Kim Saeed:  Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program
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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!


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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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 […]

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

    Kim Saeed says May 14, 2019

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

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

    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.


    Kim XoXo

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.

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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