“I thought he was the one.”
“How could she do this to me?”
“This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.”
These are all thoughts we’ve had after getting dumped. No matter what the circumstance or the capacity, getting dumped hurts. It hurts bad. Going through it sober, can be even worse.
I’ve been through break ups before- messy ones, where we live together, own things together, the whole shebang. But six months ago I heard the words you never want to hear from the love of your life, “I can’t be with you anymore.” In this case as opposed to past break ups, I was sober through the entire thing. I no longer had the option to pick up some wine to escape the stabbing feelings I felt in my chest. At one point I collapsed to the floor because the pain was so intense. When you no longer have drugs or alcohol as a solution, getting through pain of this magnitude can seem like a monstrous and even impossible task.
Six months later I’m writing this and I’m here to report that I’m still alive, and even better, I can finally say that I am actually happy that it happened to me. Being in a community where a majority of my friends are sober I get asked a lot, how did you do it? Here are the things I did to survive and thrive through my sober break up.
1. Rally the troops
The first thing I did was call my best friend. My words were muffled by hysterical tears but she dropped what she was doing and came over immediately. I then called my girl posse including my mom and best friends. Over the course of the next month, which was the hardest, I tried to be with other people as much as humanly possible. I stayed around people who I could vent and cry to but also around people who could distract me from the constant pit I had in my stomach.
2. Destroy the evidence
This sounds harsh, but it’s true. Part of me wanted to hang on to the photos of us I had around my place, but every time I saw a picture of him on my phone it took me right back to the pain of missing him. With the cloud and social media if I ever really needed to find a photo I could but I threw out everything in my house that had his face on it.
3. Reach out to those who are wiser
In the week following the break up I remembered a woman that a woman who I greatly admire had recently gone through a break up. She had done it with such grace and dignity that I wanted to know how she did it. I called her and asked if we could get coffee. My conversation with her brought me such faith and hope that everything was going to be OK.
4. Cleanse social media
This concept was a slow learning curve for me. At first I thought I could handle still being his friend on Facebook. However the first post I saw by him immediately brought me to tears. I then unfollowed him which help, but this led to me go to his profile on a daily basis to look at his photos. Months went by and I continued to obsess on what he was doing, I knew it was the equivalent of emotional cutting, but I kept at it. Finally after four months, and after many nudges from friends I blocked him. It was hard, because part of me wanted him to see how well I was doing without him. After that point, it felt like a weight had been lifted and my recovery got easier and easier.
5. NO CONTACT
Again, this one can be hard. Prior to this I never had a clean-break of a break up but it was well worth resisting to reach out. A friend told me that it takes 90 days to detox the chemicals associated with the relationship. If I were to hear his voice, see him, or smell him it would be a relapse and my feelings would flood back. If I ever wanted to text him I would text a girlfriend instead. Around his birthday I had my friend change my Facebook password so I wouldn’t be tempted to text him. Another wise friend of mine told me that if I were to text him, no reply in the world would ever match my expectations and I was setting myself up for disappointment.
6. Have fun, but also take time to feel sad
It’s easy to get distracted, to start dating right away or spend all of the time with friends. It’s also easy to lay in bed all day with Netflix eating ice cream and watching romance movies crying. In my experience doing a mix of both was the key to moving past this. I spent a lot of time with friends going out and having fun. It was important for me to do things I used to do with him so I could have new experiences in old places that were associated with my now tainted memories. On the flipside, it was also important for me to write down my feelings, put on some sad songs, and cry my eyes out on occasion.
Break ups should hurt, we’re humans. It’s important to feel sad. It was also important for me to feel angry. I wrote him a f*@! you letter to get my resentments out. By taking the time to listen to my heart and feel what I needed to feel when I needed to feel it, I was able to walk through the break up without stuffing any emotions that were sure to come out later.
My mom would always tell me that a bad circumstance is a “blessing in disguise”, which is the absolute last thing you want to hear when you’re in the midst of tragedy. As with most things, my Mom was right, and I now have assurance that I can continue to walk my path of sobriety with faith that everything happens for a reason.