Breaking No Contact: 7 Tips to Avoid a Relapse

narcissist-abuse-recoveryFor every narcissist abuse victim who initiates No Contact, there will inevitably be times where a relapse back to the N feels like the path of least resistance. This is the time that we have to really concentrate on standing our ground and it takes a bit of mental work to do it. During consults, I am always asked about this issue and while I certainly sympathize with the feeling of FINALLY kicking these douche bags to the curb and now just wanting to feel better instantly, the truth is that there’s no easy fix. The good news, however, is that there are ways to maintain the NC mission that really work. It’s all about changing our perspective and, of course, being patient.

So, without further ado, here are my TOP SEVEN TIPS for maintaining mental control during the No Contact Break-up:

Be wary of feeling TOO good TOO soon. When no contact is our decision, there’s usually an initial rush of empowerment that makes us feel light as a feather. In fact, the feeling can be so good that we forget to prepare for any down time as if it will never come – but of course it will! Understanding that a  hangover-style crash after the high is a normal part of the process can prevent slip-ups and sometimes even extend the high. The trick is to WORK THROUGH IT. No one said recovery was going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to get worse again before it gets better than it was before it got worse. [Read that sentence again slowly to grasp the meaning]. The good news, though, is that if you stay with the program, that initial high will eventually return and it will be as powerful – if not more so – than we remembered. It’s okay to enjoy the rush as long as you are prepared for the down time. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Patience, grasshopper.

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Realize that suffering changes nothing – and do it differently. Understand that we can suffer and cry until we pass out but life for the narcissist continues on as usual. Absolutely NOTHING changes on his end which means that all of our (post-break) suffering is for naught all the time. Whether we suffer or not, he’s still going to do all those things that we worry he’ll do. In fact, while we’re worrying, he’s already done it! Think about it. How many times have you cried for days – maybe even months – during a break-up/silent treatment only to have the narcissist hoover and return as if nothing even happened? Why suffer if it changes not a fucking thing? We might as well appreciate the silence and be happy! No one will be the wiser!

Whatever you do, never quit on a down day. During NC, there will always be days when the urge to contact the narc feels so overwhelming that we fear losing control of the situation. When this happens, take five minutes to consciously POSTPONE the action of contact until a day when you’re feeling better. As crazy as it sounds, I discovered that postponing the actual action of contact instead of forcing myself to completely resist it gave me instant control over the urge. Resisting the urge to break contact only seemed to make it more likely to happen! If we postpone the urge for as long as it takes to get to a day when we feel better, by the time that day finally occurs, I guarantee that contacting the narc will NOT be at the top of your to-do list. Suddenly, the act itself and all of the anxiety involved won’t feel like such a good idea. Instead, you’ll breathe a gigantic sigh of relief that you didn’t give in on that down day and the stretch of good days will begin to last longer.

Postpone & Pretend. To expedite the recovery process, I created a little mental trick that always worked and I call it The Game of Postpone & Pretend. Similar to postponing the action of contact, this game helps to postpone those waves of sudden sadness. Whenever tears are triggered, take five minutes to consciously postpone the feeling for 24 hours. In other words,  promise yourself that you can cry all day tomorrow if you want to and then continue PRETENDING that all is okay. Fake it ‘till you make it! The next day, do it all over again. Eventually, in a short period of time, you’ll realize that days have passed without you ever having to postpone a thing.

Find something to do. Since suffering changes nothing, it’s time to get busy. What do you like to do? After never drawing so much as a stick figure my whole life, I turned to YouTube to teach me how to paint. Now I have paintings of seascapes all over my house and I love it. For anything you ever wanted to do or dreamed about doing, there’s a YouTube video that will show you how to do it – and it’s all free. Paint a picture. Learn an instrument. WRITE A BOOK. Go on vacation with a friend. I don’t care what you do but you MUST pass the time because time must pass.

Call me. I can’t express the importance of speaking with someone who has been there, rocked that. Back when I was going through it, there was NOBODY and it drained my soul. Most of us have friends and family that are sick and tired of living the drama with us day in and day out. They simply don’t “get it” and never will and who can blame them? The key is to create a strategy for re-training your brain back to normal. It’s all about changing your perspective of the experience and helping people to get to that point is what I do best.

