Everything was going great in your recovery \u2013 and then the unthinkable happened. You lost your partner, the closest one to you in the world, and suddenly everything changes. Myriad thoughts run through your head, allowing no rest, no surcease from the pain. You just want to crawl in a hole and die yourself. Maybe then it won\u2019t hurt so badly. Lifting your head, you spy a magazine ad (or a TV commercial) for Absolut vodka. Your mind starts working. Maybe just a few drinks, you tell yourself \u2013 just to ease the pain. Stop. Before you take that first step into relapse, do yourself a favor and try something different. \u00a0 Remember What It Took to Get Here Think about the long and difficult road you traveled to achieve your sobriety. Your partner was there for you every step of the way and that made the effort even more worthwhile. Even as you remember the pride your partner felt and the words of praise, this will bring you anguish as well as a smile. You feel happy remembering the happiness your sobriety brought your partner, the difference it made in your relationship, the plans and hopes and dreams you both shared. Now, admittedly, there\u2019s a hole in your life. It\u2019s a big hole. There\u2019s no denying it. But remembering the good things in your sobriety with your partner will help you through the immediate crisis. It won\u2019t completely take away the pain of your loss. Only time will do that. The benefit of remembering what it took to get you to this place, this sober life in recovery that you now live, is that you recognize being clean and sober was, and is, a life goal that\u2019s very important to you. It was also very important to your spouse, who stood by you through the dark days of detox, then the complexities of treatment and the uncertain days of early recovery. Surely you don\u2019t want to throw all that away. How would your partner feel about you giving up, going back to alcohol? Is backtracking really something you want to do? Already your mind is working up an argument: \u201cThis is different. I can\u2019t stand the pain. I just want to forget about it. I don\u2019t care if I die. Maybe that would be better. What good is my sobriety now, if my partner isn\u2019t here to share my life?\u201d It\u2019s normal to want to end your pain. Everyone wants to find a way to lessen pain, and the loss of a partner or loved one is some of the most intense pain imaginable. But, again, it\u2019s an immediate pain that will go away in time. That doesn\u2019t mean that you forget your partner or your life together. It just means that when you do remember your times together, you will remember them fondly and not with so much pain. Get Out of the House After you\u2019ve suffered a loss, the natural inclination is to want to be by yourself. That\u2019s exactly the wrong thing to do. You need to be around people, to interact with others, even if it\u2019s on the very least level. Instead of sitting at home, listening to the creak of the house as it settles for the night, go out to a restaurant and have dinner. Call up a friend and meet there. Don\u2019t worry that your friend may feel at a loss for what to say or even that you don\u2019t think you\u2019d be very good company. True friends are there for you in tough times \u2013 and this certainly qualifies. While you\u2019re out in public, you\u2019ll have the distractions of other patrons, the waiter or waitress coming and going, the meal itself, and the conversation \u2013 however banal \u2013 with your friend. It isn\u2019t what you say or your friend has to say that matters. What counts is that you\u2019ve removed yourself from the confines of the solitude of your home and are making an effort to be with others. It\u2019s a means of getting through an hour or two with healthy behavior \u2013 instead of resorting to your old bad habits. Okay, you say, you can\u2019t eat out every hour of the day. That\u2019s true, but eating out is just an example of what you need to do to occupy your free time. Obviously, you\u2019ll have to go to work \u2013 if you\u2019re still working. If you\u2019re retired, you might wish to pursue a hobby or some recreational activity that will get you out of the house \u2013 and in the company of others. Make a Schedule \u2013 and Stick to it During the early days of your bereavement, it\u2019s important that you make a schedule for the week. This may sound familiar to you, since you most likely made a schedule for yourself in your early recovery. It\u2019s much the same thing, and, frankly, serves much the same purpose: keeping you on track in your sobriety and preventing relapse. What you are doing by making your schedule is allocating sufficient time to the tasks and obligations you need to take care of, as well as carving out hours for relaxation, learning new things, doing something fun, and being with others. The idea is to fill up your days \u2013 and nights \u2013 so that you don\u2019t have idle time on your hands. That\u2019s when you get into trouble. That\u2019s when your mind starts playing tricks on you, tempting you with cravings to drink or do drugs or to go back to your old hangouts \u2013 the same places you swore off when you determined to get sober. Making a schedule also helps give you something to look forward to. Once you\u2019ve finished an item on your list, go on to the next one. Schedules can include projects, tasks that you\u2019ve been meaning to tackle but just haven\u2019t gotten around to, or taking the time to make phone calls to distant relatives or friends. In essence, you\u2019re getting from one place to another, from one hour in the day to the next and the next until you go to sleep. Yes, it may be repetitious. But it gets the job done. Having a goal, as indicated on your list or schedule, means you have something you intend to do. It helps keep you grounded and motivated to continue. There\u2019s also the self-satisfaction you\u2019ll receive from getting all these things done. Utilize Your Allies Not everyone understands what you\u2019re going through \u2013 not even your closest friends. But you do have powerful and understanding allies in your 12-step sponsor and group members that have become friends. While they may not have lost a partner or loved one, they each have had their misery and misfortune. Most of all, they know what stress and pain can do to derail sobriety. Whether someone\u2019s been clean and sober for just a few months or many years, the loss of a partner can throw anyone into a tailspin. Utilize your 12-step allies now. That\u2019s what they\u2019re there for. It is part of the philosophy of the group\u2019s existence: to help themselves and others to remain clean and sober. Maybe you\u2019ve not been back to a 12-step meeting for quite some time. This sometimes happens after someone\u2019s been in recovery for many years and