Are You an Exaholic?

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Breakups are never easy. But what do you do if your last one was so bad that it’s affecting your ability to function in the world? You get help — and thanks to Exaholics, it’s just a few clicks away.

Created by Denver-based therapist Dr. Lisa Bobby, Exaholics is a 12-step, Internet-based program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous; it’s designed specifically to help people struggling with breakups work through their problems and heal. “An exaholic has a very difficult time moving on,” she recently told the New York Post about the program. “They’re hooked into the relationship, and it’s difficult for them to heal and move on. They will use words like ‘devastation’ and talk about the loss — they tend to think fairly obsessively about their ex and have trouble in day-to-day life as a result of that.”

The 12 steps of the Exaholics program bears certain similarities to its inspiration; the first step, for example, is admitting that there are issues that need to be worked through. There are also a wide variety of other resources available on the site to help the healing, including forums, live chats, and something called the “Counting Days” tool. “It helps to engage with a supportive community and have a way of fighting back against isolation that is so common,” said Dr. Bobby. “They’ll leave this process able to grieve and process the loss — and get their self-esteem back.”

As Time points out, the website’s mission page anticipates and responds to potential criticisms of the program and of classifying an ex as an addiction. “Losing a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, fiancé, partner, or any significant person in life, for whom you have (or have had) feelings, can be an extremely painful experience,” the site says. “Getting over the loss can be one of the most traumatic and difficult challenges you’ll face. To others this might sound overly dramatic…. But what you go through is certainly very real and emotionally devastating. And you are the one living with these emotions on a daily basis.” As is the case with AA and other substance abuse treatment programs, Exaholics gives people a safe place to deal with everything they’ve got going on, a supportive environment geared towards healing. And that? Is pretty admirable. It's not about enabling the wallowing; it's about getting past it.

If you’re having a tough time after a breakup or know someone else who is, it might be worth poking around Exaholics. You can go through the whole thing at your own pace, and it might just provide the kind of support you need to stop obsessing and move on. Why spend your time trapped in the past when there’s so much to look forward to in the future?