Do not blame yourselves. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that I don’t subscribe to any style of therapy that pushes a “victim-blame” philosophy. The way I see it, after spending umpteen years being blamed by the narcissist for EVERYTHING that happened throughout the course of the relationship, why on earth should we continue the tradition into recovery? To do this would be completely non-productive. As far as I’m concerned, you are perfect just the way that you are.

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Don’t give up and don’t give in, brothers and sisters! Loving the narcissist is NOT your destiny. When we decide to silence the chaos ourselves, there is always a natural tendency to want to run backwards…to panic…to want to return to the rabbit hole to that which is familiar. Understand that this is a false feeling – and this too shall pass.  Make every day of no contact Silence Appreciation Day.

The easiest fix of all is simply the passing of time. Allow it to happen.

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17 Comments

  • Diana Wyatt

    November 24, 2016 at 11:42 am Reply

    Thank you,for reminding me that I am not to blame. I’ve beaten myself up over and over . If only I had done this or had not done that. The signs were there and I chose to ignore them . I do know the role that I played but I also know that I did not deserve to be treated like garbage . I will never forget him talking about his exwife and how she was his puppet. That’s when I knew that I was his puppet , also. It’s been the most painful thing that I have ever been through. I feel bad for anyone that has ever gone through this , it is just like they say , a drug, you know it’s bad for you and fighting the urge for more of it , is extremely hard . I know that I am stronger than this . Today is not a good day, tomorrow will be better .

    • Zari Ballard

      November 24, 2016 at 8:42 pm Reply

      Hi Diane,

      No, you are not to blame and that’s a fact. They will always make us feel the exact opposite and this is intentional. A narcissist wants to always keep us in a heightened state of guilt and anxiety all the time and they do a very good job. Unfortunately, as a result, we become addicted to the very drama that we hate. I agree, it is awful. If you ever get a chance, read my book When Love Is a Lie. In it, I talk about all of it…the whole dynamic of being with a narc…and how I finally broke myself free.

      Yes, sister, today may not be a good day but tomorrow will definitely be better. One day at a time is all that we can do:)

      Zari xo

  • RV

    April 22, 2016 at 8:09 pm Reply

    I absolutely love your writing and explanations of these creatures and the exact effect they have on every cell in our bodies. You know them well Zari. They are all made of the same cloth. After umpteen times of trying to get rid of this leech I think he’s finally gone. The final text I told him to stay out of my life. And he came back with “you too”. He’s the one that could never take no for an answer and wouldn’t leave me alone even though he didn’t ever really want me in his life. So I texted him back and said how fucking weird are you cuz YOU wouldn’t ever leave ME alone. That got him and he said he was deleting me from his contacts. I should have left it at that but I had more to say. I told him I what an incredible loser he is and that I wished our paths had never crossed and that he’s the most evil THING I’ve ever known. Almost 5 years playing mind games with this guy. He hurt and lied and confused me more than any other. He even lied when he didn’t have to!! I finally found out some truth to his other life. Not only was he stilled married when we met (of course he said he was divorced) but I just found out he has 26 legal issues on record since 2010. Going as high as the superior courts. He’s a loser and although my heart and soul are still mending from this illusion of love, I am so relieved I never gave up my life completely for him. My gut kept telling me things just weren’t adding up and I was always half sick when I was getting ready to see him again. Now I’m so glad my doubts saved me from this gnat. I have never had an experience as ugly as this in my life. Even brain surgery was easier than this. These guys are not human. They are evil multiplied!

  • Kristie

    April 22, 2016 at 7:01 pm Reply

    I stumbled upon your page and have spent the past few hours reading through nearly everything you’ve posted. I only recently was able to identify and label what I went through after five years of spinning in confusion. Since being able to identify the dynamic I’ve found an unbelievable amount of validation, however reading your articles opened up a dozen other doors of identical situations that I’ve encountered and felt alone in navigating. The trauma bonding, the hoovering, the future faking, the codependency to hope, all of these new terms that I never knew of have given me a way of identifying and making sense of all that I went through. Currently the no contact has been the biggest hurdle to recovery as I’ve been working to move on for over a year and he uninvitedly finds a way to come into my life, push all of my buttons, and then vanish, leaving me as mad and frustrated as when we fought when we were together.

