How to Deal With Breakups in Recovery
“I will not try to convince you to love me, to respect me, to commit to me. I deserve better than that; I AM BETTER THAN THAT…Goodbye.” – Steve Maraboli
Everyone who is single has experience with breakups. Although I’m not single, I’ve had many. Some breakups left me in a fetal position crippled for weeks if not longer and bitter for years; others left someone else in the same place. Then there is the “Will I see them in a meeting?”, “Who are they dating next? God don’t let it be someone close to me?”, “My lover is in active addiction!” So many pitfalls. Dating in recovery can be more precarious than the usual dating scene.
It’s a mistake to write about “Breaking up in Recovery” without distinguishing healthy dating and unhealthy dating. We have all heard the popular advice in the rooms that has no basis in the recovery literature. The “Don’t get in relationships for a year” is not a recovery suggestion. The literature says the opposite. Get into a relationship immediately, but with a higher power. Since that is not likely to happen on its own, the relationship to seek first is one with a sponsor to allow the relationship with a higher power to materialize.
The Difference in Relationships in Recovery
Most of us hear relationship and translate the word into a romantic one. In reality, a relationship is merely defined as an interaction between two parties. We have a relationship with the cashier at Publix, the members of our home groups, or anyone we meet. By in recovery, I mean into actual step work at least past a 5th step if not already sponsoring. Until a 4th step is done and understood, it’s not dating, more of a different form of using usually. Until then we are generally having one unhealthy relationship over and over with different people. The break up will lead to the same scenario with another inevitably.
That being said a break up is a break up no matter how “spiritual” you are. Breakups hurt, only time will heal those wounds, but there are some things we can do to shorten the healing time. These are not likely without the tools of the steps for most addicts and alcoholics. We often feel depressed after a breakup, it’s an emotionally draining time. Is it about missing your partner or is it deeper feelings of rejection and character defects coming to light?
Detach with Love
No matter what the reason the break up was over be kind. It’s more for you than them. People make mistakes. Forgive them, to not drown in resentment. They say resentment takes out more addicts and alcoholics than anything else. Most of the resentments I’ve seen that deep are connected to romance not going well. The connection between our resentments and our character defects coming out becomes very clear when we are hurt.
Don’t Distract Yourself
A new lover or another way to distract from the pain that is necessary to heal only makes things worse. If you distract yourself, you don’t allow time to process your feelings and any pain you’re feeling. You will end up taking it out on your new partner.
Learn About Yourself
Find out what was not working on your side of the relationship. Awareness is the key to change. Was the issue that ended the relationship a reoccurring one in past relationships? Are you stuck in a cycle? Sometimes a professional can help us point out what escapes us. At the very least we are accountable for choosing the partner, so there is always something to be looked at when we are seeking truth beyond our pain. Learn how to take this time to focus on yourself and not beat yourself up over the loss of another relationship.
Take Time to Invest
There is a difference between distracting and investing. Right after a breakup is a great time to invest in self. Just getting out of a relationship leaves not only a void in your heart but also a void in your time. Be intentional about how you spend that time. Ask yourself is this adding to me and my life or detracting from me? New hobbies, time with friends that got left in the wake of the relationship, new curriculums of study, getting healthier are all good options. Don’t just go to the gym and get pumped up for the next heartbreak. There’s plenty of resources that have lists of things to help you get back into a healthy routine after a breakup.