gradually weaned away from going to meetings. No problem. Just find a meeting that\u2019s close by \u2013 or far away, if you want to just go somewhere you don\u2019t know anyone. Being in the familiar atmosphere of the meeting, the cadence of member stories, the affirmation and support and encouragement of fellow members will help you realize that you\u2019re not alone. Yes, your circumstances are different, but everyone\u2019s is, really. That\u2019s why they\u2019re here. They seek the solace and comfort of others who have come through hell \u2013 and come back. And they know that whenever they need help, help is there for them. Help is there for you, too. Make use of it. Who knows, by listening to the stories of others, you may find yourself wanting to help another individual who\u2019s in pain. That\u2019s the best form of self-healing \u2013 helping another. Clean Out and Donate If the loss of your partner was through death, it\u2019s important that you remove the clothing and toiletries and items that belonged to that person. The longer they remain in the house, the longer it will take for you to go through the bereavement process. And it may stall your recovery to continue to have them around. Ask a friend to help you with this task, since it can be very painful to try to do on your own. Having someone else prepared to help you also makes it easier to get to it, since when they show up, they\u2019re ready to go. It isn\u2019t like you\u2019re depending on you to get the ball rolling. Make sure to get the boxes ahead of time, and sort things according to whether they\u2019re able to be donated, or someone else in the family can use them, or they need to be discarded. Arrange for the boxes to be picked up by the charitable organization you\u2019ve chosen, or ask your friend and\/or family members to either go with you or take the items to the charity. After the work is finished, be prepared for feelings of sadness. This will take a lot out of you, even if you think you\u2019re able to handle it. Allow the feelings to surface and acknowledge what you feel. The best way to look at this is that it is a necessary step on the road to healing. And you do need to heal. Once the task is over and the items are gone \u2013 or scheduled to be picked up \u2013 do something with your friend or family member that helped you. Go out for a meal or to a movie or sporting event. This will do several things. First, it\u2019s a way for you to say thank-you to your friend\/family member for their help. Second, it\u2019s a way to share conversation in a public place. And, third, it helps signal the start of moving on. Being with others at this time is also beneficial in preventing relapse. Decide if it\u2019s Time to Move Maybe your house is just too big now that your partner is gone. You may wish to consider selling it and moving to a smaller place or even to another part of town or a different city. Examine your reasons for wanting to leave. Is it economic? Does it have to do with painful memories everywhere you look? Do you need or want a fresh start? Maybe you want to move closer to your grown children or to be nearer to ailing parents. Maybe you just always wanted to move to a different place. You may even have talked about it often with your partner but times weren\u2019t right for it. Now, maybe this is the time to do it. Since your life is now one of being single, you don\u2019t have any impediments holding you back. Or, if you do have young children at home, perhaps you have different motives for either staying where you are or moving elsewhere. Only you know what\u2019s in your heart, but do give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you just need more time before you make a decision. Allow your other family members and friends to give their opinion or offer to help you with whatever you need. It always helps to have another ear to listen to what you\u2019ve been mulling over in your mind. Depending on your financial situation, moving may not be what you want to do but what you have to do. Again, rely on your family members, friends, and allies to give you encouragement and support during these tough decisions. Just take it one step at a time, one day at a time. Plan Small, Think Big What works for one person after the loss of a partner may not work for another. For some individuals, the need to get busy with lots of projects and whirlwind activities is the only way to go. Others do better with more time for meditation, taking care of their body, building up strength, seeing a counselor or therapist to get over the loss. Just as there\u2019s no single treatment for addiction, there\u2019s no single way for those in recovery to get over the loss of a partner. It works differently for everybody. One tip that\u2019s proven helpful for many people is to plan small and think big. What does this mean? It simply means that you start off small \u2013 nothing too complicated. The more complex a plan, the more easily you can get discouraged if things go wrong. You could plan a small dinner party, as opposed to a full-scale family reunion, for example. You could plan to repaint a room, instead of tackling redecorating the entire house at once. But you think big in terms of letting light into your life, making room for joy to find its way back, and allowing others to give to you. Thinking big is also a way to acknowledge and solidify your efforts to live your life according to your principles \u2013 to be clean and sober. Thinking big allows you to see the road ahead, instead of constantly looking back at the past. Give it Time Another tip to getting through this period of anguish is to give it time. Don\u2019t beat yourself up thinking that you should be over it by now or that you should be able to be at a different pace than you are. Who says there\u2019s a timetable? There isn\u2019t one, and no one expects you to jump through hoops or be anything other than who you are right now. Just keep doing what has been working well. Make your schedules and stick to them. Get out of the house and be with people, and utilize your allies when you need them. Add some new things to your to-do list as opportunities arise. Expand your horizons to include places and things that you\u2019ve always wanted to visit or do. Learn a new language or become proficient in a trade, hobby, or sport. Make time to give of yourself to others who may be in need \u2013 or just need a friend. One day, and it may be anytime, you will wake up and start looking forward to the day ahead. You will be stronger for having gone through this difficult time \u2013 and remained true to your principles. Embrace each and every day of your sobriety and know that your partner rejoices in your achievement. Love doesn\u2019t stop just because someone dies. Remember that, and be comforted. Be strong, be patient, and be constant in your beliefs.