“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 the circumstances or the capacity, getting dumped hurts. It hurts bad.
Going through it sober, however, can be even worse.
I’ve been through an array of breakups before: messy ones, ones where we lived together, ones where we owned things together, the whole deal.
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 in the case of past breakups -- I was sober throughout 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, as I’m writing this, I’m here to report I’m still alive. Even better, I can finally say I'm actually happy this happened to me.
As I'm in a community where the majority of my friends are sober, I get asked "How did you do it?" a lot.
Here are the things I did to survive and thrive through my sober breakup:
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, which included 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 I could vent and cry to, but I also surrounded myself with people who could distract me from the constant pit of grief I had in my stomach.
2. Destroy the evidence.
This sounds harsh, but it’s true.
Part of me wanted to hang onto 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.
If I ever really needed to find a photo, I could always check my computer files or social media.
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 breakup, I remembered that a woman I greatly admired had also recently gone through a breakup.
She had done it with such grace and dignity, 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 your social media.
This concept had a slow learning curve for me. At first, I thought I could handle still being his friend on Facebook.
However, the first post of his I saw immediately brought me to tears. I then unfollowed him.
This helped, but I continued to go to his profile on a daily basis to look at his photos.
Months went by, and I continued to obsess about what he was doing.
I knew it was the equivalent of emotional cutting, but I kept at it.
Finally, after four months and many nudges from friends, I blocked him.
It was hard because a 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 off my shoulders, and my recovery got easier and easier.
5. Don't have any contact.
Again, this one can be hard. Prior to this, I had never had a clean break.
But it was well worth resisting to reach out.
A friend told me 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. My feelings would come flooding 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 message him.
Another wise friend of mine told me that if I were to message him, I would be setting myself up for disappointment.
6. Have fun, but also take time to feel sad.
It’s easy to get distracted, start dating right away or spend all your time with friends.
It’s also easy to lay in bed all day with Netflix, eating ice cream and watching romance movies while 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 the 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 flip side, it was also important for me to write down my feelings, put on some sad songs and cry my eyes out on occasion.
Breakups should hurt. We’re humans.
It’s important to feel sad.
But it was also important for me to feel angry. I wrote him a letter to get my resentment out.
By taking the time to listen to my heart and feel what I needed to feel, I was able to walk through the breakup without suppressing any emotions that were sure to come out later.
My mom would always tell me 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, though, my mom was right.
I now have the assurance that I can continue to walk my path of sobriety with the faith that everything happens for a reason.