Breaking Our Narc Addiction: The Truth About Suffering

no-sufferingMentally letting go of the narcissist is never going to happen as fast as we’d like unless we starting taking credit for recovery time served. If we did that…if we realized that there are phases to the suffering post-break-up with a narcissist and that, for the most part, we’ve moved through them successfully without even knowing it, we wouldn’t be so inclined to give up and go back from whence we came – to the very person that caused us the initial grief.

Simply put, to break our addiction to the narcissist, we have to understand what all the suffering really means. I’m going to try to explain it so that everyone can find a place of peace. Believe me, when you “get it”, you can rest assured that recovery is around the corner.

If we gave ourselves the suffering credit that we deserve…if we weren’t so willing to give in and give up… we’d eliminate – at that point – the compulsion to break no-contact because we would know that it wasn’t the narcissist we were even missing!

Okay, Zari, what the fuck are you talking about?

I’m saying that we become The Suffering. It’s part of the game that we play with the narcissist and we’re left with the residuals. Most of us don’t realize that, when the final break-up with a narcissist occurs, our sadness and grief is actually less about the loss of the relationship than it is about the fact that we’ve become the suffering that was associated with it.

If you think about it, we spend far more time with The Suffering than we ever do with the narcissist himself/herself…so it’s natural to become attached to it. The sadness becomes a familiar connection…it keeps us in the loop all by itself. This is why the narcissist likes to keep us anxious and off-balance. His theory is that as long as we’re suffering, he can feel fairly confident that we’ll always be in the queue. For the most part, his theory is right but we have the power to change that by, say, believing in a “theory” like mine – that we can get past the suffering and out of the fucking queue much quicker if we first realize that it’s not all about him. We just think that it is.

It’s been weeks…months! I don’t even want the motherfucker back. So why am I so unhappy? All I want to do is cry. What the hell is wrong with me?

Nothing is wrong with you but there are two phases of suffering. Listen carefully. Time and time again, in consultations, I hear this: Why am I still so sad? I don’t even want him back! What’s wrong with me? The person I’m speaking with is usually beside themselves with self-doubt. I explain that this particular form of cognitive dissonance is a good thing and that it’s different from the cognitive dissonance that makes us doubt the narcissist is even a narcissist. When you’ve reached the point of feeling nuts over the fact that you still feel sad, the worst of the suffering is actually over. You’ve passed through the first phase. In other words, you are no longer in denial!

zari-ballard-consult-supportIt’s during that first phase that people will ask me “Are you sure he’s/she’s a narcissist? Are you sure?” (to which I typically respond, “The fact that you’re calling me tells me you already know the answer to that.”) Still, they may struggle or choose not to believe me. Two phone calls later, when I hear “He’s a narcissist. I don’t even like him! Why am I’m still crazy sad?”, I know that they’ve moved on to phase two and are now attached only to the sadness itself  and while this attachment is actually more bittersweet than being attached to the narcissist, it’s far easier to let go of!

The problem is that the second phase of suffering is where it becomes dangerous because if we don’t understand it, we can easily give in to the depression and go back. This is why, if right now you are feeling the compulsion to make contact even though you’ve accepted the reality, it is imperative that you pay attention to what I’m trying to say. Listen up – you’re NOT crazy!

The feeling of having to let go – to be free of the madness – is often difficult to appreciate. I didn’t get it either at first. When my ex finally walked out (after 13-years), never to return, I couldn’t even cry – I knew it had to end. Yet three months later, I still felt crazy with undeniable grief. It took me awhile to understand that my attachment to the narc was long over. It was my attachment to the suffering itself that I had to get over…my addiction to the very drama that I hated…and THAT I could handle!

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At first we miss the delusions because although the madness wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t dull either.  Being caught up in all that drama and chaos sure kept us occupied and on the edge of our seats. When all the narcissistic noise subsides, the silence is so deafening that we don’t even realize that we are coming back to SANITY. And believe it or not, Zen Therapy and Buddhist Philosophy will tell you that after madness, the first phase of SANITY may not infrequently be a form of depression. I swear to you, this is the way it works! Look it up! You don’t need professional therapy, you just to move through it. THIS TOO SHALL PASS – AND QUICKLY!

I’m done with the N and now I’m just stuck on the sadness. Everyone is sick of it and so am I.  How do I get through the final phase?

