Romantic relationships can start out great. They’re exciting and fun, give you something to look forward to, increase your self-confidence, and make you feel like anything is possible. But there’s a reason why newcomers to recovery are encouraged to avoid dating and getting involved in new romantic relationships despite all these positive effects: not all romantic relationships go well. Awkward early dates and abrupt endings are the norm, and these as well as heartbreak and explosive breakups can trigger a relapse. It’s not just newcomers who are at risk for relapse when a romantic encounter goes sideways. At any point in recovery, a breakup can cause a host of uncomfortable feelings, from insecurity and grief to depression, anger, and more – and any one of these can trigger the urge to drink or use drugs.
Tips to Fend Off Relapse
How do you fend off relapse when in the grips of a tough breakup? Here are some tips:
- Let yourself cry. Though you may feel better pretending that you are unmoved by the breakup, if you are feeling hurt, insecure, or betrayed, it’s okay to cry. Give yourself a couple days to do nothing but fully indulge your sadness. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the relationship or to fully feel the pain associated with the change in your life. The key is to only give yourself a couple of days to live in this space and then take steps to move forward.
- Reach out to others. Isolating when you’re feeling sad is not the best choice in recovery. Instead, reach out to supportive friends and change up your environment to help shake your mood. Positive people and good times can help you to feel better and realize that your life isn’t over without your ex. Additionally, speaking to your therapist about what you are feeling and really digging into what happened in the relationship and in the breakup will help you identify any patterns in the romance department, and help you to make sure that you pull out of your rut next time.
- Pamper yourself. Order a big pile of your favorite takeout. Get a massage. Spend the day watching a marathon of your favorite guilty pleasure TV show. Do your favorite things all day for a couple of days and don’t worry about anything else. It’s okay to take a break when you’re feeling bad – just no calling, emailing, or texting your ex. Take a break from the whole situation.
- Spend time with your dog. Or your cat. Or your fish. Spending time with a pet that adores you unconditionally can be extremely gratifying after a breakup. If you don’t have an animal of your own, go spend some time at the local animal shelter and bond with a nonjudgmental and cute little one.
- Volunteer. Getting out of your head and helping others for a little while may help you shake the blues and put things in perspective.
- Reconnect with your friends or family. During relationships, even healthy relationships, it’s easy to lose touch with friends and family. Take the days after a breakup to reach out and spend some quality time one on one with the people you’ve been missing in the past few months.
- Put more time in at work. Romantic relationships often cause you to lose focus at work and school, and there’s nothing easier than filling the open schedule left by a breakup with extra hours at work. If that’s not an option, you can get a second job, sign up for an internship, or enroll in classes that will help you to advance at work or make a move into a new job.
- Exercise. It’s not uncommon for people to respond to a breakup by taking better care of themselves. Establish a workout routine, take up a new sport, start running, make a conscious effort to eat right, and you’ll start looking better and feeling better in no time.
- Change your hair. Try a new style, change up the color, or cut it all off. Or if you like your hair the way it is, make another style change that you’ve been considering. Get your teeth whitened. Get your nails done. Buy a new jacket or pair of shoes. While appearances shouldn’t be the focus of your attempt to get over a breakup, and drastic changes that involve going under the knife are not warranted – this is not the time to get a tattoo, for example – there’s nothing wrong with updating your appearance and making a visible change to denote the fact that you are moving forward.
- Put the focus on you. In a relationship, you spend a great deal of time focusing on the other person – their needs and desires, what they would like to accomplish, and what they are going through in their lives. One of the nice things about being single is that you no longer have to consult with someone else before choosing what to eat for dinner, where to spend the weekend, what to watch on TV, and how late to sleep in on the weekend. You can do whatever feels right for you.