    Thank you so much for all of your writing. It has provided me with a significant amount of validation that no one else has been able to understand.
    Lots and lots of love.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 30, 2016 at 1:22 am Reply

      Hi Kristie,

      I’m grateful that you found your way to my blog. If you can, download my book When Love Is a Lie from Amazon. It’s a cheap and easy read and you will see yourself all over it. The more validation and confirmation, the better.

      Recovery is a team effort…come back often and thank you for sharing:)

      Zari xo

  • TooOldForThis

    April 22, 2016 at 6:02 am Reply

    Thank you for this. I stupidly broke NC yesterday after only 4 days and feel like a total loser. I found myself obsessing over the young girl he triangulated me with, found her on social media and started comparing myself to her, wishing I would be the chosen “important person” in his life. Today I have severe anxiety.

    I need to add here that I am currently no contact with my mom and sister. I realise that my issues with NPs stem from severe childhood neglect and also my sister is an NP. Two days ago, my best friend told me that my sister contacted her to try to “fix” things. She is the one who started the silent treatment in the first place! It triggered in me feelings of self doubt and anxiety which in term turned into stress and anxiety the next day. I feel like maybe my attraction to this covert N is really about me not dealing with my real traumas in the first place.

    I find myself being distracted from work, to the point where I procrastinate so much that i will probably fail. My house has gone to crap. I am obsessing and obsessing and feel like I can’t get out of it. On top of this, I am married. And my husband has been bearing me and listening to me and understanding me, and yet, today, I am obsessing. It is distracting, and I can’t seem to let it go. I feel like such a loser.

    I broke no contact just to reach out. He replied within 15 minutes, asked how I was, i replied, but then he didn’t reply back.

    I am getting to the point where I am unsure he is an N, and maybe the problem is me. How do I know for sure?

    I am so confused and anxious. Even though in my mind I know this is a toxic person, I know that I don’t actually want to be with a person like this, but the feeling of being rejected is overpowering, because I want that magical fairy moment we had for less than two weeks. I hold on to that and chase that dream.

    Can falling for a N be a distraction for our real issues and goals?

    I feel like I am drowning.

    • J

      May 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm Reply

      Wow! I was where you were a few months ago… I finally stop talking to people about it and sat and read and hung out reading message boards so I could at least be around people who understood. I spent hours listening to YouTube videos and read Zaris books. I went no contact back in February after he told me he was going on a date and then called me when the date was over as it didn’t work out. I of course dropped everything and went over there. After reading an article about no contact to get your boyfriend to respect you I went no contact for the 30 days recommended and even gave myself an extra day. I thought that would change everything. Nope. he had already moved on. That’s when I googled and found NPD which I didn’t know existed. I have had a person in my life that pings 95% of the boxes throughout my entire life beginning with my own Mother. I knew this was big so I just got submersed into the subject. My story was exactly like the thousand I read. I got a kick out the fighter people. The stories that showed some spunk. The I’m not going to take this lying down stories. The I’m going to look at myself and figure this out. That gave me hope and put a smile on my face. People don’t understand and I guarantee they have narcassists all around them too they just haven’t figured it out yet. These message boards are full of the people that have figured something out. It’s now been 8 weeks of No Contact. He even emailed me at my office last week and I didn’t respond. I could never have done this if I hadn’t found people like Zari and looked at myself in the mirror. I needed to lean on God like never before and I could do this in the silence. I knew he was coming back and I had to be healthy enough to keep moving on! Only say positive things about yourself and only say good things out loud. I can this and do can you!

      J

  • MC

    April 9, 2016 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Dear Zari,
    Thank you for this,
    Your work to me is a cross between midwife and grief counselor. As i understand and heal feeling like giving birth to a new me. Labor pains included. Ouch

    You have given me so much affirmation that I am getting through this. 17 years of abuse on top of 35 years with another on top of mother the same way. And then a spiritual guide too. Completely boxed in to this type. Blasted.

    Yet I am seeing a way out and feel better than have in years. The validation and guidance you share, step by step on how to get out and stay out of these destructive head games has me feeling so much better. Almost normal.

