Going Cold Turkey after an abusive relationship is the quickest way to heal.

I’ve heard many victims of domestic violence say they feel the same as I did after leaving an abusive or controlling relationship.  I wonder if it’s the same for you?

Things like: ‘When the bruises have gone, he (or she) doesn’t seem so horrible as before”.  “Did I overreact or ruin things”? “Maybe they’re not so bad as I thought”.

Or:  “I don’t want to go back, but they’re begging me to”.  “I feel so guilty that my leaving will hurt them”.  (Note, how we put their pains and needs first!)

My ex tried to commit suicide when I left.  All I wanted to do was to wrap my arms around him and tell him everything would be okay again.  Finding the will to put my needs first after that and to remember why I was leaving, the violence I’d suffered, was so hard.  So, I know what you are going through.  This is the toughest time.

What happens to us when we leave them?

We doubt ourselves

We’ve spent so long trying to please them, putting their pains and needs above our own.  Our reality has been blurred by their gaslighting and mirroring, telling us we’re to blame for the same things we’ve done.   Our self-esteem is shattered.  Our gut instincts are numb.  It’s hard to know what to trust anymore.

It’s no wonder we doubt ourselves and question why we are leaving them when it feels so, so bad.  Especially as they are now hoovering us with all they’ve got, telling us to stop dwelling on the past, they’ll be different this time.  Asking us why are being so cold and unloving? Why can’t we forgive them?

It’s no wonder the urge to start minimising the bad rises up in us again.  The desire to forgive them. We know that’s all it would take to feel good again in an instant, when they wrap their arms around us once more. But you must remember more than ever now that you’ve left for good reasons.  Those reasons still stand.

Surround yourself with people who love you, who can support you to keep you on a steady path.

We feel sorry for them

It’s sounds so crazy to me now.  But I did.  Even when we’ve found the courage to leave them, we still feel sick to our stomach over them.  Guilty about what will happen to them now we’ve left them.  We still long for the person who has hurt us to make us feel better again.

I recall that pull towards my ex.   Feeling so sorry for him, even after he could have killed me.  Putting his needs and feelings above my own when he said how sorry he was, how much he loved me.  I felt guilty for leaving him, when I finally did so.  What would happen to him? He needed me, I thought.  Forget about the fact I now faced life as a young, single mother.  My own struggles and pain were beside the point.

This is the point.  Why we are with them in the first place. Narcissists lack empathy.  They don’t understand the implications of their actions on others.  They never take responsibility for them either. They need to feed their inflated sense of self, or entitlement and their ego off others.   And the person they prey on is someone whose capacity to empathise with others is so great.  To the point where they put the narcissist above themselves.      We put their pains and needs above our own.

We have low self-esteem

With little self-worth, we tend to attract people who treat us as worthless.   With low self-esteem we’re not good at setting healthy boundaries.  Or caring about ourselves first.   So, we are ripe for manipulation by them. We believe them we they tell us their behaviour is our fault.  We put their needs above our own.

Narcissists detect we have an inner void of shame that tells us we are not good enough.  They know exactly what buttons to press.   Also, the ones that soothe us and make us feel special and good again.

When they love-bomb us at the start. When they pour out their love for us after abusing us, we’re grateful for it.  It fills that void.  It makes the emptiness go away.

The emptiness never feels so great as when you are leaving a controlling or abusive relationship.

Although everything in our bones is telling us to go back so we can feel good again.  The only way to heal is to do the opposite.   As daunting as it is, if you can, the quickest way to recover is to go Cold Turkey.   It’s far better than being exposed to their manipulation.

Going cold turkey after leaving an abusive relationship is hard. But it's the quickest way to heal.

Cut all contact

Cut all contact after you’ve ended the relationship if you can.

That means delete and block every phone number, screen your calls (by letting them go to voicemail first, especially if you don’t know who they are).    Delete and block all of their email addresses and social media sites and avoid places they frequent like the plague.

Throw out any pictures of them, presents they gave you. Or hide anything that reminds you of them. Even if you feel strong now and determined not to go back, Narcissists will throw everything at you to try to regain control.   You’ll get a sentimental text and when that doesn’t work, they’ll try to connect with you on an emotional level – ‘I need you now more than ever’ kind of way.  If you respond, even to say leave me alone, they’ll have got what they want. Contact.  It doesn’t matter if it’s negative, they’ve engaged you.   Then throw more on top for good measure like, guilt: ‘You said you loved me, was that a lie?”.  Pity, Jealousy, whatever hook they think will gain your attention and engage you.

