You’ve heard it time and again: Don’t date in early recovery. But maybe you decided to continue with a relationship you were in before you entered treatment, or maybe you’ve been in recovery for a while and thought you were “safe.” Or maybe you thought, “What do they know? Alex and Terry got together during their first month in treatment, and they’ve been together for 10 years. Why can’t that be me?”
However you got to this place, here you are – with a broken heart, depression, low self-esteem, and wondering if relapse is right around the corner.
The bad news is that breakups suck. There’s no two ways about it. The good news is that, while feelings in recovery can be deep and extreme, this, like all other overwhelming emotions, will pass.
Here’s how to get through that post-breakup period without losing your recovery.
Maintain a wide berth between you and your ex. There is no need to keep texting your ex, seeing them at meetings if they go, or trying to be “friends.” At least not now. Right now, your focus needs to be off the relationship completely and on things that matter in sobriety.
Find new meetings. If you used to go to meetings with your ex, change things up and hit some different meetings. Meetings should be focused on building stability in recovery, not a time to focus on your ex sitting across the room.
Give yourself permission to grieve appropriately. Breakups can be sad. They can hurt or make you angry. You don’t have to silence these feelings. In fact, talk to your therapist and/or your sponsor and work through your feelings in a safe place with safe people.
Address the pain aspect. Many experts say that feeling physical pain is normal during a loss – and that taking acetaminophen may help. Otherwise, you can also get a massage, go to yoga, or do other gentle exercises designed to help you strengthen and stretch your body.
Strengthen the other important bonds in your life. Your friends, your family, people you know in recovery – they are the ones who are going to be there for you to let you know that you are supported in recovery and to help you stay sober as well.
Refocus on Recovery
Once you’ve given yourself some space and started to put important friendships and recovery into focus in your life, it’s time to really amp things up in your recovery. This means thinking hard about how you began to lose traction in your recovery plan, what areas you feel need the most attention, and how best to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
In order to do this, you can:
- Work with a substance abuse treatment professional. A therapist, a life coach, or another professional who is familiar with helping people find their way in recovery is the best choice as you embark on your new journey. It is helpful to have an objective viewer assist you as you determine what your next goal in recovery should be and how best to create a plan that will help you accomplish that goal most efficiently.
- Keep an open mind. It may be that your therapist or life coach suggests you do some things that feel uncomfortable to improve your health, your focus, or your friendships. It’s okay to feel the fear associated with that – but do it anyway. You never know when you will stumble into something amazing.
- Give your best effort. No matter what it is that you are trying to do or what part of your journey toward your new recovery goal you are currently in, give it everything you’ve got.
- Regularly assess how you are doing and what, if anything, needs to be changed. Even if you feel that things are moving along or you are not concerned about your progress, make sure to keep checking in anyway. Meeting regularly with your therapist, case manager, or other substance abuse treatment professional can help you to better understand how to move forward and grow stronger in recovery.