    Thank you so much Zari. You guidance hits home.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 14, 2016 at 1:31 am Reply

      Hi MC,

      Thank you so much for sharing and, believe me, it’s my privilege to be able to help. When we’re going through it, we typically are so baffled that we stay just to see what happens next even though we know it will hurt. So weird, right? This is what we need to break out of….the codependency to hope (hope he will change, hope we will change, hope he won’t cheat, hope he really cares, hope he knows what he did, hope he’ll come back, hope he’ll stay away….on and on). It’s all about taking charge of that which we can take charge of. While we can’t control the behaviors of others, we certainly can control our reactions to it. It’s all we can do.

      Stay on the path and never lose site of the prize…your happiness. 17 + 35 is way too long to suffer…

      I’m grateful that you’re here:)

      Zari xo

  • Christine

    April 7, 2016 at 2:14 pm Reply

    As someone who has been there and done that, my heart goes out to all of those out there who are going through this struggle right now. I just wanted to share a few thoughts of what helped me get through this time.

    One thing that always helped me, when I did get any urge to contact the narcissist, was to imagine the “worst case scenario” of what would happen if I did. Do NOT put on the rose colored glasses and fantasize about some tearful, joyful reunion with these narcissists, where they finally appreciate you and are remorseful for the hurt they caused. That will NOT happen because if narcissists had that kind of empathy, they wouldn’t do what they did to start with!

    Instead, I pictured him getting some text from me, smirking that Cheshire grin of his, feeling smug that he still has a hold over me…and then promptly ignoring me. Since narcissists are so good at disappearing acts, that is most likely what would happen. Once they get their fix of attention from you, then they would likely ignore you–then put you in the back of the queue as “back up” supply, in case the newer sources of supply don’t work out. Ask yourself, are you really willing to take the risk of reaching out to the narcissist, only to hear deafening silence–and feeling discarded yet again?

    Or, even if narcissists take us back, they’d be on their best behavior temporarily to keep us hooked in–but then, immediately revert to their former behavior (or worse). I used to google and hunt for stories about people who took back narcissists. NONE of them EVER ended happily. I was especially haunted by one person who said how the second discard was even worse than the first, and while the first one just left her depressed–the second one left her feeling suicidal. I thought of THAT whenever I felt a near relapse coming on…and thought how I’m sparing myself from that possibility by staying no contact.

    I also distracted myself with activities and thoughts other than the narcissist. After a time, I even prohibited my friends (who had met him) from even mentioning his name around me–and they really were great and understanding about honoring my request (well they hated him anyway so it was also doing THEM a favor to not dwell on it)

    One thing that unexpectedly made me feel better was hearing from an old friend again. Then, I started reminiscing about all those great parties he used to throw at his place, and all the fun I had (this was years before the narcissist). That got me to thinking back on lots of OTHER great experiences I had before too, without the narcissist. It made me think that if I could thrive without the narcissist before, I could learn to do so again.

    Wow Zari, I need to find that youtube video and learn how to paint myself! My aunt is the artist in the family and to this day, I still wonder where that artistic talent went haha. But I’ve always wanted to learn to do that!

    One thing NOT to do is try to “rebound” and jump into another relationship straight away. Please do as I say, and not as I do. I foolishly then jumped back to online dating, trying to distract myself with someone else. One person who showed interest in me looked and sounded just like the narcissist, believe it or not–almost like his evil clone (even looked similar, was the same age, etc.) I also went on a date with another guy, who also turned out to be a jerk. It made me wonder if narcissists were all I could attract!

    I eventually got into a healthy relationship, but that was more than a YEAR after the narcissist. When you’re still raw and in recovery, you tend to be very vulnerable and I swear other narcissists pick up on that, thinking you’re ripe for the picking.

    Or, you could date nice people and feel like you “should” be into them…but still can’t quite feel it. After being with the narcissist, in a sick way you get used to that…so then, being treated well actually doesn’t feel quite right, since it’s not what you’ve internalized. If I’d met my fiancee at an earlier time, I might have (stupidly) passed him by. Get the narcissist thoroughly out of your system, THEN date again–but no earlier.

    Wishing everyone a happy, narcissist-free recovery!

