narcissistic abuse recovery

How to Get Ready for Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Journey

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When it comes to narcissistic abuse recovery, how long does it take exactly?

Because that’s the objective here, isn’t it?

Depending on what site or forum you land on, it could take anywhere from ten minutes to ten years.  And if we’re honest with ourselves, ten minutes is expecting a bit too much…but, ten years? 

In the words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

If you believe it could take ten years to heal from narcissistic abuse, you might be tempted to stay in your toxic situation because better the devil you know than the one you don’t.  Am I right?

Sadly, most people search for a magical golden ticket that will take them to the land of healing in an instant, but such a ticket doesn’t exist. 

So, what does it take to heal, then? 

While healing is different for everyone, there are five essential steps that must be taken before true healing can begin.  If these steps aren’t achieved, healing can take much longer than it needs to, if it happens at all!  To ensure you don’t sabotage your recovery, I cover these five essential steps below. 

They don’t necessarily need to be executed in the order I list them, but they do need to be achieved before you can get on with the business of true healing.

How to Get Ready for Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse

1 – Acceptance

When is it time to let go of a relationship?  It’s time to let go when you stop growing as a person, your bond causes more pain than happiness, you are being manipulated and abused, or the relationship’s overall climate is one of anxiety, fear, and shame.

What do I mean by relationship climate?  If you think of your relationship in terms of weather, what’s the overall climate?  Plenty of sunshine and balmy breezes with a few rain clouds here and there, or constant thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tsunamis?  Obviously, a relationship with a narcissist would be one of perpetual, tempestuous cyclones.

It’s not healthy.  Once you’ve made the determination that the narcissist is abusive or emotionally unavailable and won’t change, it’s time to accept the need to end the relationship – as opposed to hanging on, vainly hoping they will go back to being the person they pretended to be when you first met. 

It’s natural to want to make things work with someone you are in love with, but loving a narcissist is about as good for you as a cancer diagnosis.  In fact, narcissistic abuse has been correlated with certain types of cancer.  (And if you do have cancer, leaving the narcissist is the first empowering step you can take towards your recovery.)

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to leave abusive relationships is the prolonged periods of internalized shame.  When you experience shame through repeated betrayals and verbal abuse, it creates neural patterns that promote core feelings of unworthiness. 

Hearing shame messaging from someone you love on a consistent basis is often reminiscent of an early wound.  Many traumatized people expose themselves, seemingly compulsively, to situations reminiscent of the original emotional trauma, which is referred to as repetition compulsion.  (van der Kolk, 2005)

Choosing to stop this compulsion will be part of your healing journey.

2 – Letting Go

Once you’ve accepted that you must detach, the next step is to let go.  Letting go is similar to acceptance, but involves an inner shift.  It’s an inner process of consciously recognizing that you can make it alone and that you do not need the narcissist in order to survive emotionally.

In your mind, you let go of the unswerving belief that you need the narcissist in your life in order to feel good about yourself.

In your mind, you accept there will be a hard road ahead, but it’s one you’re willing to travel to get to a place of true healing (and make space for a loving, reciprocal relationship later on).

In your mind, you let go of waiting for apologies and closure from the person who abused you.

In your mind, you let go and release the narcissist.

In your mind, you drop the mic and walk away. 

After making the decision to break free you may initially feel exhilarated and empowered, only to start doubting yourself soon after.  This is normal.  

This moment is your Choice Point, a place of branching, a point of possibility. The point of transformation.  It’s this very crossroads that will either move you toward healing…or move you toward further chaos and devastation. In this moment, you can go back to the choices that are destroying you, or make new choices which will heal and empower you.  (Firman, 2017)

3 – No Contact

Going No Contact is typically the hardest step in narcissistic abuse recovery.  However, this one step is the crux in determining whether or not you will heal.  You cannot finalize the first two steps without it.

In the case of shared custody, Extreme Modified Contact must be enforced to protect your emotions and allow healing energies into your personal space.

