Getting past someone when nothing went wrong
November 4, 2016 12:45 PM   Subscribe

How to get past someone when nothing terrible happened and there was no break up and it's for your own good?

I met a wonderful man. We had an ecstatic night together (we'd been friends for a while, with mutual crushes). We mutually fell head over heels. However, the timing isn't right. I'm going through a divorce, I'm newly sober and in the baby steps of recovery and I'm not in the right place for a new relationship. He's so fantastic that I also don't want to drag him into the messy end (and beginning) of the fresh life I'm making for myself. I need focus during this time.

Trust me that the timing is wrong right now, and it won't be right for a while, so just going with the flow here won't work.

In the meantime, what can I do to stay focused on my new sobriety and the ins and outs of my divorce (which is amicable and mutual, but still very difficult - a long marriage, no kids, I'm grieving), and not get consumed by thoughts of this guy? I have issues with anxiety, and my brain latches on to anything that soothes the anxiety (hence the previous drinking). I told him that the timing wasn't right for me, and if he was still interested when I was through this period, then we could try, but I can't stop thinking about him and it's impeding the progress and work I need to do towards these other issues in my life.

Given these circumstances and how how much I truly like him and how risky (but necessary) it feels to put everything on hold romantically, how do I get my brain to STFU about this guy and focus on the other issues in my life? I'm in therapy and AA, both of which are immensely helpful. I haven't gone no contact with him, but I imagine that would help. Any other suggestions for getting past someone when there isn't the usual impetus to do so? I'm struggling, but want to keep my path smooth right now (and keep his life smooth, too, without wrapping him up in my life).

Thanks for any advice you can give.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I know this is weird, but when I have broken-record-like thoughts about something, taking magnesium supplements (Doctors Best High Absorption Magnesium*, on amazon) and/or Epsom salt baths (which is also magnesium, two full cups of Epsom salts, in a tub of very hot water for 20 minutes), helps me A LOT.
I hope that helps.

There is a good chance this guy is simply a distraction. You've got some pretty difficult things on your mind right now, obsessively thinking about him is probably much safer than the other stressors in your life.

Self-help books tend to help me, as well.

* start slow (one tablet) and drink plenty of water with it. Added bonus: relaxes muscles.
posted by Neekee at 1:07 PM on November 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Can you just lean into the fantasy a bit? Accept the daydream as providing you a window into what you want, and what you're working towards? Right now, you'd be risking your sobriety, and getting trapped in recreating the unhealthy dynamics you've learned. But there will eventually be a later. And it's good to remind yourself of that.

I'm working through similar anxious ruminations and procrastination/avoidance. So cue my projecting: It's such a Chinese Finger Trap. The harder I try to push myself, the more my mind seeks out an escape. And unfortunately, I feel so guilty about that escapism, it's not the actual nourishment I need. So I need more escape. And now it's two weeks later, and I've successfully done zero work, and my anxiety is even higher that I can't function.

Medication helps. But the bigger thing is slowly unpacking that learned response in therapy. And slowly learning to let go of that guilt and let myself be a mess when the situation is difficult. Because by trying to not be a mess, it bubbles up in ways that I can't control, and is always eightyfive thousand times messier. Plus, that freedom lets me uncover the mess that I need to work on with my therapist.

It's still super foreign to me, and I often have to work through that in therapy. But your therapist is there to help you. You don't have to do the work on the side so that you can show up as a better or active patient.
posted by politikitty at 1:25 PM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Give yourself a budget, and then have a diversion plan. You get 20 minutes a day, for example, to think about this, otherwise you'll pick from a list of tasks to do instead. Your list should be written down somewhere or kept on your smartphone or similar, and should be a mix of types of tasks like

- 90-second breathing exercise
- do one cleanup task (throw away some desk trash, sort the mail, take an empty glass to the dishwasher, squirt cleaner in the toilet/later go scrub it, hang up an item of clothing etc.)
- do one good-for-you task (go get a glass of water, stand and stretch if you have been sitting, go get a couple minutes of sunshine if you work in gloom)
- 5 minutes internet junk distraction (watch a youtube video, check the news/weather, play a round of Bejeweled)
- brain food distraction (read/listen to a book, listen to a podcast, work on some kind of pressing work project, take up a craft )

Have a mantra for pushing the thoughts away when they're trying to get intrusive. "Thinking about it won't change it" or "I have more important things to do right now" or "I need to put myself first right now" as a sort of defense against those things. Do keep yourself busy, do try to keep things near to hand that you can be doing instead of thinking about this, and remind yourself that time will fix this and you just need to get through the days for now without making it worse.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

I break the habit of thinking about someone by choosing something unrelated to them to switch over to whenever they pop into my head. With one ex, I chose my garden; so every time I found myself thinking about him, I'd instead plan what and wear to plant, ponder how to maximize harvests, actually go out there and weed, whatever. It was easier for me to catch and stop myself from thinking about him when I had a defined place to go mentally.
posted by metasarah at 5:26 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are you talking about this with people in your AA program?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:08 AM on November 5, 2016

Firstly, congratulations on your sobriety!

Secondly, I think pursuing a new relationship while you are going through such huge transitions in other areas of your life is risky. It isn't wrong, you are entitled to happiness, but it's a gamble that could either pay off and bring you happiness or throw you into even more despair. For that reason, I would advise against entering into this new relationship. I know it's easier said than done when the person consumes your thoughts every minute of the day, but due to your self-medicating habit you may find yourself substituting your addiction to alcohol with an addiction to a relationship. Believe me, it can happen.

Stay strong. Find your feet. Time will heal all aspects of your life you are currently struggling with, and time will also tell you if this relationship has a future. If he is the right one for you, he will return when the time is right.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Lewnatic at 7:09 AM on November 5, 2016

If you haven't gone no-contact, I'm not sure how easily you're going to get over him. It sucks, but in my experience, anything less than no-contact doesn't work. As a rando on the internet, I have my doubts whether this guy is the one or not -- you are going through a difficult life transition and you may like the idea of this new thing -- but anytime you talk to him or see him, it's only going to fuel these thoughts and questions. If you feel you really need to put things on hold, then I would shelve everything completely until you are ready. That means not talking to him or seeing him until you are ready.

I think prioritizing your sobriety above anything else is a good thing to do and I give you kudos. Maybe you can take up some other life behavior that makes you feel good, like working out or something. If you feel like you're improving yourself and focusing on yourself, it may be self-incentivizing to not get distracted by some guy.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:15 PM on November 5, 2016

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