9 Steps of Love Addicts Anonymous: Achieving Sobriety After a Breakup.
Love is arguably the hardest habit to kick.
Anyone that has ever experienced heartache knows that withdrawing from someone you were madly in love with is an inconceivable emotional pain. Lovesick and emotionally devastated, we vow to stay away from the very drug that left us empty and broken… until he texts at 3 am asking to come over.
In spite of the consistent hurt and disappointment, we run back like junkies, welcoming the next high and knowing damn well we will soon crash. We have become addicts for love and validation from others, and the first step toward a sober life is admitting that we have a problem.
1. Admit that you are powerless
After a breakup, we swear up and down that we are done, that there is no possibility of relapsing. The damage is assessed with our closest friends, and we burn our bridges. We channel our anger, and are confident that we will never be so foolish again, but the truth is: once an addict, always an addict. Before long, we will receive a text that will trigger an insatiable craving for our drug of choice.
In our most vulnerable moments, we give in because we cannot resist the intoxicating high. We reflect fondly on the good times that were once shared and the warmth that was felt as love coursed through our veins. The pain and suffering that was felt when our hearts were ripped from our chests is forgotten, and we convince ourselves that it will be different next time.
We then text back and fall off the wagon while our friends roll their eyes and patiently wait for us to hit rock bottom for the third time. We must first challenge our egos and admit that we are vulnerable in our addiction.
2. People, places, and things
In the early stages of sobriety, recovering addicts are advised to avoid people, places, and things that trigger cravings to use, and for the love addict, heartbreak is no different. Avoiding people, places, and things that make you want to run back into the arms of the one who hurt you is the first step in breaking the cycle.
Now, the next step is going to evoke some defensiveness and some ridiculous excuses, which further confirms the necessity.
3. Block their number
An addict does not keep their dealer’s name in their phone for a rainy day because they understand that they are more likely to relapse. We may feel certain that we would never go back as we step out from the rubble and destruction that our past relationship left behind, but a day will come when we feel lonely and think that getting lunch isn’t such a bad idea. Closure, right? Wrong.
There is no valid reason for keeping an open line of communication with our pain except the truth: we have an unhealthy attachment that we cannot break free from. I know he said “I love you” and insisted that he “made a mistake” while heavily intoxicated, but that is just the dealer preying on the vulnerable addict. There is no reason to return to the person or drug that destroyed us.
We do not need our hair products back, and he can certainly go without his old college t-shirt. Let’s cut the shit and be honest with ourselves.
4. Also, block their social media accounts
Alcoholics don’t spend time scrolling through pictures of ice cold microbrews. Similarly, there is no healthy reason for stalking an ex and his new girlfriend. There is absolutely no growth that comes from spending time focusing on loss and pain that has no space in our current life.
5. Avoid things that trigger negative emotional responses
Do not feed your addiction by snuggling up in bed wearing his favorite t-shirt and listening to that song from that band that you saw in concert together in 2014. Addicts are instructed to get rid of all drugs and paraphernalia when embarking on a path of sobriety. We are not choosing a sober life if we have a stash of drugs in the top drawer.
We must stop hoarding our emotional baggage and making excuses by calling it “memories.” There are more rewarding experiences in our future if we make room for growth.
6. Stay busy to restore yourself to sanity
Following a breakup, we have to relearn how to function throughout the day without our partner. Sleeping alone and watching Game Of Thrones without him there will feel foreign and lonely, which could very well lead to relapse justifications.
“His birthday is coming up, I should text him.”
“I have one of his mother’s Tupperware, I should really return that.”
“I don’t understand why he left. I should text him and ask for a detailed analysis of why our relationship failed. That will make me feel better.”
This is our addicted brain creating bullshit excuses for us to run back to a situation that no longer serves us out of fear and desperation. The solution? Stay busy. A relationship can be time-consuming, and after a breakup, there is a void that needs to be filled.
A great deal of time was invested in the relationship, and when it ends, one’s identity is left with a gaping hole that was once filled with dreams, white picket fences, and Eskimo kisses. We have to begin investing into ourselves, and fill the void by engaging in activities that benefit our mind, body, and soul.
There is a foolish misconception that serial dating and inviting someone into our sheets will fill the void. Investing in yet another relationship while still healing from the last drug binge is nothing more than trading one substance for another. Distractions are not investments, this is a time to focus solely on yourself and which aspects of your identity need healing.
