Breakups can be stressful under the best of circumstances and they can be especially trying when you’re recovering from addiction. Not only are they fraught with conflict and feelings of rejection, but there may be practical complications involving child custody and property, which only add to the stress. This is one reason experts typically advise against dating in your first year of recovery. This is good advice, but many people are already in relationships when they enter recovery. If you experience a breakup while recovering from addiction, here are some tips for staying sober.
Accept the situation.
The first step is to accept the situation as it is. Typically, by the time a relationship ends, it has been getting worse for a while. Whatever the specific circumstances, there’s usually no point hoping things will turn around or that the other person will change his or her mind. Fighting against the reality of the situation only makes you suffer more. Also, don’t fight against the difficult feelings your will usually encounter after a breakup. It’s normal to feel sad, hurt, grief, disappointed, and angry. These typically aren’t pleasant feelings, but it’s important to acknowledge them and accept them. If you try to avoid them or suppress them, you typically end up hurting more in the long run, especially if you use drugs or alcohol to try to avoid painfulful feelings.
See a therapist.
It’s often hard to keep a healthy perspective in the wake of a breakup. Don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist if you’re having trouble dealing with the situation. A dispassionate perspective is often helpful and your therapist may help you work through some distorted thinking you may have about the situation. Part of a therapist’s job is to help people through tough times like this and keep short-term pain from becoming something bigger.
Lean on your network.
Many people want to isolate themselves after a breakup. They may feel embarrassed about the relationship failing, they may have a lot of mutual friends with their ex and feel unsure who those friends will side with, or they may just feel depressed and not want to see anyone. Although it’s ok to be alone sometimes, it’s also important to reach out to friends and loved ones for support and let them know what’s going on. Even mutual friends typically realize breakups aren’t usually one person’s fault, and often neither person’s fault. Being around friends makes you feel less alone and a breakup may even be an opportunity to strengthen your other relationships. Most importantly, spending time with friends and family reduces your stress and takes your mind off your problems.
You can also rely on your 12-step group. Many of the people in your group will understand what you’re going through and can offer support and advice that may be more relevant to recovery. Don’t be afraid to share. Go to extra meetings if you need to. The important thing is make contact with people and not just stay home feeling lonely.
Stick to your recovery routine.
A big reason breakups disturb your life is that they disturb your daily routine. You have to adapt to the other person’s absence. You might even have to move. As a result, you might feel disoriented. You can offset that to some extent by trying to maintain some important parts of your regular routine, especially your recovery routine. Go to meetings, exercise, write in your journal, and do the other things you’re used to doing every day. Many parts of recovery are meant to help you deal with difficult emotions, so be sure to keep up with it, even if some days you feel like you’re just going through the motions.
Write it out.
Writing is one of the best way to process difficult emotions. It reduces stress and it gives you a sense of control over what’s happening in your life. Studies have even found that writing about a potentially traumatic experience can reduce pain and sickness. When writing about a breakup, there are several things to keep in mind. First, you want to be as specific as possible. Studies have found that the more accurately we can label emotions, the more control we have over them. Most of us only think of emotions in vague terms–sadness, anger, resentment, and so on. If you take some time and explore what’s going on in your head, you may find that apparently simple emotions are actually pretty complicated. Second, people tend to feel better about difficult experiences if they can derive some kind of meaning from them. For example, maybe a breakup indicates that you’ve grown as person and that made the relationship unworkable. Or maybe maintaining your recovery despite a hard breakup shows how much stronger you’ve become emotionally.
Find the silver lining.
Although it may be hard to realize it at the time, a crisis like a breakup will also present some opportunities. As noted above, you may be able to find some meaning in a breakup. After a breakup, you may also be able to learn some valuable lessons about yourself and what you need from a relationship. Some of these lessons might be unpleasant, but you often learn the most from those. A breakup is sometimes a relief. As noted above, often a relationship gets worse for a long time before it finally ends. Although there’s bound to be some disappointment, it’s ok to also acknowledge that you feel relieved. Finally, a breakup is a chance to focus on your recovery and maybe find someone better for you when you’re ready.
Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Valiant Living offers “Expanded Recovery” to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Valiant fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463