A breakup or divorce is always hard to deal with and it’s especially hard if you’re recovering from addiction. A breakup can lead to feelings of anger, sadness, resentment, loneliness, and even depression. Although these emotions are always unpleasant, if you’re in recovery, they may increase your risk of relapse. The first stage of relapse is characterized by many of the same feelings evoked by a breakup. At the emotional stage of relapse, you really want to stay sober but if those feelings persist long enough, you may start thinking about relapse as a way to cope. The intense emotions involved in relationships and the end of relationships are a big reason why experts recommend not starting a new romantic relationship until you have at least a year of stable recovery. However, everyone’s circumstances are different. Many people enter recovery with long-term partners or enter a new relationship against their better judgment. Here are some ways to maintain your recovery after a breakup.

Accept your feelings.

Initially, the most important thing is to accept what you’re feeling. Breakups are never pleasant and they bring a flood of painful and conflicting emotions. It’s normal to want to avoid those emotions and feel better right away but pushing those emotions away or trying to avoid them only makes you feel worse. The need to avoid unpleasant emotions may also temp you to fall back on drugs or alcohol as a way of coping. Also, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. It’s normal. Take a few days for yourself if you need to and then start thinking about how you’re going to move on.

Lean on your network.

It’s common to want to stay home and isolate yourself after a breakup. You may feel depressed and not very social. You and your ex may have a lot of mutual friends, who you may feel awkward seeing. However, it’s important to resist the urge to isolate yourself. Loneliness can lead to rumination, which is when you dwell on mistakes or negative emotions. Rumination is a major factor in depression and anxiety disorders. By spending time with people who care about you, you’re less lonely, you ruminate less, and you feel less depressed.

Socializing is also a great way to increase positive emotions. Spending time with people you like improves your mood and more importantly, makes you feel less alone. One of the hardest parts of a breakup is the feeling that you’re missing something. A familiar presence and confidant is no longer available to you. Spending time with friends and family shows that while one important person may be out of your life, you’re not alone. Talking over the breakup among supportive people is also a good way to start feeling better, assuming you don’t go on for so long that the breakup starts to define you.

Talk to your therapist.

A breakup is definitely something you’ll want to talk to your therapist about. Even if you don’t feel like you want to get into it, a breakup is a major life event your therapist should know about. If you haven’t been to therapy for a while, this is a good reason to go back. Remember, the stakes are high and a little extra care early on can prevent a lot of problems in the future. 

Stick to your recovery plan.

It’s extra important to stick to your recovery plan when things are tough. Most elements of your recovery plan are intended to help you manage stress, take care of yourself, and make positive decisions. You need those things more than ever in times of emotional turmoil. Your recovery plan can also provide continuity. After a breakup, one of the hardest things to deal with is the feeling that the world has shifted beneath your feet. Your schedule is disrupted, many of your future plans have to be scrapped, and you may even have to move out of your house. All these changes can be disorienting. Sticking to your recovery plan can make you feel like some things have stayed the same. Attending meetings, going to the gym, keeping a regular schedule, and other elements of your recovery plan can make you feel more normal at a difficult time.

Take a break from social media.

Studies have shown that social media can increase feelings of depression and anxiety even during normal times and after a breakup it could be even worse. When you feel bad about a breakup, the last thing you want is to constantly see your ex on Facebook. There are a number of reason this could make you feel worse. For one, they may be complaining specifically about you and, of course, you won’t be able to resist defending yourself. Second, you may be tempted to reach out or engage, which can only confuse things and possibly lead to conflict. Third, everyone presents themselves on social media in the best possible light. Your ex is not going to post pictures of himself crying in the bathroom; he’s going to post pictures of himself having fun and moving on, which will only make you feel worse. Consider unfriending or unfollowing your ex, at least for a little while, until you’ve had time to feel better.

Write about it.

Writing can a great way to process difficult or stressful events. It helps you see the situation more objectively and feel a sense of control over the event, especially if you are able to find a sense of meaning in what happened. One study found that specific ways of thinking about a breakup might have specific benefits. Thinking about your ex’s negative traits was found to reduce your feelings of love for your ex, but it was also found to increase negative feelings in general. Writing about something totally unrelated to your ex is a method of avoidance or distraction that has little long-term benefit but may make you feel better temporarily. Writing about your acceptance of feeling love for your ex had no effect on feelings of love or mood but did make respondents less reactive to photos of their exes. However you choose to write about a breakup, it’s also important to analyze the relationship and learn whatever lessons you can before moving on.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, Hired Power and our team of dynamic, experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. We offer many services, including helping you choose the best treatment program and transitional services, including interventions, sober monitoring, and personal recovery assistants. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919.

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