7. Make amends with the past
Closure is not necessary in order to move forward. The need to reconcile is nothing more than our addiction convincing us to preserve the bridge rather than setting it aflame. I say, light that bitch up. We do not need to understand why they cheated or what made them leave, we only need to understand why we stayed in such an undeserving circumstance.
We can continue searching for resolution in the very person that brought you to your knees, or we can choose to let go. He is not reaching out at 2 am because he loves you, he is just lonely and knows that you will always buy what he is selling. The dealer profits from the addict, they do not care for them. We exist to get high off of their supply and stroke their ego at our own expense.
We must forgive ourselves for the past, let go of the future plans, and move forward.
8. Fearless inventory of oneself
Not everyone who uses drugs becomes an addict, and not everyone who falls in love becomes codependent, but if you’re still picking apart his profile picture and bringing him up in casual conversation with friends after a year of being apart, it is time for an intervention.
One does not become a love addict because “he was so sweet” or because “he was the only one that understood,” one becomes addicted because he or she filled a void with a person.
In my experiences with working with those suffering from addiction, I find that something is missing from their lives. Each one uses drugs to fill a hole in their identity in which something is lacking. Whether they lack passion, excitement, happiness, self-worth, or peace, drugs are used to fill the void.
People who become addicted to their relationship, or who constantly need to feel loved and cared for, are addicted to the validation from another person, and become junkies for their partner’s affection. The question that needs to be answered in order for recovery to begin is:
What void is your relationship filling? Do you feel poorly about yourself and feel that this is the only love you will ever experience? Are you lonely and filling your time with another person rather than your own passions and interests? Are all of your friends married and you have become obsessed with having your own fairy tale? Emotional sobriety cannot be achieved until one can identify what is hurting.
9. Reconstruct and rebuild your identity
Recovering from an addiction requires a person to make both mental and behavioral changes. Listening to Taylor Swift and burning his clothes in some sort of ritualistic ceremony is not sufficient and is borderline unstable — stop it. Once one has identified the void that the relationship once filled, there lies the challenging task of making oneself whole again.
Addiction is a symptom of an unhealthy mind, and only the sufferer can find the cure. Was loneliness and boredom triggering a need for another person? Then we must cope by exploring passions and engaging in activities that are fulfilling so that we are not on our hands and knees pleading for another person to give us happiness. We have created it ourselves.
Maybe confidence was low? Then we must find the areas of ourselves that we feel poorly about, and invest in our own emotional bankruptcies rather than a relationship.
Tending to our mental and physical health will provide more happiness that sitting on Tinder for several hours a day, swiping right in hopes that Prince Charming will flood our inbox with the same message he sent the last three women in hopes one of us will bite.
We can fill time with the gym, Yoga, reading, traveling, learning to cook, volunteering, learning karate, photography, anything that facilitates growth, but we must stop investing time and energy into relationships that we so desperately need to detox from.
In order to maintain sobriety, one must be honest with themselves in order to understand the spiritual deficits that led you down the road of addiction. One does not end up missing work to stalk social media accounts while sobbing and listening to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill because he or she is in a healthy place.
We have a tendency to romanticize our addiction and convince ourselves that our drugs love us back when they are, in fact, trying to destroy us. We become obsessive and codependent because we have voids that we tried to fill with another person, and when they leave, part of our identity is ripped away and we feel lost.
Any form of addiction is characterized by a mental obsession for whatever can make us feel different than how we feel sober. Because we cannot sit with who we are, we need something or someone to distract us from our loneliness, our body issues, our shitty careers, our depression, or our low self-esteem that we have not faced.
Recovery is achieved by letting go of what no longer works for you and rebuilding a strong identity. Detaching from the one that brought you complete and utter euphoria and soul-crushing devastation often seems to be an overwhelming feat. Dwelling on the future and focusing on forever without them creates anxiety — one day at a time.
We must focus on healing the parts of ourselves that led to the dependency rather than filling the void with yet another person to distract us from ourselves. The pillar of sobriety is not restraint or abstinence, it is investment. Having invested so much in another for so long, we must now give back to ourselves. Invest in self-worth, spiritual and emotional poverties, and aspirations.
Above all, sobriety is now learning to love yourself as much as you loved your addiction.