An intimate relationship with a significant other can be challenging at the best of times. Like all relationships, there are periods of change, adaptation and growth. Sadly, despite your best efforts, a relationship that you have emotionally invested in may break down.
When you are in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction the end of a relationship can feel like the end of the world. For many in recovery, intimate relationships can be their Achilles heel.
When an intimate relationship is going well you can feel on top of the world. However, when things go wrong and a relationship breaks up, it can lead you to want to put a stop to the emotional turmoil and pain altogether.
So, how do you survive a relationship breakup in recovery?
We feel it is important to give some simple suggestions around this subject; as relationship breakups often lead recovering alcoholics and addicts back to active addiction and relapse. This does not have to be the case!
Avoiding a relapse having suffered a loss
It is absolutely possible to stay sober and clean throughout anything that life presents. Whether that be a bereavement, a relationship breakup, illness, redundancy or financial insecurity. Whatever the situation, the only way through it is through it. There are no set rules to the way you grieve over a loss but adhering to healthy coping mechanisms may just save your life.
Relapsing on alcohol or drugs is never the answer to any situation and if you’re struggling with emotions at the moment we urge you to try the following suggestions:
1. Keep it simple
Whenever you are experiencing emotional turmoil. It is important to keep things as simple as possible. Try to keep everything in the day and take the challenging period a day at a time. Alcoholics and addicts often over complicate things and make things harder for themselves than they need to be.
2. Drop expectations
Don’t place expectations on yourself or on others to behave a certain way. This can only lead to further upset and resentment. If you have certain expectations of yourself to deal with a matter in a certain way and fail to meet them, your self-esteem will be further impacted, placing you at higher risk of relapse.
3. Be kind to yourself
When you are suffering emotionally in recovery, this is the time to be very kind and gentle with yourself. Treat yourself as you would a good friend who is suffering, with kindness, patience and love.
4. Apply self-care
Try to ensure you don’t neglect your basic needs as a human being. Looking after yourself and caring for yourself can make all the difference and enable you to come out of the other side a stronger and more compassionate person. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated; try to make sure you eat, sleep, wash, dress and get some fresh air and exercise each day. You may want to take this one further and take up a new hobby or learn something new. As we said, there are no set rules, just some helpful guidelines and suggestions.
5. Have boundaries
Boundaries are vital to protecting your recovery. If you have common friends shared with your ex-partner and don’t want to hear what they are up to, then say so. It’s okay to protect yourself during emotionally vulnerable times. Firm boundaries can help to protect you from seeing them or hearing from them if you don’t feel ready to cope with it.
6. Reach out for help
Now is the time to ask for support and help from family and friends. If you are feeling particularly vulnerable it may be an idea to stay with a family member or a friend until you are feeling stronger. If you are part of a 12 Step fellowship or a recovery support group, ask others to help you and to share their experience of how they got through similar whilst still maintaining their recovery. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth, it is important that you don’t bottle up or hide your thoughts and feelings. Share with those you trust.
7. Don’t neglect your recovery
The tools of recovery are there to be used, to help you to process thoughts and emotions and foster healthier coping mechanisms. It is through times of heightened emotions that you will need to employ these recovery methods the most. If you do not follow a recovery programme, please consider attending a 12 Step fellowship meeting, Smart recovery meeting, or your local drug and alcohol team for support.
Remember you are an individual – Don’t compare yourself to others
If you have tried all of these methods and still feel the pain is too much to cope with and are thinking of drinking or using or having suicidal or self-harming thoughts, please don’t beat yourself up over feeling this way. The most important thing is that you get the help and support that YOU need as an individual in recovery.
For some this may mean counselling sessions or even a period in a treatment centre or rehab until they feel strong enough to cope with daily life once again.