This is an article I never thought I’d write. Ever.
On our final day of a long weekend in the county in May, as we casually laid in bed chatting, my partner of almost 5 years shared that he’d been afraid to tell me that he needed to be alone.
My body immediately flooded with heat and my eyes started to swell. This could not be happening. What was I going to do? Where was I going to live? This could not be happening. I’m going to die alone. How would I make it through this? Rapid-fire thoughts and questions were occurring at a dizzying speed.
While we weren’t legally married, our relationship was every bit as significant, committed and full of love. We were building a life together. This person was my future. This person was my person. For life. I was wholeheartedly in our relationship. I knew in my bones that we were going to be together for a long time, that we wanted the same things and that we were moving in the same direction. And then it was over.
One of the things that threw me most about the break-up was when I thought about my future, it now had huge holes in it. All the incredible adventures and travels we had planned together had instantly disappeared. The trip we had been talking about for our 5th anniversary vanished. As someone who loves to plan and create things in the future that I can look forward to, the uncertainty of it was terrifying for me. I felt like I was being swallowed up by the cavernous pit that was my future. It was unsettling to say the least.
In addition to managing the emotional turmoil and grief that goes along with the ending of a meaningful relationship, I was also doing it all sober. Previously, when terrible things happened in my life (and trust me when I say I’ve had my share of terrible things), I used booze to numb my feelings and create distance between myself and the emotional extremes because I did not believe that I could endure my life and my feelings without booze. Now that I’m sober, I was processing my first significant life upheaval without leaning on alcohol as my crutch.
Thank goddess I have more than 2 years of #sobriety (and a whole slew of self-care tools) under my belt! Ironic as it may sound, I could not be more grateful to have experienced this #sober. Had I been drinking, I know that I would have stumbled my way through the break-up drunk, messy, sad and not feeling or dealing with the situation. It’s also highly likely that I would have made the situation much worse for myself by saying and doing things while drinking that I normally wouldn’t say or do.
While the sadness was hard and heavy, I was grateful to actually be feeling it and processing it as it was happening, rather than temporarily drinking my feelings away, only to wake up the next day experiencing the depressive symptoms that #booze elicits, the shame and embarrassment of drinking excessively and the deep sadness and grief of my relationship ending. Drinking when you’re already in a shitty situation is like inviting that shitty situation to be ten times worse. That said, if you’re looking to compound the terribleness of your situation, drinking is your new best friend and always delivers on this front.
In addition to being incredibly grateful that I’m experiencing this sober, I am also incredibly grateful for the 10+ years I’ve invested in myself around #mindset, beliefs, #resilience and personal development work. I’ve been leaning heavily on these lessons over the past couple months and know that the growth and knowledge I’ve accumulated over the last decade is serving me well.
For example, when shitty stuff happens in our lives (and it does/will cause that’s life - people die, relationships end, jobs are lost, and hearts are broken), we always have a choice in terms of how we’re going to react and what perspective we’re going to apply to the situation.
Without the clarity of sobriety and the stash of mindset and resilience tools I have in my back pocket, I easily could have slipped into a place where I felt like my life and future was crumbling around me. When the person you’ve been building a life with for almost 5 years abruptly tells you that they’re leaving, it would be very easy to take that personally, internalize their decision, criticize myself for how I showed up in the relationship, and adopt the “I’m not enough” narrative. In other words, I could have made his decision about me, even though it wasn’t.
Now that a bit of time and space has lapsed since the relationship ended, I’m able to step back and honestly reflect on the relationship, understand it for what it was and practice gratitude for all the love, growth, experiences, challenges and opportunities it brought into my life.
Over the last few months, as I’ve been picking up the pieces of my life and visioning what my future looks like, instead of focusing on the holes that were left by my former partner, I have started to focus on me and crafting the exact life I want to live. The thought of this (now) brings me such a sense of excitement, joy and #possibility because I can do whatever I want with my life! Through this experience, I have learned how much I truly value freedom and full agency over my life. This is not to say that I didn’t have freedom or agency while in my last relationship - I did. But I also practiced compromise and made choices that accounted for my partner and our relationship. I wholeheartedly stand by those decisions. And I’m excited to be stepping into my shiny, new life that’s designed entirely on my terms. The sky's the limit and I couldn’t be more excited.
All this is to say that while I have endured heartbreak and an unexpected and abrupt change that turned my life on its head, I got through it, largely thanks to my sobriety and the life tools I’ve acquired and developed along the way. What’s amazing about that is these life tools (aka resilience, mindset and beliefs and personal development work) are available to you, too. The large majority of my learning is done through reading #books I get from the Toronto Public Library. #Podcasts are also great resources. The tools are available. You just have to decide if you want to pick them up or not.
In part two of this piece, I’ll share, in detail, the exact practices and tools I used to support me in getting through the early days of the breakup when my heart felt like it was broken into a million pieces and all I could see was holes.