As most of you know, when we become involved with narcissistic partners, our lives become completely interchangeable. The shock of seeing ourselves in the stories of others is usually our first “aha” moment and it forever changes us. My story becomes your story becomes her story becomes his story. As my first book When Love Is a Lie describes, I became horribly addicted to the very drama that I claimed to hate and it dragged on for nearly thirteen years. That being said, this particular article brings very good news. I’m a survivor… and this month is my 3.5 year milestone of recovery. I did it and each and every one of you can do the exact same thing – survive. I guarantee it.
For those who haven’t read my book, reading my post “Reflections on 13 months No Contact” will fill you in on how it all came to an end and how I managed to make to a year of recovery. Now that I am 3.5 years in, I felt it was time to reflect once again, sharing with all of you my thoughts about the journey. To do it, I figured I’d take the questions I get asked the most during phone consultations – the ones that seem to weigh most heavily on the minds of those I speak with – and answer them accordingly.
How long did it take you to start feeling better?
In my second book, Stop Spinning, Start Breathing, I offer up this formula for recovery: one month for every year that we’re involved with the narcissist before we start feeling normal again. So, did it work for me? I would say that, at 13 months after the break-up, there’s no doubt that I was feeling better. Was I ready to start dating and getting back involved in my normal activities? No. At 13 months, I still had time to go but with every month that passed, the world got a little bit brighter. Let’s just say that, after that point, it never went backwards – ever. Now, at 52 months and counting, I feel free – finally – of all the ties that bind. Time really is the healer of all wounds.
What steps did you take to start recovery?
- Step 1: After that first day, I blocked him on my home land line, my cell phone, and my son’s cell phone. I blocked him on Facebook and my Yahoo email.
- Step 2: I pulled away from everything that reminded me of him and/or was associated with things he liked to do, we liked to do, and we would have done if he had ever kept a promise. I basically disappeared. Him being a musician (guitar player), me being a well-known local singer, and this being a small town, I instantly went on an unannounced, unexplained hiatus. This was the hardest part…giving up the music. At my age at that point, I already felt as if my musical clock was ticking and now I was being forced to pull the battery altogether. Based on his first hoover exactly one year from the day he left (See Question #3), I knew he was playing out and I wasn’t willing to risk an encounter. So I simply vanished and I didn’t tell a soul…I just did it.
- Step 3: I quit social media. I quit looking for him online. I stopped googling his name and email address and all versions of both. I tossed my secret “Wayne” file folder – a folder that was stuffed to the brim with scraps of paper, post-it notes, envelope pieces, and matchbook covers, each one containing some juicy tidbit of evidence – either real or perceived – from at least 8 good years of solid investigative work into what I suspected he was always doing behind my back. In this file, written in frantic upside down and sideways scribble, were hundreds of mysterious names and phone number that I’d either confiscated and/or stumbled upon in a few minutes of adrenaline pumped snooping. Also in this file were the fruits of my labor – the addresses, driving directions, and so forth associated with all this information and it all had meaning for me. In this file was all my “evidence”….”evidence” that I secretly kept to myself under the premise that someday I would confront him with all of it, whereby proving that I’d been right all along. I was always waiting for the perfect moment to whip out the file and send him on his pitiful way…to kick him to the curb with the power of concrete proof. But the perfect moment never came and the file – albeit growing bigger – stayed in the drawer. All the “evidence” always seemed so unfinished…I just had to work harder at it…find out more things…more proof! So I worked behind the scenes as Lady MacGyver while he just got away with murder and continued to break my heart. To toss this file meant to me that it was really, really over. It meant that there was nothing for me to do anymore…nothing to work on night after night into the wee hours. It meant that Wayne really wasn’t my boyfriend and therefore the information just wasn’t important. I remember standing in my room holding the file and feeling the weight of it in my hand. At that moment, it represented a whole lot of wasted time and I felt nauseous. Into the garbage it went.
- Step 4: I wrote my first book (that I barely remember writing) called When Love Is a Lie and then I created a blog to go with it. With that book and that blog (this blog), I intended to make a difference somehow, someway.
- Step 5: I sat at this computer for 3.5 years and it has been so, so worth it.
Do/did you think about him?
Yes, every day. I have to because of the book and because of the articles that I write for the blog and because of the phone consultations where my story and stories just like it are a large part of the conversation. I talk about him pretty much every day because my life now is all about narcissism in relationships. However, it doesn’t hurt at all…which, I imagine, tends to happen when you turn a nightmare relationship into a booming and meaningful business…when you take lemons and make fucking lemonade.
Has he hoovered and, if so, how did he do it and what did you do?
Yes, there were several hoovers. For the first three months, there were sporadic – and familiar – knocks at the door that I didn’t answer. Eventually, they stopped. At one year, I received a flyer (left INSIDE my car) for his band with a note on the back that I didn’t read. Instead, I ripped it up into a zillion pieces. Two weeks later, both tires on the passenger side of my car were slashed. I’m sure this was intended to hurt me financially since tires for my car are expensive. Little did he know, thanks to that month’s sales from the book I’d written about his sorry ass, I simply shrugged and bought two new ones.
Then, this past August 2015, while I was away on vacation and a friend was watching my apartment, the potted plants from my plant display by my front door were found neatly dumped upside down on my welcome mat. My friend simply picked up the mat, went inside, re-potted them all, and put them back out. After I returned, he sent a Facebook friend request. I ignored it and within a month, it disappeared. Then, sporadic knocks at the door that I ignored and my son ignored. The FB friend request reappeared and I ignored it. More knocks. Then, a FB message telling me his mom had passed away and he had just come back from the funeral. I realized right then why he had been trying to get my attention…NO ONE but me understood the volatile dynamic of his relationship with his mother and what it would mean to lose her. With no siblings and his dad far away, he was feeling all alone. I couldn’t respond because I knew what would happen… but I did cry for the first time in over three years. In that moment, I just felt sad for everything…for us, for Jodie’s death, for how he interfered with my relationship with her, for how they’d often gang up on me together, for the fact that he couldn’t love anyone, for the fact that he was now “alone” – and especially for the fact that he had been the kind of douchebag boyfriend that prevented me now from being able to reach out with any normal compassion for his loss. But as I reflected on this, I also remembered something his mom would say to me during those times that she would actually be on my side, that when I would sob like a baby and pine for her son as he ignored me: “Zari, this too shall pass”. And she was right. So, I did not respond and I did not reach out. I did nothing and the FB friend request disappeared…and I’ve heard not a word since.
Life is fucking good. With the book and the blog, the world opened up – and I suppose I have Wayne to thank for that. I’m super happy that I didn’t offer my condolences because, obviously, based on the quick silence that followed his mom’s death, his sadness was quickly lifted. Narcissists seek that which is familiar (that’s us!) during a personal crisis but will quickly find no reason to hang around once the crisis has passed. Do not fall for the ruse should the ex come lurking around feigning grief over the death of a relative. With or without you, he will recover. You, on the other hand, may never recover because this discard will be worse than all the others. The truth is that there is no easy fix but there IS an answer – no contact…and time. The old familiar saying that time heals all wounds is the key to it all.
Finally, the best thing to happen to me – above all else – has been the opportunity to get to know all of you during the building of this very special support community. I just want to say thank you for everything and I’m here to support you. It is my privilege every single day to know you, to read your stories, to speak to so many of you on the phone, to share tears and laughs, to watch you go from sad to mad to recovery…I am amazed at what we can do when we do it together. Recovery is definitely a team effort.