal. A new puppy has the power to make everything better, but again, just make sure you’re ready to take on the responsibility.
5: Stay busy. Maybe you like to be outdoors, so start hiking, or sign up for surfing lessons if you live near the beach. Have you been thinking about taking up sculpting, but it’s been all talk for you up until now? Do it! Or find a homeless shelter to volunteer at, or an animal rescue. If you’re in program, try picking up a few extra commitments, and start reaching out to more newcomers. Being of service is, hands down, one of the best ways to get out of our own heads, and we have the potential to make a big difference in the lives of others along the way as well. Of course it’s good to process everything and cry, as we’ve mentioned, but don’t stay in that place of gloom for longer than necessary. Ultimately you’ll have to get back to life, and the best way is to stay active, surround yourself with others, and do things that fulfill you. You’ll get over your ex that much faster, and you’ll get back to loving you.
Breakups are no fun, but they’re also an opportunity for us to reflect on why things didn’t work out, and how we can grow for our next relationship. And if we can regain our sense of selves, post-breakup, and engage in activities that are healthy and that feed our precious little souls, then we won’t need another person to fill the void. Nor will we need a drink or a drug. This way, anyone who comes along in the future will only enhance our already incredible, love-filled lives. And this is really all we can ever wish for. Nurse that broken heart of yours, and know that the majority of us have been there. But don’t stay in self-pity for too long. Get out and enjoy your life, and understand that with every broken heart comes growth. Having a broken heart means that you’ve allowed yourself to love, and allowing yourself to love is an act of bravery. It’s one of the best kinds of bravery, as a matter of fact, and it’s not for the faint of heart (pun intended). So give yourself a big hug. You deserve it. And when you’re ready, go ahead and allow yourself to love again. You’ve got this!
Do you have a story about how you’ve bounced back from heartache in recovery?
Or are you going through a serious breakup in sobriety right now and feeling the need to share a few words? Please don’t hesitate to comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
If you or someone you love thinks you might be battling drug or alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today to take that first step on your recovery journey.