By realizing this: our suffering changes nothing. When we’re with the narcissist, we suffer because we think it’s going to change something – either with the narc or the relationship – but it never does. For instance, when my ex would disappear or go silent I would suffer like no tomorrow, day after day, until he returned. I just couldn’t help it. The silent treatment was his favorite “punishment”. Then one day, I switched it up, deciding to have a ball while he was gone, and what do ya know? He still returned. Suffering or not, the result was the same. Pretty soon, I was counting down the days until my next “vacation”.

The same way that you were able to move past phase one of suffering (missing the narcissist) without even knowing it – by accepting the truth – is how we get through phase two. Understand in your heart that our suffering changes not a fucking thing. It doesn’t change the world, our world, the narcissist’s world, the past, the future…not a thing. We can curl up in the fetal position, lose ten pounds, and even feel suicidal and the universe and everything in it just keeps moving. As I said, in many ways, the final phase – the final “let go” before mental freedom – is often that bittersweet sadness that makes our heart shatter…like the ending to a really sad movie. But the truth is that the movie is OVER and it’s time to exit the cinema.

When you get to the point that you still feel sad even though you KNOW you don’t miss the N, believe me, it’s done. Hold all that useless suffering – the suffering that changes not a thing – in the palm of your hand and blow it the biggest good-by kiss ever.

Think about it…if we can come to realize and accept that all the love in our hearts can’t convince a narcissist to care about right from wrong, then we can certainly realize that our suffering changes nothing and choose to be happy.


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  • kohisee

    June 14, 2016 at 10:37 am Reply

    Zari, thank you SO much for your articles, for so generously sharing your experiences and insights. I recently found this site and it’s been a great help to me!

    My ex seems to be some sort of borderline case, I guess, and it’s been hard to to define him as a narcissist. He’s an introverted jovial, positive guy with no evil attacks & words, yet he lacks empathy and “doesn’t believe in rights and wrongs” (as he put it). However, many of the characteristics of narcissism describe him spot on… often with a twist, though. Eg. instead of being with other women behind my back, whom he called her soulmate & perfect for him, he suddenly wanted polyamory – a few weeks after saying he adored me and was so devoted to me.

    I’d be interested to know if you, Zari, have any view on the kind of narc that (at least) poses as an honest person, doing pretty openly what narcissists usually do behind your back. (He also seems to be a good devoted father to his 3 children – I guess a narc shouldn’t be that?)

    • Zari Ballard

      June 18, 2016 at 1:42 am Reply

      Hi Kohisee,

      Listen, narcissists usually exist as different versions of themselves and of each other and some are polished and some are just awkward and stupid and some are rich and some are poor and some are cute and some not so cute, some fat, some skinny, and on and on. They ALL pose as honest people…it’s just that most know that they can’t be too overt about their shenanigans because it doesn’t work in the long run. Your narc may not be too polished at it. Sounds to me like he’s trying to hard by saying he doesn’t “believe in” right or wrong. That’s ridiculous. A polished narc would tell you he knows right from wrong but just doesn’t give a shit. LOL I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. If he’s a genuinely devoted dad, I would have to say that he’s probably just an pompous asshole with narc qualities but not a full-blown like most described here. That’s my take on it….


      • kohisee

        June 18, 2016 at 12:43 pm Reply

        …I’ve wound up getting much deeper into exploring what narcissism is about than I originally intended, e.g. by mirroring my own experiences against those that I find shared on the internet.

        Thank you so much, Zari, for kindly replying to me and also providing mirrors & sharing your insights:))

    • Same Boat

      June 18, 2016 at 7:08 am Reply

      Kohisee, You may want to look up “Aspbergers” in regards to your questionable narc. There are some similarities, but not at all one in the same. I am in a relationship with a guy with aspbergers and trust me, it is not easy, but I have also gone through the trauma of being with a narc and they are very different animals. With aspberger’s the whole lack of empathy thing is the most difficult part to take as well as so many other annoying and often hurtful traits, almost hard to describe. The feeling with a narc is that you are no longer in your own mind… you are losing yourself and are chasing and retrieving something out of your control. Do a little research and see if your guy’s traits fall into an autism category. Be prepared for a difficult road if you decide to stay, but know they actually do have hearts and have sincerity, where as Narcs do not! Good luck! God Bless

      • kohisee

        June 18, 2016 at 5:53 pm Reply

        Same boat on, thanks a lot for your reply. Very interesting indeed, for my ex has three children: one Aspergers, one autistic… and one normal. So, I did ask him via email (before the idea of narcissism had yet occurred to me) if he himself had ever been tested for those. He didn’t reply to my question… although he did reply to the mail. I’ll need to look more into Aspergers… thanks a lot for the tip :))

      • kohisee

        June 20, 2016 at 6:58 am Reply

        P.S. My ex writes poetry with a lot metaphors. Although some aspies understand metaphors, or can learn to understand the commonly used ones, being able to create your own (with ease) maybe isn’t an aspie thing? All in all, narcissism seems more like what’s going on with my ex…

        I like the way Dr. Craig Malkin doesn’t view narcissism as a black & white thing, but he’s come up with a spectrum scale of narcissism. So it’s not that you either are or aren’t (a pathological) one, and that’s it. I haven’t yet read his book(s), but the idea of a spectrum sounds plausible to me.