When you avoid No Contact, don’t properly block the narcissist, and attempt to stay friends, you accomplish many things, none of which are helpful or healthy for you.  The consequences of these self-sabotaging traps include:

  • Taking away your credibility for any boundaries you tried to set
  • Coming across to the narcissist that you are colluding with or quietly accepting their unacceptable behaviors
  • You’ll be incessantly looking for signs that there’s still a chance for reconciliation
  • You’ll set yourself up for a no-strings sex situation (no strings from the narcissist’s side)
  • You’ll put yourself in the role of “safe fallback” when the narcissist needs extra supply aside from their new partner
  • You’ll develop (or deepen) feelings of self-loathing because you are holding out for a person who will never reciprocate your emotions or devotion
  • Your self-esteem and confidence will plummet because you won’t be able to accept that the narcissist won’t commit (even if they pretend they will, you’ll be crushed when you find out they lied again)
  • Your core abandonment wounds will only become worse, setting you up for complete dysfunction and annihilation

4 – Understand That There is More to Healing Than Just No Contact

I see so many aspiring survivors mistakenly believe that just getting out of their abusive relationship is enough for a healed and fulfilling life.  Sadly, this belief is what keeps many people stuck for years after they leave, and why they continue to suffer from symptoms of trauma, depression, and panic.

The truth is, reading and watching videos – while helpful – will not heal you.  Reading is wonderful for acquiring knowledge and receiving validation, but reading and listening is not enough to form new neural pathways or to release trauma from your body. 

Our old programming, trauma, trapped emotions, and patterns determine our wellbeing; and we need to actively address all of those things in order to truly heal.  

To leave behind those old, beaten-down and circular paths, you must devise an effective escape route (or be helped by someone who has such a plan). ~ Leslie Becker-Phelps

Understanding the origin of your emotional pain and why you keep repeating the same patterns doesn’t automatically establish healthier choices.  This has to develop over time with new experiences and different choices. 

5 – Make a Commitment to Yourself to Live In Reality

Once you leave a dysfunctional relationship, your brain and body will play all kinds of tricks on you in an effort to put you in contact with the source of your trauma. This is due to the trauma bond that was established inside the relationship, as well as the biochemical addiction that forms in this environment.  

Chances are, you look back on the beginning of the relationship very fondly. It might have even seemed too good to be real – true love at last!

Maybe the narcissist showered you with dinners, appreciation, validation, gifts, and affection like you’ve never experienced. This is called “Love Bombing” and it’s the first stage in the love cycle of narcissism when the narcissist wants you to believe that this expression of love is genuine.

Positive experiences like romantic dates and over-the-top flattery can release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates reward pathways in our brain, which then breeds automatic neural associations which link thoughts of the narcissist with pleasure and even physical survival.

But there’s a dark side to this process. Dopamine and other feel-good chemicals flow more readily in the brain when there is “intermittent reinforcement” rather than a consistent and dependable pattern. The emotional unavailability and unpredictable patterns of narcissistic individuals leave us pining for the good times despite the pathological harm we endure in between.

Just like a drug dealer who passes out first fixes for free, the narcissist has a plan for their Love Bombing: they want to get you hooked before limiting your supply.

It’s truly like breaking an addiction to cocaine.  

By rewarding itself with a pleasure response for these activities, your brain conditions itself to repeat them. It even conditions itself to anticipate future dopamine releases that will be experienced when the activity is repeated – driving you to engage in it again (“Trauma Bonding: Can You be Addicted”, 2018) – such as breaking No Contact or not blocking the narcissist, waiting for that rush of feel-good chemicals when you receive a simple and rudimentary ‘smiley face emoji’ with no genuine attempt on their part to relay a sincere message.

emojis do not constitute a relationship

Over time, the urge to engage in these activities becomes hard-wired into the brain. But, just like any other addiction, it can be overcome with the proper steps.  Although be prepared, many addiction specialists say that helping someone leave a toxic relationship is often much more difficult than helping them beat an addiction to a substance.

Difficult, but not impossible.

You CAN Begin True Healing With These Five Steps

But remember, you must work through all five of these critical steps in order to begin your recovery.  You can’t skip any of them and expect to make real progress.

This is why it’s impossible to magic away the pain of narcissistic abuse….because the toxic relationship is the cumulation of all of your emotionally traumatic experiences that haven’t been resolved (romantic or otherwise), many going all the way back to your childhood. 

For this reason, I always feel sad when I see people declining to do anything more than read books and watch videos…because I know they will probably still be stuck a year from now, five years, ten years.  And probably enter into several more toxic relationships, thus repeating the same painful patterns indefinitely.

Accepting the need to end the relationship, truly letting go, and implementing No Contact in its true form are promising steps for moving forward towards healing and happiness. 

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things
to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, let it go.”
― Mary Oliver

Are you stuck in your desire to break free from abuse? Let me show you how!  Join the free master class:  7 Proven Steps to Narcissistic Abuse Recovery.  Click the image to grab your seat!