    • Bethd

      April 9, 2016 at 10:34 pm Reply

      Great article Zari and good advice Christine. You are a great student of Zari’s and I’m sure she would give you an A. I also jumped right in for distraction. I ended up being a basket case and I really didn’t have much to give being in that “numb” state you are in the first 6 months. I met my man a few months out but held off on meeting him. I knew he was too nice a guy to get entangled with me while I was still resisting hoovers and struggling off and on. We chatted for a few months before I even met him and I took it slow. Like molasses. He was the on that told me I was with a classic narcissist when I finally explained to him how we broke up. (Yet another disappearing act) Of course once I started reading I was in shock. Explained so much of the crazymaking I went through off and on for years. It also led me to Zari eventually. Yay!! ????????????????????????????????❤️

      • Zari Ballard

        April 14, 2016 at 1:41 am Reply

        Thank you BethD & Christine…I love and appreciate that you both come back to visit here..you are grand examples of RECOVERY and you are both rockstars in my book:) Thank u sisters! I am grateful to know you!

        Zari xo

        • Christine

          April 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm Reply

          Beth, tell me about it…I’m glad you’re also here to show everyone there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Boy was reading Zari’s book an eye opener. I kept getting that feeling that something was “off”, yet wasn’t able to really put my finger on it until reading that book. Thanks Zari for all you do!

  • Emma

    April 5, 2016 at 2:16 am Reply

    a great article Zari – you rock!! such great advice and so well written. great advice.!! thank you for helping us all . you saved me and i am now no contact for 15 months. thank you – you have saved my life ever since i stumbled across your website.. i have read about 20 ebooks on narcissism and all your four books. yours are the best and also the psychopath free book by jackson mackenzie is very good. well done.!

    • Zari Ballard

      April 8, 2016 at 5:28 pm Reply

      Hi Emma,

      Congrats for 15 months NO CONTACT!!! It makes it all worth it to me. Please continue to visit here and respond to others who still struggle. Experienced advice is appreciated by all! Rock on, girlfriend:)

      Zari xo

  • Fluffy

    April 4, 2016 at 8:37 pm Reply

    Hi Zari –

    Thank you for another great post. Somehow you always manage to hit the mark on so many subjects. For me, NC will probably be something of a lifelong struggle, although I think it will steadily get easier, because I can feel it happening a little bit at a time, maybe not every day, but for sure on most days. In the very beginning I was working through 15-minute increments, a lot like a 12-step person trying desperately to not pick up. There was no “Yay!” phase for me, not really. Just a hollow loneliness and frustration rattling around in the back of my mind. Now, though, that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach is gone, and I’m not thinking about him or anything connected to him in the same way. Instead of wanting to “fix” things with him, I just want to get on with the rest of my life.

    Until NC, my N and I generally had tons of daily contact, texting and talking (except, of course, for the times when he would drop off the radar screen, theoretically for “work”), so for me to be the one to disappear was really odd territory. I was constantly on the watch for any sign of texting life from his side of the fence, and then I would agonize over whether to respond. I would start typing something and then discard it. To be honest, I don’t think he really noticed that I was NC until his calls to me started consistently auto-rejecting and his texts fell into a black hole. There was an initial flurry of trying to contact me, and then he faded away, predictably, to one or more of his other ladies-in-waiting.

    He still occasionally sends out a test line, usually some cutesie emoji or some pet name or expression that we used between us that would always make me cave in when we’d previously had big fights. It’s a whole lot simpler to press delete these days than it used to be, and in a weird way it’s become an exercise for me, sort of like lifting emotional weights. Each repetition gets easier. But the one thing that helps me more than anything else is to remember the last thing he said to me before he stomped out of my house for the last time, which is so logic-defying that it makes my brain cramp up if I consider it for too long. He exclaimed, “I can’t stand the stress of lying to you anymore! Every time I’m with you I have to lie to you about what I’m doing and who I’m seeing when I’m not with you, and I hate feeling like this! I can’t relax around you! I can’t ever be happy with someone like you!”

    Uhhh…WHAT – ??!! You’re breaking up with me because you’re all stressed out from lying to me about the other people you’re sleeping with?! In which bizzarro universe does that pass for logical thought?! That was enough to finally go NC for me.

    Zari, please don’t stop writing…your website and books are priceless to all of us who wasted our time loving an illusion.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 8, 2016 at 5:30 pm Reply

      Hi Fluffy,

      As always, thank you for sharing and now that you’ve booked a consult, we will speak one-on-one and nip this thing in the bud once and for all! I look forward to it:)

      Zari xo

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