The Boyfriend Detox: 7 Steps To Healing A Seriously Broken Heart

Two weeks ago, I was dumped. 

And it sucked. In fact, it still really, REALLY sucks. But, I’m getting better. Each and every day… slowly healing my completely shattered heart. It’s hard for me to grasp that just a short time ago I was on cloud 9. In an utterly magical relationship with the man of my dreams. The man I thought I had been waiting for. A man I loved more fully, deeply and openly than I have ever loved anyone before. The kind of love I thought was only possible in disgustingly sweet rom coms. From the moment we met on the beach watching the Hawaiian sunset, to the moment before my life came crashing down, I was 100% certain that I could finally stop looking for the guy who’d sweep me off my feet–because I had found him. 

Boy, do I feel like a fool now. 

Two weeks ago, I felt like I could positively die from the physical pain I was feeling as a result of my broken heart. My stomach twisting in impossible ways that made me want to vomit. Waking up from restless sleeps completely panic-struck–my thumping heart tearing through my aching chest. My eyes and cheeks burning from the constant stream of salty tears…

Two weeks ago, the nightmares, sadness, loneliness and anxiety that hijacked my every thought–awake or asleep–crippled me. I couldn’t work… I couldn’t eat… I couldn’t even read a book! All I could do was feel the pain. And it hurt like hell. 

Today, I’m sitting here with a smile on my face and enough strength to write about it… I haven’t healed yet. In fact, I’m not even close. But I’m getting there and I know before long, I’ll be back to my loving, cheerful and fiery self. 

The pain you go through after a bad break-up is so gut-wrenching that it’s hard to believe ANYONE could understand what you’re going through… and then you realize you’re not alone. That most of us have been there and are now O.K. and you will be too. Over the last couple of weeks, what helped me the most was talking through the pain with my friends and family and hearing their break-up stories and heart-healing remedies.

So, now I’m paying it forward. Not from a place of gratitude, forgiveness or even acceptance because I’m still not there myself and I know that only time will fully heal my still aching heart. Today, I come from a place of empathy and understanding for those of you who are also going through a tough break-up, separation, or divorce. 

You’ve heard my story, now here are the 7 steps to what I call the Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) Detox that are helping me heal a little more each and every day. I hope they will help you too. 

Step 1: Feel It

Before I recommend the heart remedies meant to help you forget and move on from your ex, there is one thing I need to make very clear. Before you do any of it, you need to grieve. You must fully feel the weight of this sucky, gut-wrenching situation. It seems counterproductive to healing a broken heart, but it is absolutely crucial to getting back to your old self again as quickly as possible. There are 7 stages of grief and I’m definitely in the thick of it. Shock and denial? Yup, felt that. Pain and guilt? Check. Anger? Without a doubt. Sadness and loneliness? Hmm.. nearly through that one I think. Oh good, the “upward turn” comes next. That’s probably why I’m able to sit here with the composure to write this right now. But composed is most definitely not how I would have described myself these last 14 days. Daily sob fests, pounding my pillow repeatedly with my first, angry “bitch” sessions with my girlfriends… yup, that sounds more like it. There is no doubt about it–I felt this one. Every brutal moment of it. Allow yourself time to do the same because after the upward turn, comes reconstruction, then acceptance and hope (but not nearly soon enough). 

Step 2: Start A New Daily Routine

The most difficult times of the day when dealing with a break-up is those moments your head rests on your pillow. The second you wake up and the second you crawl into bed is when that wave of totally unexpected and uncontrollable emotion seems to hit. Loneliness, sadness, and anxiety all seem to press down on top of you, like a giant elephant sitting on your chest, restricting your breath and forcing you deeper into your mattress. Why? Because we are creatures of habit and our morning and evening rituals become the most important and automatic habits we have. When you’re used to sharing these routines with your partner, it can feel downright impossible to continue on without them. It’s different, it’s uncomfortable, it’s a daily reminder that you’re now alone. That’s why you need a NEW daily routine. Something that makes you feel happy, excited, and like yourself again. A rip away from an ingrained and familiar pattern is hard. But remember, like anything, it’s always hard before it’s easy. The first few mornings will feel like torture as you get started with your new routine… but each day it will get easier and easier. It will go from torturous, to bearable, to comfortable, to satisfying. And soon, you’ll have a new normal. My new morning routine involves meditating for 15 minutes, then doing the daily crossword puzzle on the front step or patio while I sip my coffee. It allows me to get my head off that pillow, my ass out of bed and started with my day. 

Step 3: Move Your Body

There’s no question about it, your psychological state is a reflection of your physiological state. When you’re suffering from a broken heart, the quickest way to get a hit of happiness (even if it is short-lived) is to move your body. Admittedly, strapping on my sneakers and leaving the confines of my dark bedroom in the days following my reentry into singledom seemed like an impossible task. But, I can honestly tell you it improved my mood by leaps and bounds. Exercise leads to the release of certain neurotransmitters or endorphins in the brain that alleviate all types of pain, including emotional or mental pain. It’s science, and you can’t argue with that. I know that, logically, you realize exercise is probably the best thing for you right now but it can be hard to get your heart to agree. As hard as it may seem at first, start by getting out for a walk around the block. Then maybe the next day go for a longer walk with your dog. I like to walk to Starbucks in the morning to grab my morning cuppa joe. Incorporate physical exercise into your new daily routine and you’ll feel a million times better, I promise. At the very least, an increased heart rate serves as a temporary distraction from the aching underneath. 

