When single people go through addiction recovery treatment, the temptation to form romantic attachments can be strong. After all, you may be feeling confident and optimistic about beginning a new drug-free life, and a new life partner may seem like a reasonable part of that.
However, counselors, doctors, friends, and fellow members of support groups recommend against jumping into new romantic relationships in rehab. Why?
Addiction recovery is a hard process, and most people have to devote themselves fully to it. This typically makes new romantic relationships unwise. Temptation can be strong, particularly in 12-step programs where you meet new people, who often understand fully what addiction involves.
That way of thinking, however, does not take into account the realities of addiction. Romances formed in rehab often end in heartbreak for everyone involved, and heartbreak can precipitate a relapse and jeopardize your recovery.
Breakups, Substances, and Control
Breakups often include feelings of being out of control, even if you initiated the split. Many people with addictions first abuse alcohol or other substances because of the feelings of control the substances (temporarily) provide. So it is not much of a stretch to envision a breakup causing a relapse of addictive behavior.
Preventing a breakup from imperiling your addiction recovery requires that you recognize risks and take steps that reduce them. While you cannot control many aspects of a breakup, there are many things you can control without compromising all the hard work you have put into addiction recovery.
Recognize the Difficulty of the Situation
The loss of a relationship is one of life’s major stressors, regardless of how physically and mentally healthy a person is. Do not try to minimize the potential impact of a breakup, and do recognize how the upheaval puts you at higher risk for relapse. Give yourself permission to grieve, and be kind to yourself in ways other than those involving addictive behavior. Ensure your own physical safety if potential for violence exists, and recognize possible triggers that could cause feelings of despair. Limiting or avoiding social media for a while may be wise, or having a friend grocery shop so you are not tempted by the wine and beer aisle could be helpful.
Now Is the Time You Should Reach Out
This is when it is appropriate to lean on your support network. If you are in a 12-step program, speak to your sponsor and plan to attend meetings often as you navigate the first difficult days after a breakup. Lean on friends and family members who understand that you are an addict in recovery and who will provide the kind of support that will help you keep going without raising your risk for relapse. If you are financially able, you may consider making an appointment with a qualified individual counselor. If there is ever a time to reach out for help, this is it.
Tips for Day-to-Day Coping
It is okay to cry when you are grieving the end of an important relationship, so let yourself cry if you feel like it. It is also okay to pamper yourself in appropriate ways. For some people that may mean watching a marathon of favorite television show or movies. For others, a luxurious soak in a bubble bath can help time pass more pleasantly.
If you have a pet, spend time with it. Few things are as unconditional as the nonjudgmental love your cat or dog has for you. You could even volunteer your time at a local shelter. They are almost always happy to have assistance with feeding, walking, or caring for their charges. Other volunteer opportunities can be helpful too, helping you stop living in your head temporarily.
Do you love your work or your school program? You can fill up some of the hours by focusing on those endeavors. Mild exercise, like an easy hike in a local park, is an excellent way to spend time in a healthy environment. In other words, focus on yourself and be kind to yourself. This type of control can help you avoid looking to addictive substances for the illusory feeling of control they give.
Romantic breakups challenge countless aspects of your self-regard and feelings of self-worth. But always bear in mind the hard work you have put into addiction recovery. Bad situations are made worse when you add substance abuse to the equation, and if you are able to remain clean and sober, you maximize your opportunities to build new, healthy relationships. If you have any questions about addiction recovery, we encourage you to contact us at any time.