REFERENCES

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2005, November 27). The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/vanderkolk/

Firman, D., Ed.D. LMHC, BCC. (2017, September 06). At the Choice Point. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-life-purpose/201101/the-choice-point

A hostile environment becomes rewarding and pleasurable, only to turn hostile. (2018, May 21). Retrieved from https://www.thecabinbangkok.co.th/blog/mental-wellness/trauma-bonding-abusive-relationships-and-addiction/


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17 comments
Brad says December 31, 2019

Enjoying and appreciating the information provided here. Starting to develop my plan for leaving a 24 year relationship. Looking forward to the seminar!

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JP says November 13, 2019

All,

My situation is a little different from the others that have been shared but it’s nice to know that I am not alone in dealing with a life crushing blow. My experience is that my ex wife had narcissistic traits, just as all humans do, through they first 8-9 years of the marriage. She made it clear that she had a issue with me using medical cannabis to treat depression , anxiety, PTSD, and pain from a back injury. She made a really big deal about it, knowing it benefited me, so I ended up lying to her about it. This obviously was a poor choice on my part and was when things started to really change. I changed careers, which we agreed on but she felt I was only doing that to stay home with our 2 young sons and so I could do what I wanted.

That’s where the verbal abuse began. I took it and almost believed it for 1-2 years but then started to stand my ground. She did not like me doing this and I did make some unhealthy comments about her family that I wish I could have taken back but they were true.

She then filed separation papers and disappeared with my sons for 2 weeks. I quickly went down hill emotionally and mentally. This lead to a mental breakdown that landed me in hospital. I was angry at her for taking the boys since I was the primary parent so I changed the separation to divorce. This was a huge mistake cause I do believe she was still open to working on things. She had mentioned therapy for us in the past but I thought it was just a stressful period that would pass.

From that point on she quickly changed into someone I never knew. She has full custody of our sons cause I was back in school finishing a degree and taking care of our sons. She was the one with the job when the divorce went down so the courts gave her custody. She know controls all contact I have with them and I spend my days broken, missing the boys, and missing her before the shit hit the fan.

I changed everything she asked but not on her time line. I know am sick with liver disease and I really don’t know what to do. It’s a crazy situation but she has zero sympathy for my health, has never admitted to doing anything wrong, and has just ostracized me.

Please help with comments

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DONALD THOMAS KING says October 21, 2019

I was involved with My wife/abuser/liar etc. for a little over 10 years. However, as much as it hurt, it wasn’t debilitating. I’ll assume that it’s because of all the trauma when I was an infant – starting from birth (I was born dead – something about my lungs)th I about 3. I had very,little human contact or affectionate handling…then the intense psychological, emotional, and physical abuse with my parents, then the training to become a Special Forces Intelligence officer we with the U.S. Army. My entire life has been a fight to survive and thrive when the weirdest things happen…for instance, I had absolutely no footprint on the internet, no credit rating, no life until 2016 – I only existed with the courts. Why?Don’t know. I’ve been a “targeted individual” for gang stalkers TWICE – and got out from under in fact this last time it was THEM (gang stalkers) who,warned me about my wife just before they left for the second time. My point is, I can dissociate at will and have total control of it. I was also constantly aware that I CHOSE where I was and I chose HER. I CHOSE to endure her crap because I said I would. And there’s the watcher inside who is always watching, monitoring, makeing note of and remembering important things; i.e. patterns, inconsistencies, etc to recall at a later date. And I’ve always been somewhat reserved or not wholly connected emotionally in relatiinships. THAT part I don’t know how to control. But the pain only goes,down just so far then stops. I don’t know why but I know I’m still broken and look forward t o learn how not to miss her, not to cry when certain songs trigger a,memory….and how to just let go of the,lie.

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Susan says October 17, 2019

I have left narcissists home , 3 weeks now, blocked him as well.
10 yrs marriage, exiting in his ab sence makes it difficult removing items from home without both agreeing on division of contents. Since walking away w absolutely nothing to go on, feel its fair to take something of cash value I so badly need to relocate. No family support system, & of course , no friends either. Not my nature to to take from others, left w no financial options to start over at 59 yrs old. Every word I’ve read is spot on. He sabotaged our life 2 yrs ago. Split 4 a year,been back for a year. Patterns always same. will Drive a person crazy

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Anonymous says October 4, 2019

It’s been 8 years since my divorce, still haven’t gone on a date, wouldn’t trust a single soul, feel so unworthy it’s beyond words and this article just made me think….maybe it wasn’t all my fault, maybe it wasn’t me that made him stop “loving” me…I have literally been paralyzed by moving one step forward since the day he said “you’ve ruined my life” , therefore I had to believe I could ruin anyone’s because I was married and loved this man for 28 years…I want nothing more than to move forward and “accept” my perfect life I thought I had will never be again…it’s the dark at place to be and one I wish on absolutely no one….not even my good friend who slept with him two months after we split…betrayed in so many ways

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Rick says October 4, 2019

What is extreme modified contact? We share 3 kids, 1, who is 13, still lives at home with me.

