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Relationship Breakups in Early Recovery Double the Risk of Relapse

A recent study by Daniel Pilowsky and his team in the US has revealed that people who experience stressful events such as a relationships breakup in early recovery are twice as likely to relapse. It seems that this additional level of stress in the person's life can prove too much for them, with them using this breakup as an excuse to relapse back to addiction.

Why Are Relationship Breakups so Dangerous in Early Recovery?

A relationship breakup in early recovery can greatly increase the risk of relapse for a number of reasons, including:

  • Individuals that break away from addiction tend to need a great deal of support in the early months of their recovery. If they have been relying on their partner for this support, they could be left feeling vulnerable if this person walks out of their life. In some cases, the individual may have been expecting to receive too much support from this other person, leading directly to the breakup.
  • A relationship breakup can be extremely stressful. The individual who breaks away from addiction will already be dealing with a great deal of stress in their life as they adjust to sobriety. The added stress of the breakup could prove too much for them, making it difficult for them to cope. When the person is in this type of position, they will usually fall back to old coping strategies such as drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Some individuals are not fully committed to recovery, just looking for an excuse to relapse. A relationship breakup could provide the perfect justification for this person to return to their addictive behaviour. In fact, the person may have sabotaged his or her own relationship in order to have this excuse to relapse.
  • The end of a breakup in early recovery can be very discouraging. The individual may decide that this is evidence that life without alcohol or drugs just is not very rewarding. From their point of view, it can seem very unfair that they have made the effort to change, yet their life continues to fall apart. Not only may the person in this situation decide to relapse, but also they may decide that recovery just is not worth it and may never try to become sober again.
How to Survive a Relationship Breakup in Early Recovery

The breakup of a relationship in early recovery does mean additional stress, but it does not need to lead back to addiction. Life will get better for the person who chooses sobriety and only time will tell if the end of the relationship is going to be for the best. Here are a few suggestions for how to survive a relationship breakup in early recovery:

  • Your number one priority has to be to protect your recovery - it doesn't matter how bad things are now, they will get worse if you return to alcohol or drugs. If you maintain your sobriety through this difficult time, you are on track for a good life. By relapsing back to addiction, all you can look forward to is increased misery.
  • You need to get as much support as you can get during this difficult period. If you belong to a recovery fellowship, it is a good idea to increase the number of meetings you attend.  If you do not belong to a recovery group, it may be worth joining one, at least for the time being. You can also choose to surround yourself with sober friends, but keep away from those who are still abusing alcohol or drugs.
  • Do not put yourself in high-risk situations during this difficult time. Your ability to fight off temptation is likely to have weakened, so you want to avoid situations where people are drinking.
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