The 7 Steps AA Doesn’t Tell You About…

If the heart is merely a fist covered in blood, why does heartbreak feel like your internal organs have been pulled through your a** and left you stranded with rattling bones and a shell of your former self?

Are there rules to being heartbroken? More accurately, could we be bothered when even breathing is too demanding a task?


“I am doing this for my sisters”, I say. I propel myself forward, pick myself off the floor and swear this will not be in vain.

My boyfriend of 2 years, the husband-to-be, the former twinkle in my eye and spring in my step has unceremoniously dumped me. I’m blindsided, floored, gasping for air. When I wake up tomorrow and face a new reality, Doctor, what can I expect?

1) Anger

2) Denial

3) Pain, Trauma, Shock

4) Grief

5) Regret, Remorse

6) Acceptance

7) A new “normal”

This is just my humble, albeit very fresh and raw opinion. Please feel free to omit/add as necessary.

1) Anger

This is the beginning of our journey, my intrepid travellers. This is where you are allowed to vent: to him, to the nearest male, or your pillow for God’s sakes. Preferably him, since he did the damage. Don’t don a kitchen knife. Think before you speak. Have no regrets. Ask questions, get answers. Try to listen.

Take time off work if you need to. Don’t necessarily tell people what you are going through- you’re still letting it sink in. Enlist the help of trusted friends, rescue remedy, very loud and very angry music, chocolate, St Johns Wort, Valium, your treadmill, whatever. Get help if you need it. You will learn to carry Kleenex wherever you go. Your eyes and nose will no longer look like your own. Refrain from childish antics like keying his BMW or sending him a flaming bag of dog poo. Just don’t. Revenge is tempting, I’ll be honest. But it’s empty. Would I lie to you?!

2) Denial

“What, me worry?”… This is a cringe-worthy part of the process- you think that perhaps, if you sweep this under the carpet for a day, it will disappear. Tomorrow you’ll wake up, it’ll be next to him, not your 9 year old teddy bear, he’ll miraculously want you again, and your world will be perfect again. Ouch. Refrain from harassment, stalking, and worse, pretending you’re still a couple. Double ouch.

3) Pain, Trauma, Shock

This is where you want to steer clear from people who say “Oh no! You guys were the perfect couple!”, “But, weren’t you engaged?”, “Isn’t he the one with the huuuuge penis?” and “Shit! How old are you again?”.

He.doesn’t.want.you.anymore. That is all. What else is there to say? Distract yourself. Throw yourself into work, not oncoming traffic. Whether you like it or not, this is happening. To you.

I needed pharmaceutical assistance throughout this step, I’m not too proud to say. I told my friends and family (I needed to explain the consistent crying whilst serving customers, the weight loss and dark circles under my eyes). I partook in retail therapy. I spoke to anyone who had ears (and even some without). I enjoyed my selfishness. I called into a chat show (More about that on another blog update).

4) Grief

This is the part where every part of you, tangible or not, is writhing in pain. For me, it coloured every part of the ‘7 Steps’. The loss of what you dreamed could be. (Later, we will learn that ‘dreamed’ is the operative word). The admission that your reality was very clearly far from that. The concession that you are not as good a judge of character that you boasted you were. You want to punish yourself for being in this situation. If taking a pill would make the pain go away, you’d take 12.

I felt like the only person who’d ever been rejected in the history of the Universe. Fun was like some in-utterable dirty word. I hated him; I loved him, simultaneously Goddamn it all.

Start learning to say goodbye and let go. Yes, my friend, it’s happening, that day has come. Cry.

The most painful fact for me was the realisation that the dreams would never materialise. The honeymoon in Nevada, the ‘picket fence’, the pre-ordained baby boy with a mop of black hair and smiling brown eyes, the mutual joined-at-the-hip-ness, the everyday routine, the life we conjured up together over 5 hour inter-continental conversations month after month.

As our friends Frou Frou say: “there’s beauty in a breakdown”.

This stain will be there for some time, for me- forever. Just give me a moment……

5) Regret, Remorse

This is where you are able to face up to any responsibility you had in contributing to the factors that caused The Break-Up. Some people choose to forego this step, but I think it’s the most valuable of them all. You don’t want to ever go through this again, do you? Be kind to yourself. Bubble baths, long chats to loved ones, chocolate, spiritual revelations, The Notebook/Amelie/Single White Female, not doing the dishes, letting the world around you stay on pause. Reading psycho-pop chick lit. Write, write, write.

Incidentally, my Heartbreaker and I had to live together for a month before I left, so it was relatively unavoidable to hear where I went wrong. (Gratitude comes later). Take it on the chin.

Therapy, anyone?

6) Acceptance

Where you find some semblance of sanity through the madness of it all. Through some inexplicable act of God, you wake up one morning, and the fog is lifting. You can breathe without concentrating. You regain your joie de vivre. Ok, maybe just a little bit.

You start pondering the fact that maybe you dodged a bullet, maybe he wasn’t Superman after all, that maybe, just maybe, you will love again.

Start fantasising about singledom again. The joys of not being a domestic goddess. That today, you got another chance.

7) A new “normal”

This is quite the groovy place to find yourself. You have a new and improved heart (still functional! Wow!), and a whole host of lessons learnt that you never had before.

I’m still navigating this step, floating around it’s unchartered waters. I’m still figuring out where we went wrong, what I want from life/a man/a relationship. All I know for sure is that the appreciation is breathtaking. For my Heartbreaker, my amazing tribe of friends and family, my job, my mental constitution!, my Blackberry, music and Woolworths convenience food.

You’re whole again, something you can’t honestly say you are towards the end of a disintegrating relationship.

A dear, dear friend said he worried that after this, my second notable heartbreak, that I’d never give 200% in a relationship again. I wanted to prove him wrong.

Because in order to open your heart to real love, you run the risk of real pain, and as long I’m human, it’s the chance I’m willing to take!

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