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Christa L Gettys says August 11, 2019

I wed 25 years ago at 24 years old. I am a pathetic case because i did not love him, I saw so many red flags. Friends, family, and even God when i prayed all said don’t do it. I suffered sexual abuse, physical abuse as wella s verbal and emotional trauma as a child, my mother was nowhere near emotionally supportive, it was get out of the house until dinner.
So i only knew that. My first boyfriend when I was 22, raped me telling me if i just held still I’d enjoy it. I actually stayed with him for a few more months thinking it was my fault because of the sexual abuse from my father. What a fool i was.
So what my then boyfriend, now husband did was so pinpoint typical of a So-Narc it is textbook actually. It wasn’t until i got on pinterest and for some reason a pin came up about it, i followed and my eyes were opened and the rose colored glasses came off.
When we wed I weighed 130 pound, in 6 months i was up to 190, by 6 years 250. We were homeless due to his stupidity and lack of knowledge on how to pay bills and save money. After three months we were in an apartment, and I had a nervous breakdown and was in the psych wing for 6 weeks. At age 40 I was 300 pounds, by age 42 I was 400 pounds (I’m 5’9″) I had to have gastric bypass surgery and because of continued abuse, the 150 pound I lost, I have gained 90 pounds back. I have BPD-Quiet, Complex PTSD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, panic disorders, fibromyalgia, severe chronic depression, I developed dyspnea, a breathing disorder that happens when under duress, making it feel like I have a house on my chest even though I am getting 100% oxygen.
I have no family and no friends to help me (my choice not him isolating me) I only make 700$ a month in SSD. I have an 18 year old autistic child my husband verbally and emotionally abuses. I do own our van, but have no way to pay for it. I refuse to go to a women’s shelter (after our homeless experience I never want to go to a shelter again). I need to get out to save my health, but I have no clue what to do. I’m 49, I’ve lost 1/2 my life to this man. It was June 23rd 2018 that I realized I no longer loved him and wanted out. i have been through three therapists, but finally found one who is on the money. He has done more for me that any therapist since I was 13!! I am religious, so I am praying, friends on facebook are praying. I am using wise mind to survive day to day. Some days are worse than others. Any advice (I’ve heard so much, but it is as if no one listens) thanks so much, Christa

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    Jermena says October 16, 2019

    Christa, it’s so unfortunate that that happened to you. None of what happened was your fault, you had been a child that needed to be protected and loved by your parents and if your father instead turned his back on you and became a monster, it is him to be ashamed of himself. However, your situation is not un-redeemable. you have been through a lot but you are still alive, that cannot be taken for granted. Now you need to claim back your life that was robbed of you by people you had trusted not to, it’s good your religious, there’s a comfort in knowing that someone beyond this universe is on our side in this cruel world and is willing to help us if only we reach out to him and claim his promises.
    I hope you have subscribed to Kim saeed’s page. you can find her on her website, and social media. she has some very good information to share with everyone on the topic of abuse, narcissism and good programs like, ‘how to break the painful bond’ so you can be informed and start on your journey of healing. There are so many sites all over YouTube on the subject. it equips you with knowledge on the matter so you have a clear picture of what you are in for so that you can make informed decisions. plus you will come into contact with so many of your brothers and sisters going through what you are going through and surviving like the warriors that they are, you will learn that you are absolutely not alone and that there’s nothing wrong with you, but that you are still the beautifully, fearfully and wonderfully made child of God created in his own image.
    I wish you all the best dear. You can do it! Keep fighting till you arrive at your finish line.

    Reply
    Anonymous says November 13, 2019

    work on your self what ever it may be . i.e loose some weight or have a new hair cut or take a class on computer or any thing to give some tools to help you financially .
    and above all have good hope in God .