        • Zari Ballard

          June 20, 2016 at 2:05 pm Reply

          Hi Kohisee,

          The idea of a spectrum might sound plausible but it’s also, in my mind, a cop-out that gives a narcissist way too much leeway to do what he/she does. Given that someone with a bonafide narcissistic personality has no capacity at all for feeling true human emotion, how could this legitimately be placed on a spectrum? A person either has feelings or they don’t and THIS is what determines the diagnosis. Narcissists are unfixable at the core. Now, a person can certainly exhibit a few of the behaviors but that only makes he/she a person with narcissistic tendencies that can probably be fixed. It’s all complicated and no one is ever going to agree on everything. However, unless a person has experienced this type of relationship or has been involved closely enough with a narcissist to have been affected by that person’s behaviors, they couldn’t possibly understand the dynamic. The dynamic, indeed, is very black and white.


          • kohisee

            June 20, 2016 at 3:43 pm

            Hi Zari, thanks a lot for replying ???? I think I get what you mean. I’m only just learning about these things. I left my ex without thinking or knowing that he could be a narc. It’s been only pretty recently, over half a year later, that this notion dawned on me.

            I must say that as I read Same Boat On’s recent tweet about his ex’s behavior & your reply with a similar sort of experience, I found the same pattern there as between me & my ex. Always that he got me warm up to him again, he hurt me without delay. And I couldn’t get why he would do it, over n over, in a way that I had explained in great detail how much & why it hurt me.

            His inability to learn from previous mistakes I first started to ascribe to him being dum. Then it dawned on me (not long ago) that he needed to be devoid of empathy to do so; he clearly didn’t want to change in order not to hurt me. Now that I’m reading up on narcissism, I realize that it served his own needs to hurt and devalue me over n over.

            When it comes to the ‘spectrum’ thing, I’m open to embracing it because it allows more variation to the image of the narcissist, and thus even my ex would pass for one. I experience he hurt me just like a narc does (after first idolizing me!), the whole typical pattern & dynamic was there. But there are also traits in him that don’t fit the typical narc, like being a good father.

            Btw, I’m also similarly addicted to him, despite him hurting me again n again, as the victims of narcs are. I’ve never had this sort of insane addiction to a man before. I’m struggling to keep away from him & have a strong urge to cyber stalk, but it hurts too much, so I’m trying not to. Almost 8 months after the breakup I’m still like this!

  • Felicia

    June 10, 2016 at 8:57 am Reply

    This article is so me right now. I know what a scumbag this guy is, he’s proven it so many times. I almost met with him again because he initiated contact so I thought enough time had gone by and maybe he finally realized the error of his ways. Not to be. When I confronted him again about being so elusive AGAIN he got vicious and called me a bitch a whore a slut a cunt and went on about how selfish I am and that I have serious issues, that no man would want that. Just for saying he didn’t seem like a guy in love and excited to see me after he made plans and then boom like always I got the silence treatment all weekend. He gave me a bogus excuse that he was in the hospital and couldn’t call or text but I know better cuz he does this all the time. So I called him a liar and that’s when the filth started spewing out of his mouth. My mother always told me once an abuser always an abuser and each time it will get worse. And it has. The thing is I’m stuck in the misery too. Not that I want him still, but from all the years of the brainwashing, confusion and deception. His explosions keep getting worse.. Truth is he scares the hell out of me even though I know he is really just a coward and parasite, but I’m stuck in the suffering. For me it’s the silence and neglect and then coming back that has had the most effect on me. I refused to meet with him and I’m so proud of myself for doing that. Today I feel strong because I finally believe with all my heart that I DONT HAVE KEEP DOING THIS. I owe him NOTHING. He never loved me. He was using me. We didn’t ever have a real relationship. It was a game. Now I know that was his strategy to keep me hooked. To make me feel like I owed him and that I’m so screwed up nobody else would ever want me. The sadness and grief now comes from within for allowing this guy to do this to me. For being so stupid and vulnerable. For not having more respect for ME and getting rid of him sooner. That’s the struggle for me now. Forgivingg myself. ????

