Breakups are difficult for everyone but for recovering alcoholics and addicts, the implications can be costly since the ultimate excuse to relapse is right there for the taking. So why not consider any of these other breakup-survival possibilities instead?
1) Download funny breakup songs.
Let me just state the two most important words about this up front: no Adele. Sinead O’Connor, Alanis Morissette and obviously 80’s hair metal ballads like “Still Loving You” by Scorpions, “Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone” by Cinderella and “Don’t Walk Away” by Firehouse are, however, all encouraged. I’ve listened to those in traffic, where breakup memories strike the hardest for big city heartbreakers like myself. Which reminds me: have a sense of humor in what people think of as a dark time. Smiling will turn off alcoholic thoughts—for a minute anyway–and turning up metal ballads about groupies can help bring it on. I know this first hand.
2) Stay up and eat late.
I know most people will say “But Carlos, the only places open after midnight are bars and hookers’ legs” and to that I’ll say “100% true.” Staying up late is something I’ve always done but when I went through a tough breakup in sobriety, I started to stay up cokehead late and it was super fun. Why? Because I had absolutely nobody to be accountable to or for and this, my friends, is freedom. I made sure to not see the sun rise after eating 1,000 calorie meals at 2 am and watching movies until the time when Marines wake up and go running. There’s a fine line between gluttony and salt therapy, and a cheeseburger or a Carnitas taco can do wonders for the soul. That, I say, is the real chicken soup for the soul.
3) Buy something awesome.
A new phone, a motorcycle, lap dances, expensive smoothies, clothes without having to ask your ex if she likes them or not, online porn memberships, books about sports, Young Adult books, midnight showing movie tickets and the list goes on. I actually considered having this paragraph just be a list of awesome things to buy during a breakup but I have more respect for the reader than that. Things you buy, expensive or not, that are not alcohol or drugs won’t fix heartbreak and self-indulgent wallowing. But it is nice to get those things you toyed with wanting when you were with her that you can now get judgment-free, even if the materialistic happiness they provide can sometimes only last for several fleeting moments. I had a Blackberry during my last relationship so I traded in BrickBreaker and corporate emails for Safari and a normal camera at my fingertips. I’d never before gotten the smoothies at my gym and then one day I said, “I’ll have a fucking Blueberry Bliss, please!” I started going to Niketown to buy shoes only 14-year-old boys would wear and I taught myself how to ride a motorcycle because I could. Buying alcohol or drugs, of course, crossed my mind but instead I spent the extra money I had on pointless accessories and my life got better one iTunes purchase at a time.
4) Get new friends.
Everyone’s been here. Hanging with people who are still friends with your ex can mean hearing her name casually brought up on the regular. Worse than the way that can make you feel is the awkwardness that then strikes the room like lightning on a skyscraper. Avoid that. The old life friends won’t be hurt if you go out and get some new ones and at least to the new ones you won’t be the guy who just got dumped and now-there-are egg-shells-lining-the-tile-everywhere-we-walk. Truthfully, I’ve never been in a relationship where the friends I met through the ex weren’t annoying and replicas of her anyway. Really, how many of them am I going to want to have brunch with or go hiking once the pattern of hanging out with him has been broken? Zero to one if my life goes according to plan. The double insecurity and grandiose ego which led me to drink and use drugs like it was my fuel was brought back more than once when I was in a room with people who were friends with her. The last thing in the world sober addicts who are “going through it” need is to experience the feelings or experiences that fueled their addiction. Learn from my experiences—take a social shower.
5) Go to meetings.
Obvious, Carlos! Boo! Fire this writer. Okay, everyone, relax. I wouldn’t write this last if I didn’t think it was so incredibly important to say. I would never had made it out of tough break ups if I hadn’t had the fellowship of AA that welcomed me with open arms. I look back at one particular breakup and remember how good I felt at the meeting I went to seven nights a week. AA took care of me when I wasn’t sure if I knew how to take care of myself. It wasn’t always great and I disagreed with a lot. I was irritable and hurting and I’m sure that came across as super obvious due to my lack of a decent poker face but when I walked into this meeting, I had a beard, Adidas sweatpants and a jacket that looked like I robbed it from the chess tables in Central Park. When I left, I did step three (of this list) and looked like a decent human being. I simply did not drink because I worked the 12 steps and checked in with the same people every night for over a year. I turned the table on my breakup thanks to the fellowship of AA. Added benefits: I saw new parts of the city I live in, met tons of new people (some who I’m friends with still this day) and learned that I don’t have to drink no matter what.
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