Step 4: Forget Facebook

I miss the good ol’ days of break-ups BEFORE Facebook. That when it ended, you didn’t have to worry about inadvertently catching a status update or new photo of your ex appearing at the top of your news feed. That intolerable rush of adrenaline, dizziness and shortness of breath that comes from that heart-stopping moment of seeing their name in blue appear next to a newly updated profile picture that no longer includes you. I swear, if I was 50 years older, that moment would be the end of me. And that’s why you need to absolutely and unequivocally UNFRIEND your ex from Facebook, which may or may not include changing your relationship status. This is a toughy because everything about it seems so final. Your entire relationship, every happy moment, emotion and event, that had been conveniently documented in an online timeline is now painfully (and publicly) ending with the click of a mouse. Ouch. Not to mention that now all 1,663 of your close and personal “friends” know that it’s over and you’re most definitely hurting. It totally SUCKS but here’s why this is a must–you need put yourself first. Trust me, I know, as masochistic as it seems, a part of you wants to be able to “keep tabs” on how your ex is doing. How they are coping (or hopefully not coping) with your absence. But, this is disempowering because the truth is, nothing they say, do or post on Facebook is going to make you feel any better. It can only make you feel worse. But you have the power to gain at least some control over your emotional well-being by removing the possibility of agony every time you login to Facebook. Know that it doesn’t have to be final, but it has to happen because you’re putting your happiness as a top priority. 

Step 5: Cut Communication Cold Turkey

Ok, I KNOW this is a hard pill to swallow and I, myself, have cheated on this step more times than I am willing to admit over the past couple of weeks, but cutting off communication (yes, ALL communication–texting, Skype, calls, BBM, and email) is crucial when you’re healing from a break-up. Why? Because anytime you have the expectation to hear from your ex, and you don’t, it’s devastating. Like essentially pushing the reset button on your healing progress. The truth is, an unfulfilled expectation of communication can ruin a completely decent day that you were sure you could get through without a single tear (yeah, right). And finally, don’t take offense to this but, you’re completely delusional if you think that speaking with him (or her) is actually going to make you feel better, anyway. Trust me, I had to learn this the hard way. I kept waiting to hear the “right” words that would make things better and I wasn’t even sure what those were myself. Then, to make matters worse, I felt frantic, desperate and downright pathetic every time a temporary lapse in judgment had me picking up my iPhone to call or text him. I realized that there was no way a bruised ego was going to help my bruised heart and that I had the power to stop these brutal let-downs from happening. So, I decided that I would step into this power as often as possible.

Step 6: Remove The Anchors

Every photo, memento, souvenir, gift and song you and your ex shared together needs to be removed from your immediate environment. This means any photos on your shelves or on your computer, playlists in your iTunes, or gifts that serve as a very unfriendly reminder of what you used to have. It’s natural for this is be extremely difficult (I had multiple and long-lasting cry sessions with this one) because these items are meant to remind you of the good times, the times you spent together on vacation, laughing, loving… but you need to remember that not all times were good and that is why you are no longer together. These items serve as far more than simple reminders too. They act as energetic anchors tying you to the past–to an experience that the Universe has meant for you to let go of. The longer you hold on, the longer you’re postponing the next amazing experience lined up for you. I’m not telling you to delete or throw away these items because that would be hypocritical of me. I haven’t been able to do this yet but I have removed these items from my immediate surroundings. I put physical objects deep in a drawer and put all digital files in a folder off of my desktop that I blatantly labelled “DO NOT OPEN”. One day, I know I’ll have the strength to “move to trash” in one finger sweep and not feel a thing but nope, most definitely not there yet. One step at a time.

Step 7: Trust

This is probably the most difficult step to stick to but you absolutely need to trust that your break-up was for the best. I won’t lie to you, I still struggle daily with this one. I still have moments where I think the whole “it’s not you, it’s me” excuse is a giant crock of shit and, you know what, maybe it is. But, it doesn’t serve you (or me) to not believe it because you ARE perfect. Just not perfect for them. Ouch. Yup, it sucks. Even as I write this, I’m holding back the resentment and urge to use the f-bomb every second word. As you can see, I’m still not fully “there” yet but I’m working on it. A book that Leanne recommended to me before that really helped me when going through a difficult time (and one that has helped me through this one) is called Zen and The Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss. The book is based on one very important maxim–that “everything that happens to you is the best possible thing that could happen to you”. It’s important to remember that the Universe has got your back and although some moments seem unfair and torturous even, they are all a part of a much grander scheme that is unfolding for you. And this is exactly what you need to trust. The sleepless nights will end, eventually the corners of your mouth will curl into a smile again, your heart will heal more fully and brimming with more love than ever, and you will find the person the Universe has had in mind for you since day 1. Cheers to that.

And there you have it, my Boyfriend Detox plan. I hope my story and words of wisdom helped you in some way. I’d love to hear from you. What steps have helped you heal a broken heart in the past? What step do you struggle with the most if you’re dealing with heart ache right now? Leave a comment below.


Alexandra Cattoni 

P.S. Please share this post if you know anyone going through a painful break-up.