Heartbreak. It’s a pain quite unlike any other. Whether you were broken up with or you were the one ending things, it can still be painful and sometimes difficult to navigate the emotions that arise. If you’re in recovery, staying sober can also become a challenge.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 782,000 divorces in 2019 alone. This equates to a lot of heartbreak and heartache. And while it seems that with so many experiencing this pain we should find camaraderie, many times a break up leads to isolation, anxiety, and ultimately depression. For someone in recovery, this can get complicated.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that there are 7.7 million people who have both an AUD or SUD and a co-occurring mental health disorder. For many of these people, substance dependence started as a way to ‘self-medicate’ for anxiety or depression. For others, the ongoing AUD or SUD led to developing a mental health disorder. Either way, for individuals in recovery, reaching for alcohol or another substance to ease the pain of heartache can be their ‘go-to’. But it doesn’t have to be.
- Find And Lean Into Your Support System
Whether or not you have a support system, this is vital to not only staying sober during a breakup but also for long term sobriety. If you don’t already have a support system, now’s the time to establish one. This should include your most trusted friends and family. Even if you only have one or two on the list, now is the time to connect with them. For many who are in relationships, they tend to neglect friendships during the relationship. Then when the break up occurs they are left feeling alone and isolated. These are both feelings detrimental to recovery. It may feel awkward to reach out to old friends or family members you haven’t been in touch with but it’s critical to surviving heartbreak and staying sober. If you already have a support system in place, and again this can be just one or two people, reach out to them, let them know what’s going on, and tell them how you’re feeling. This is vital to not only staying sober but working through the difficult emotions of a breakup.If you are currently involved with support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or the like, this is a great place to get connected with others in sobriety many of whom have probably already navigated staying sober during a heartbreak. Either sharing during the meeting or connecting one to one with someone before or after the meeting is a great way to begin.
- Focus On Yourself and Self-care
We all have heard how important it is to take care of ourselves first. However, few of us actually do this. In order to successfully traverse the landscape of both recovery and a breakup taking care of oneself if crucial. It’s important to be kind to yourself during this time. Don’t blame yourself or live in shame from the relationship and the breakup. Treat yourself as you’d treat someone you love who was going through the same thing. When you find yourself beating yourself up, picture that person in your mind and how you would treat them—then treat yourself this way. From your favorite foods and a bubble bath to a long weekend at the beach or a dinner out with your friends, take care of yourself. Whatever self-care means to you engage in it. For one person it may be hiking in nature and for another a night in the city, whatever makes you feel joy (or once did) engage in those activities as much as possible right now. Learning how to love and care for yourself is something that will sustain happiness far beyond just getting through a breakup and is vital for long-term recovery.
- Share Your Feelings
Whether you are going through a breakup or not, sharing your feelings and what you’re going through in recovery is critical to long-term sobriety. Keeping feelings, particularly uncomfortable ones, bottled up inside is a recipe for disaster when it comes to recovery. It is even more important when it comes to maintaining sobriety during a breakup. You may not want to talk about how you feel, you may cry, you may be angry but have no doubt, getting these feelings out to a trusted friend can really help you to get through the stages of a breakup—staying sober. And while it’s important to have someone to talk to, you can also utilize a journal, therapist, or family members during this time. The more you let your feelings out the less powerful they will be. When you hold onto your feelings inside they can wreak havoc on your mental health and recovery.One of the problems commonly associated with people who have addiction issues is the inability to have personal relationships that are healthy. There’s no better time than in the midst of the pain of a breakup to work on how to improve your relationship skills, set boundaries, and discover what you really want in a relationship and partner. Seeking professional help during a breakup can be extremely helpful not only in the healing process but also to help you grow.
- Embrace Your Life and Being Single
Sometimes our society makes being single feel like a handicap. However, this simply isn’t’ true. There are many people who live happily single—and choose to be single. While there is definitely an adjustment period depending on the length and seriousness of your relationship, there is a lot of good to being single. Now’s the time to take on that new hobby, re-engage in that sport you used to play, join a group like a hiking group, or take a class. There are so many benefits to being single, embrace them all. Don’t get caught in the societal pressures to be in a relationship. Take some time to get to know yourself again, find out your likes and dislikes, and lean into the single life.It is common for people with an AUD or SUD to also be codependent. You may feel like you need to be in a relationship to be happy but this just isn’t true. And now, in the midst of a breakup, is the best time to discover that for yourself. Utilizing a good therapist and being honest about how you really feel can transform this breakup into a blessing.
- Surrender and Let Go
One of the most difficult parts of a breakup is the acceptance of it. Even if you know it’s ‘for the best’ accepting this change can be difficult and downright painful. Once you accept it and surrender to what is going on you will begin to find peace of mind. Let go of the need to understand why it happened, what the future holds, and what you could’ve done differently (for now at least). Accepting the situation for what it is—good, bad, and ugly—is the first step in freeing yourself from the hold it has on you.
- Get Active
Exercise has been touted as a remedy for both anxiety and depression. Research shows that regular physical activity is effective in treating chronic mental health illnesses. An article in Psychology Today said that the impact of exercise may be as good as pharmacological treatments for less severe issues like depression, dementia, and anxiety. What’s more, is that regular exercise is also shown to be effective in the treatment of substance abuse disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise is an important and proven component of treatment for addictions.
- Find a Spiritual Connection
One of the tenets of many recovery programs is the belief in a power greater than oneself. Spirituality has been a cornerstone for many living in long-term sobriety. Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, or none of the above isn’t important; what matters is that you believe and connect with something greater than yourself for comfort, guidance, and serenity. What you choose to believe in doesn’t have to conform to others’ expectations or be explained. Meditation and prayer are helpful components to discover and cultivate your own spirituality.
Heartbreak is a unique kind of pain. Being in recovery during a breakup and heartbreak is also a different experience. And although it may seem very difficult to stay sober during this time, you can do it just as the thousands before you have done it too. You can not only stay sober through heartbreak, you can come out of the pain better than ever before.
If you or someone you love needs help for an AUD or SUD, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here to help. Contact us online or call 866-804-2098 and take the first brave step towards a life in recovery today.