Breaking up and making up.

In a substance abuse counseling class I took in the spring semester, I learned a lot about withdrawals.

“Withdrawal” is what happens to a person’s body and/or mind after he or she stops using certain drugs. Withdrawals could include the sweats and the shakes, nausea and diarrhea, insomnia and anxiety, depression and restlessness, a rapid heart rate, hallucinations, delirium tremens (DTs).

It sucks, in other words.

But the return to homeostasis (equilibrium) requires allostasis (the process by which the body achieves it).

And allostasis isn’t always easy.

This is (one of several reasons) why some people who are mid-withdrawal relapse before it’s over.

The discomfort starts as soon as the person calls it quits. And if the sudden absence of the drug is what triggered the discomfort, it is understandable that some people will go back to the drug. Going back to the drug alleviates the discomfort (but doesn’t give the user time to stop craving it).

This is not unlike what I sometimes watch happen when certain relationships end. And that is not to say people are addicted to each other (although sometimes that’s debatable).

But upon breaking up, a guy or a girl – especially the rejected, but often also the reject-er – grieves the loss of the relationship. There’s crying, and coming up with all the things you wish you’d said (or hadn’t). There’s emotional eating, or emotional not-eating, and heartache.

It sucks, in other words.

And I think this is (one of several reasons) why people do a lot of breaking up and making up (and breaking up and making up again, and again, and again). If the sudden absence of [insert applicable person’s name here] is what triggered the discomfort, it is understandable that some people will go back to him or her.

But is your response to rejection necessarily a good gauge for whether the relationship should have ended?

I’d say that it’s as good a gauge as withdrawals are for whether a user should have stopped using a drug.* Because the truth is, withdrawal symptoms are not signs that walking away from the drug was a bad idea. Withdrawal symptoms are natural, and necessary.

Grief over the end of a relationship, then,  is not necessarily a sign that walking away from it was a bad idea.

Grief is natural and necessary.

Give yourself time (to stop craving).

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*This is not to say that no couple that breaks up should ever ‘make up’. Many couples who break up can and do get back together for good reasons. This, however, is to say that the existence of post-break-up grief is not as sufficient a reason to resume a relationship as some people interpret it to be.