Breaking up for some people is like withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal from love is one of the most painful withdrawals because there is a unique connection between the person affected and his or her need for love as a child. During withdrawal people psychologically go back in time and feel all the losses they felt as a child. The more neglected they were as children, the more they suffer in the process of withdrawal. I call this age regression.
Furthermore, like drugs, the symptoms of withdrawal are also physical. Lovers experience depression, headaches, anxiety and even flu like symptoms.
People have many theories about how to treat withdrawal. There is the moderation theory like they practice for food addiction, but in most cases complete abstinence works better. In Love Addicts Anonymous, for instance, lovers engage in what they call “no contact.” This works well unless you are one of those who carry a torch year after year. Such people need more help turning the memory of their love into a sentimental feeling rather than a painful addiction.
It is also important to note that in most cases one cannot go through withdrawal without help. Studies support the idea that one must reach out for help from peers as well and professionals. This is discussed in Patrick Carne’s book about sex addiction, “Don’t Call it Love.” He insists that a twelve step program works better. I agree. During my early recovery reaching out for help was the most important step I took after admitting that I was in withdrawal from romantic love.
If you have a hard time letting go, consider the following.
(1) Admit you have a problem. Admit this to yourself and to someone else. Face the fact that you are part of the problem and that you are not just a victim.
(2) Reach out for help from a support group or therapist. It is not enough to ask your friends what to do. This is serious and you need a lot of support to get through the emotional and physical withdrawal.
(3) If you have no children, initiate “no contact.”
(4) Distract yourself with activities. Do something fun and hang out with friends who understand. Start a new hobby or go on a vacation.
(5) Treat your anxiety and depression in a way suited to you. This means consulting a professional and considering medication on a short term basis. If this is not right for you, practice positive thinking and be optimistic about the future.
(6) Give yourself time to heal. Whether your withdrawal is short or long things will get better in time. This would also be a good time to build up your confidence and self-esteem. Some people blame themselves for the end of the relationship and this only prolongs withdrawal. Most of all, be optimistic and know that there will be a brighter tomorrow.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.