Heartbreak isn’t always taken as seriously as other emotional experiences, but it’s a powerful form of grief. It’s not uncommon for people to relapse as they deal with the many emotions that arise during a breakup.
Heartbreak and Early Sobriety Share Many Similarities
The first time I experienced withdrawal was when I was still in active addiction. For a month after a particularly rough breakup, I had physical sensations like nausea, a constant stomach churning feeling, and many more. That ex told me that since things ended a month before, she’d had a skin-crawling sensation, a common withdrawal symptom for drugs like cocaine and opioids.
This is far from unique to us. One study out of Yeshiva University found that the same brain areas active in people addicted to cocaine operated in heartbroken people when they looked at pictures of their exes. Breakups and early sobriety share a lot of similarities: withdrawal, craving, and difficulty controlling impulses.
Neuroscientist Lucy Brown, the leader of the Yeshiva University study, said, “We crave the other person just as we crave nicotine or pain pills; you want to be near the other person, you’re constantly thinking about them, we even do dangerous things sometimes to win them back—we don’t eat or sleep.” There’s a reason so many songs compare love to drugs.
Staying Sober Will Help
Remember that staying sober is going to help you through this time. While drinking or using again may seem like a quick way to numb these feelings, they will ultimately increase your emotional pain.
Breakups can be a time of real growth; recovery is an opportunity to tap into that part of the experience. Even if you’re just trying to get through, you will learn how to cope with painful feelings without drinking or using drugs. You will have the mental clarity to really consider who you want to be outside of this relationship.
Tips for Getting Through a Breakup Sober
That said, it’s okay if you can’t relate to that right now, and things just feel hard. Now is a good time to lean on your support system; friends can be a great source of strength when you’re heartbroken. If you tend to isolate, make sure you’re reaching out to the people in your life regularly, particularly if you have thoughts of drinking or using. Even if you don’t want to use substances, support from other people will help you.
It’s also important to focus on self-care. Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally; find ways to nurture yourself accordingly that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. This is another way breakups resemble early sobriety. In both circumstances, it’s useful to get rest, take care of your body, and go easy on yourself.
Part of recovery is learning to let yourself feel your emotions. When you don’t allow yourself to do so, it can make life a lot more difficult. A sober breakup is a crash course in sitting with powerful feelings without trying to numb them. You will get through it, and this experience will help you get through the next hard time.
If you are struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for substance use and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the tools to cope with whatever life brings, sober. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.