Few things are as emotionally painful as a breakup. Regardless of whether you or your partner instigated the move, there is stress and an emotional fallout to cope with as you move forward. It seems like the end of the world at the time and major life events like a breakup or change in relationship status are significant risk factors for relapse, making preventative measures essential.
Unlike other risk factors related to recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), relationship issues such as separation or divorce are twice as likely to lead to a relapse. One 2014 study from the University of Columbia concluded that “formerly alcohol-dependent adults are at increased risk for relapse following divorce/separation.” Most people experience one or all of the following:
- Concern about your financial and legal status
- Uncertainty about new family dynamics and relationships with friends and loved ones
- Relief when ending an unhealthy relationship
- Sad, numb, or feelings of grief for what you have lost
- Guilt when responsible for ending the relationship
- Hope for the future and excitement for your new lease on life
By learning healthy coping mechanisms, you can avoid letting a breakup derail your recovery.
Acknowledge the Validity of Your Feelings
Highly stressful life events are often difficult to cope with because the emotional fallout can be overwhelming. Your feelings and thoughts matter and should not be ignored or dismissed. Common responses to a breakup are shame, remorse, pain, confusion, anger, and even relief. Those are all valid feelings. One way to stop them from becoming overwhelming is to express how you feel or share your thoughts with someone you trust and feel safe talking with about the subject. Divorce or separation can make your life feel like it has fallen into a tailspin, and unmarried individuals go through the same level of distress.
If you and your significant other were not married, then you may feel tempted to diminish the validity of your feelings. However, one study looking at the effect of breakups on non-married couples found that it was “associated with an increase in psychological distress and a decline in life satisfaction,” regardless of how long the study participants had been in a relationship.
Their study results also indicated that individuals who were living in a toxic relationship that caused stress and mental distress experienced profound relief after the breakup. Whatever you feel about yourself and your former relationship partner has merit, and you can find ways to control any negative reactions.
Avoid Negative or Passive-Aggressive Responses
When you are hurting, it is easy to lash out emotionally or verbally. Passive-aggressive remarks and behaviors might make you feel good at the moment, but they create long-term issues, are not a healthy form of coping, and often precede guilt which can be triggering. If you find yourself reacting negatively, try to do some deep breathing, take a mental step back, and look for a more positive alternative. You have other options for finding cathartic release without subjecting yourself or someone else to negative emotions.
Healthy Coping Methods For Dealing With Emotional Responses
There is no right or wrong way to respond to a significant life change like a breakup. However, some responses are healthier than others, and for people in recovery from substance abuse, staying positive and healthy is essential to avoid triggers or relapse. You can use the following beneficial coping methods to deal with any strong emotions you might be experiencing about your new circumstances:
- Communicate how you are feeling with a loved one or trusted friend
- Write down your feelings in a journal or use a creative medium for expressing how you feel
- Speak with your therapist, sponsor, or support group about any cravings or triggers that you may experience
- Use coping skills to keep your emotions and behaviors under control
- Make new daily routines to replace any that might be triggering
- Give yourself a chance to explore new interests and branch out as you build a happy, hope-filled future
Allow Yourself to Grieve While Maintaining Positivity
You can grieve for what you have lost without falling into despair. There are ways to remain positive despite no longer having that relationship in your life. Avoidance tactics are common, but they do nothing to help you heal. Here are a few things you can do to make it easier to remain hopeful while coping:
- Practice mindfulness and allow yourself to find peace in the moment
- Avoid “should have” or “could have” scenarios and instead focus on the facts and how you can move forward
- When you encounter something that reminds you of your past relationship, try to focus on the positive aspects instead of the negative—acknowledge any pain, shame, or anger you might feel without letting it take control
- Recognize the hope and possibilities you have to look forward to in your future
- Recognize that your relationship status does not change the fact that you will continue to progress in your recovery
You deserve to be happy. If you have recently experienced a breakup, you might be wondering how to move forward in your recovery while navigating the emotional consequences that come with changes to serious relationships. Breakups can increase the risk of relapsing, but there are plenty of resources to keep you grounded while adjusting to life changes. The staff at Everlast Recovery Centers are here to offer support, understanding, and compassion. Sometimes significant life changes require a few weeks of residential treatment to overcome the flood of overwhelming feelings in a safe and judgment-free space. Your recovery could benefit from spending time learning healthy ways to cope and figuring out how to move forward as a single individual. The one-on-one and group therapy sessions at Everlast Recovery Centers will give you a safe space to recenter yourself and keep your recovery on track. Learn more by calling us today at (866) 338-6925.