  • C

    June 9, 2016 at 9:59 am Reply

    I have a weird situation, Zari … I’ve been NC for two years, it’s been wonderful, I don’t miss the N at all … But now I’m actually afraid of him returning. He’d always Hoover me and make my life miserable. Life is great now! I don’t want that to get messed up.

    I suppose this is a better response than missing him, but living with anxiety is awful. I keep telling myself he can’t come back, I blocked all avenues, but I know he was pissed and trying to force contact until I double blocked him everywhere. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, he can’t come back unless I allow it and even then, so what? He can’t hurt me, he’s got no leverage, we share no friends, he’s powerless.

    Yet I’m still afraid. It’s like once NC took effect, I suddenly realized how dangerous and toxic he was. The idea of that reengering my life gives me hives.

    Does anyone else experience this? I seem to see all these articles on hoping for the Hoover, but how do you cope with becoming totally disillusioned by the narcissist and actually being afraid of accidentally running into him, or him somehow breaking back into your life?

    • Zari Ballard

      June 9, 2016 at 10:50 am Reply

      Hi C,

      You’re situation isn’t weird at all…we all go through that. For me, it’s been three years and sure, I wonder every time I go out even to the supermarket that I might run into him. That’s always going to happen…I just prepare myself and keep going. Just last summer my ex sporadically came tapping at the door. When I didn’t respond, he dumped all my plants upside down on my welcome mat. Oh well! He tried the FB friend request too at one point…I ignored it and eventually he took it down. What are you gonna do? The truth is that narcissists are truly not that motivated to go out of their way to see us once it’s finally over. Sure, they might try here and there but if you haven’t heard a word in two years, you are spending far too much time thinking about it. I’m sure he’s busy elsewhere. We can’t control the behaviors of these creatures but we can certainly control our reactions to it. Like you said, he can’t “break into your life” unless you allow it. So if he tries, just don’t allow it. If life is wonderful and your completely over it, then just continue on. Enjoy the silence!!! LOL

      Zari xo

      • C

        June 9, 2016 at 4:16 pm Reply

        Thanks, this makes me feel loads better. I guess it helps that narcissists seem to be super lazy and pursue the path of least resistance.

  • Joanne

    June 5, 2016 at 8:55 am Reply

    Hey Zari 🙂

    Once again your posting exactly what I need to hear at exactly the right moment…..its almost a year to the day of my final discard….after confronting him on my way home from vacation i felt so empowered & thought this is it im good!!! well not so much this week I had a dream about him and all week im feeling sad and thinking about “us” AGAIN….i feel like im being hoovered by my dreams !!! this is insanity.!! My suffering does not exisit or matter to anyone because no one knows ….the effort & time im putting into suffering is wasted time it changes nothing & your so right on its the suffering that im in a relationship with now its not even about him. Thank you sista! hugs xoooxxxo

    • Zari Ballard

      June 5, 2016 at 11:22 pm Reply

      Hi Joanne,

      Nice to hear from you, girl! Yes, our suffering changes not a fucking thing. The truth is that we paid all those suffering dues DURING the relationship so we DESERVE to be off the suffering hook. When you feel like suffering, get thee to the supermarket florist shop, buy yourself a couple bouquet of flowers (carnations – tons of colors, cheap, and they live for two weeks sometimes!) and put them in vases all over the house. I do it every week and it has changed the way I perceive a room in my house when I walk into it now. Simple but effective:)

      And the dreams…yes, that will happen. It seems so real that when you wake up it’s as if you just saw him. I had a dream not long ago that I was somewhere he was at and he walked over and was talking to me with his face two inches from mine. He was being nice enough but I was very uncomfortable and I kept moving my head, dodging him from side to side, and he would just move his face right along with it. Then I got very sad and just turned and started walking away and it was like his head dislodged from his body and was keeping right up with me. He was saying “Come on Zari. Please” and then I was running and then I woke up. Yikes!!! I felt sad, I’ll admit it, because it felt at that sleepy second as if I had just seen him. So I got up and walked around for a bit, put the radio on, and went back to bed and I was okay. It’s only a dream, sista! It’s only a dream.

      Remember what he looked like when you stopped by and saw him. Oh yeah…and how YOU looked! Nope – not a match anymore!!!

      Hugs to you….Zari xo

  • Sick of BS

    June 4, 2016 at 12:35 am Reply

    It’s the old saying: Is this guy really into me? I think stone-walling explains that. If he had questions…he’d be in contact…esp from those men U know have arrogance & seem to fear nothing.

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