Breaking up is hard to do

Group size:  5-20


  • Recognize that early recovery is a lot like breaking up with a partner.
  • Create a step forward in the healing process
  • Physically create some separation between us and our addiction


Props Needed

  1. Paper
  2. Pen

Activity Preparation

Prep time needed:  5 minutes to gather pen and paper

Time needed

  • Directions: 5-10 minutes
  • Activity: 20 minutes
  • Debrief: 15 minutes

Set Up:  It would be helpful to have a hard surface for participants to lean on like a table or clip board.

Activity Directions:

  • Group is to write a goodbye letter to their addiction, drug of choice, or preferred way of acting out.
  • Give group about 20 minutes to write the letter
  • Have members read out loud the letter


Facilitator script: “Gather round everyone. Some of you may have noticed that engaging recovery can, in some ways, be similar to breaking up with a long term relationship. We know that before we can start a new relationship we have to truly end the last one, otherwise that is called cheating.

In this group we are going to write a break up letter to addiction or if you would like specifically your drug of choice. (This also works well for process addictions or acting out behaviors.)

In your letter be sure to cover the following components in order to make the greatest impact.

  • Acknowledge all that you liked about your addiction/DOC/acting out
  • Thank it for serving its purpose and honor the role it served
  • Tell it what no longer works for you
  • Review all the reasons you can no longer stay together
  • Be kind but be clear this has got to end!

We will take about 15-20 minutes to complete the letter. Don’t over think this and let it come from your heart. Does anyone have any questions?

(Give participants about 20 minutes to complete the letter. Make sure to give time warnings when they are ½ way and ¾ of the way through the allotted time)

Great I find that it is really beneficial to the process to read it out loud. In many ways it makes it more real. Who would like to go first? (You can then just go around in a circle or continue to ask for volunteers)


  • What was it like to think of your addiction as a relationship?
  • What emotions did you notice when you wrote the letter?
  • What story were you telling yourself about this relationship?
  • Does this story match your experience?
  • Did you hear the voice of your addiction revolting against the breakup?
  • How does misplaced loyalty show up in this relationship?
  • What is hard about leaving your addiction behind?
  • What is easy about leaving it behind?


Recovery/Wellness Metaphor: We are so involved with our addictions that it is very much like being in a relationship. Especially when you think of the time, energy, money, and other resources we put into them. Doing this activity is a nice way to create some intentional space of separation.

Role of Facilitator: Support participants in thinking of their addiction as a really meaningful relationship that they are seeking to end. Some participants find this activity funny and that is ok although when taken seriously it can be a very powerful experience especially when you add the aspect of burning the letter.

Variations: Have group members read the letter outside and then burn the letter in a fire pit or some other safe place. Doing so will add symbolism and be a ceremonial way of truly letting go. Another variation is that this can be done as an individual session. This can also be separated into two distinct processes: 1) the writing of the letter (can also be homework) and the reading/burning of the letter.