    Reply
The Real Reason You Break No Contact (It’s Not What You Think) - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says July 29, 2019

[…] to terms with what is can go a long way in implementing and maintaining No Contact.  No matter how many times you fall for the hoovering or reach out to the narcissist yourself, the […]

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Bob says May 13, 2019

To the gals who left the the long term i commend you your not alone. I’m 64 an 43 years in. Buiding my strength with the help of Kim an others to do the same as you have done. Be strong i believe a healed an peacefully happy life is awaiting for us

Reply
    Kim Saeed says May 14, 2019

    You can do it! Thanks for the words of encouragement, Bob 🙂

    Reply
Eileen JACKSON says February 24, 2019

Thank you. Ive read your email and it was like a rope to a drowning person! You asked in the beginning of your text, which ‘step’ will I begin to use. Well…as hard as it is. I will commense with the eradication of his number and email address. I realize that they are imbued in my head however, if I DONT see and/read his email…it will be an awesome attempt on my part- to take that first ‘baby step’ I need, in order to walk away and begin anew.
Thank you again for your words of strength and validation in myself.
Will keep you posted on my recovery.
Sincerely, eileen

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Margie Anton says December 14, 2018

Hi Kim, I just recently purchased your course. Excited to learn from you. My situation is one I have not seen anywhere. I will be 70 in January. I have been married to a narcissist (which I only learned about a year and a half ago for soon to be 47 years. My husband will be 78 in January. I moved out from him June this year. Most horrible, painful experience of my adult life. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis severe 48 years. He spent all our retirement money. I broke the no contact when my vehicle had expensive issues and although I hired an attorney for a divorce we are on hold until the house he was building is sold, (it is unfinished). Have to wait to sell it to divide it in the assets. I know he isn’t good for me but after all these years as my attorney said, “what’s the use ? We have been together this long already and we are older and it will be a financial challenge being divorced for both of us. I may not be able to live alone in a few years without help due to the R.A. I want to believe I can do this without him and still have a life but I have to be realistic too. Have you ever dealt with this type of situation and if so how does one face and deal with these types issues ? Yes, I want to run back ….still….but I realized it is not to run back to the man he is presently but the man I thought he was until he became horrible to live with 5 years ago. He probably has been a narcissist all along but I was unaware until he retired and we lived together continuously and he became emotionally abusive verbally abusive and financially ruined us. Are there other older females with health and financial issues who you know or know of who have been through this or something similar? If so how did they get through it ? And I did go to a therapist too, not much help there. Thank you, Margje

Reply
    Kim Saeed says January 26, 2019

    Hi Margie!

    Welcome to our healing community!

    I understand where you are coming from and I realize your attorney probably meant well, but honestly, it is never too late to be happy.

    This is definitely a difficult choice to make, but if you are being verbally and emotionally abused inside of the relationship, I can’t (in good conscience) advise you to stay, even with the financial difficulties.

    There are some young-at-heart gals like yourself who face similar challenges. I’ve seen some move-out and advertise for a roommate so they could share the household expenses with another person and maybe even make a friend. Some move in with family members. Some seek residence at an assisted nursing facility, though you’d want to find a really good one because the staff is not always on top of their game at all facilities if you take medications.

    You might even visit your local social services office and see if they could help in any way.

    I realize these suggestions would require stepping out of your ‘comfort’ zone, but I’d hate to think of you staying in your situation and being mistreated every day.

    Love,

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
Shirley Akpelu says December 2, 2018

My friend in recovery Kim, I am on the right track and thanks for offering the free webinar. Letting go and acceptance, grieving, moving on are all a process and a journey that only the ones who want healing and who have left the abuse can take. It can be very lonely but in the end, it is worth it. Opportunities and possibilities abound along with freedom and shalom.

Restoration of everything that was stolen from me is just around the corner. Abuse is not The Most High’s Will, so I am in His Will by rejecting the lies of the enemy and his minions. I will rejoice and be glad in The Father of Lights (Hanukkah) first night tonight. HalleluYah. I am still standing and will continue to pass this test of faith.

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Cheryl Sorenson says December 2, 2018

Dear Kim, Whenever I read an em I’m from you I feel as if you are writing it geared directly for me. I was married to a naracisst for 44 years before I finally had had enough. The trouble I am having is letting go of the emotional attachment I still have for him. I know he is not good for me and he broke all communication with me over a year ago. I suffer from PTSD, Bipolar 1, Severe Depression and Anxiety. Recently I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I am having such a difficult time moving forward from the divorce even though I left him. He never thought I would because I would only threaten him with leaving until I actually got a lawyer and moved out. I know it’s the best thing I could have done for me. Thank you for your kind and generous words of wisdom

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