A breakup with an addict can leave a person feeling particularly bitter. Here are four lessons one man learned from a split with his alcoholic girlfriend.
Breakups aren’t easy. They’re even harder when the reason why it all fell apart escapes you. Being able to identify the reason for a breakup offers at least some semblance of comfort, even if the world seems like a cold, sad place. However, sometimes the reason is there, but it’s difficult to understand. In my case, I didn’t understand how someone could choose alcohol over me.
In what felt like seconds, seven years of my life were gone. She hung up the phone on me like I was a telemarketer. She told me that because I didn’t agree with her lifestyle, I wasn’t going to be a part of it.
The voice on the other end didn’t sound like the person I had fallen in love with; the joy and quiet kindness were gone, and had been replaced with a cold, slurring pragmatism. The click of the phone and the dial tone that followed were the only closure I had. How could I make sense of something like this? The fact was, for a long time, I couldn’t. I couldn’t see from her perspective, and since I’m not an alcoholic, I probably never will. The most I could do was try my best to understand, find meaning in my own life, and pick up the pieces one by one to create something new out of what was left.
It wasn’t easy. Emotions come quickly, and the worst tend to overstay their welcome. Self reflection is impossible through the white-hot anger or ice-cold misery left in the wake of a once warm and flourishing relationship. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t impossible. I took a lot of wrong turns, but along the way I discovered a great deal about myself, and even more about the relationship and the person that were now behind me.
1. Don’t blame anyone.
Blaming is easy—it’s why most of us default to this emotional response in the aftermath of a tough breakup. Who we blame, though, can change. I first blamed her. I blamed her for the pain I felt, and that she chose addiction over me. However, it didn’t take long for that blame to evolve. I started to blame myself. I felt as though I pushed her to where alcohol was her only option. I felt as though I wasn’t worth her time or affection, and that an addiction was more rewarding and stimulating than a relationship with me.
What I didn’t understand at the time was the nature of addiction: it’s a disease, and it wasn’t her fault. That’s the danger of blame. It evolves into a monster beyond control, and can cloud any rational thoughts or judgments you may have. When you feel yourself beginning to blame either party, stop and reflect.
Reflection, unlike blame, is hard. Reflection is, in some ways, the more cool-headed cousin of blame. You’re still looking at your relationship, but from a perspective without the anger and sadness that often turns reflection into blame. Reflection can be hard, especially if you feel as though you did nothing wrong. Know, however, that this is a chance to reflect not on your faults, but you as a person. What can I learn from this experience? Can I try to understand more about addiction?
Often, there is room for growth after a breakup. You’ve spent so much time focusing on someone else that it may be time to focus on yourself. Relationships, especially rocky ones, can sometimes make trust, love, and happiness tough to come by. Reflecting on yourself is your chance to find those things again, although it may take time.
Make sure you’re ready to take this step, though, because sometimes reflection can turn into blaming yourself, especially when the breakup comes out of nowhere. Because my breakup had hit me like a brick wall, it was difficult to reflect on what I could have done differently. Should I have seen this coming? Probably. Could I have been a better person? Absolutely. Would that have changed anything? Probably not.
3. Let go.
Breakups often feel like an explosion, and you’re at ground zero. Everything around you seems destroyed, and life feels bleak. At ground zero, it’s pretty much impossible to let go of the relationship. However, the further away you get from ground zero, the easier it is to let go. Easier still doesn’t mean easy, though. Letting go is probably the toughest part of recovering from a break up.
In my case, it was hard to let go of the person I loved, because it felt very much as though alcohol had consumed that person and left nothing behind. Breaking up with an addict can feel like losing someone forever, because the person you loved is hidden deep underneath the person their substance of choice has turned them in to. Focus on yourself first, and the best way to do this is to let go of the lingering doubts, hatred, or anger you may feel.
My breakup had no closure. I was stuck on that for a long time. I felt as though I had so much left to say, but I could never tell her how I felt. That’s okay. While closure can come from the outside, it can also come from within.
Forgiving your ex is essential to finding this closure. Addiction is one of the most difficult struggles any person can face, and they do it every day. Some give in, and some fight, but know that often this is extremely difficult control. Forgiving them for this is not excusing the behavior, but making an attempt to understand it. Once you understand alcoholism or addiction, it makes it just a little easier to forgive them for whatever they may have done to you.
Equally as important, don’t forget to forgive yourself, too. Understand that even if you made mistakes, you’re only hurting yourself by holding on to them. No one’s perfect, and the sooner you acknowledge that about yourself, the sooner you can move forward and find the closure you need within yourself.
Breakups aren’t easy, and they’re a lot harder when you’ve broken up with someone with a serious addiction. However, while the breakup is hard and what follows is certainly no picnic either, you will be able to move forward. With these ideas in mind, that process is all the more easy.
About the Author
Victor is a writer, photographer, film aficionado living in Detroit, MI. He currently blogs about drug and alcohol addiction, and how to move beyond them. You can find him on his days off watching Game of Thrones with his cat, or arguing over how to best cook a steak.