When a narcissist promises to change they will change, for a while.   Long enough to know they’ve got control over you again. Then things will go back to how bad they were before, trust me.   They’re not interested in your feelings, just how you make them feel.   So cut all contact if you don’t want them testing your boundaries once more.

Always make sure you are accompanied by someone in public so it makes it difficult for them to approach you, if you bump into them. Do this even if it is just walking to your car. Get people you trust to do this – so they can support you if have a moment of weakness on seeing your ex.

Basically, it’s out of sight, out of mind.   Or as my friend once put it, it’s like a plant.  If you stop watering it, it will wither away.

Going Cold Turkey gets rid of your craving for a narcissist. Click To Tweet

When I left my ex, I didn’t tell him where I was going.  I feared what might happen if he knew where to find me.  So physically, I cut contact.  But for a while I was talking to his family and mutual friends.  So, I was constantly being told how badly he was coping with me leaving.  They even passed on letters he’d written to me which tugged at my heart and nearly broke my resolve.

It was heart-breaking.  In the end, I realised I had to cut all contact with them too.   As hard as it was and believe me, it went against everything I was feeling and wanting to do.   I knew the only way for me to get through it and find some emotional stability again was to go cold turkey on him and anyone connected to him. At least until you’re stronger.

Join a support group

Finding others who had been through what I was going through was invaluable to me.  More so than leaning on my friends who didn’t really understand the complexity of abusive relationships or why I had stayed in one.

There is a range of various support groups out there.   Nowadays, you can even find a plethora of Facebook groups online.  Some are set to secret, so they are a safe space to purge how you feel.  Sadly, there are many, many others going through what I did and you are now.

Those women and men, who were further down the track than me at the time, shared their coping strategies with me.  They made me feel I wasn’t alone.  They gave me much-needed hope that there is life after abuse.

Some of you may have no choice but to have contact with your ex, especially if there are children involved or court appearances to contend with.  I did too, for a while.

In this case I would advise you to:

Communicate through a 3rd party

For me that was via my Legal-Aid lawyer to his.  So, that all that can be discussed is the logistics over access to children, for example, nothing emotional.  If this is not possible, then in all dealings with a toxic ex, I would urge you to always.

Stick to facts and keep emotion out of it.

Narcissists can be emotionally abusive even by text… or they’ll keep trying to throw everything at you: guilt, blame, gaslighting and so on.  Don’t join in their emotional mind games that way .. Don’t react when they provoke. Don’t get into the blame game.. No-one ever wins that war.

Always stick to facts. Take out any emotive words in your responses and keep them simple, factual and polite.

That way there is no way they can come back at you.  And if ever they’re used as evidence, you have walked a straight and honest line.

It they breach agreements and cross boundaries, then record it and speak to your lawyer or file a police report if necessary.   Particularly if you experience stalking.

Take stalking seriously

Stalking is a pattern of repeated and persistent unwanted behaviour that is intrusive and intimidating and engenders fear.   It’s when one person becomes fixated or obsessed with another and the attention is unwanted. They may not make threats, but you may still feel scared*.  In the UK stalking is now deemed to be a criminal offence, as it is a form of coercive control.  Or emotional abuse. I only hope other countries follow suit.

If you are experiencing stalking then please take it seriously.  Some cases of stalking have ended in murder.  So, document it, with times, dates and places. If it’s safe to do so, photograph them. And report it to the police.   If possible seek a restraining order against them.   And get professional advice and support. 

Going Cold Turkey is a bitter pill to swallow I know, but I promise you’ll recover faster than if you are exposed to them and their mind games as you try to heal.

I know how intense that pull towards them is, how strong the yearning for that drug-like high is. The only way to lessen it is by cutting the chord to them.  Going cold turkey is the only way to reduce the craving you have for them.

Are you struggling to break free from an abusive relationship? Are you finding it hard to cut contact with them? Let me know in the comments below.

If you need professional help, advice or support please see Domestic Violence resources here .

*Definition from:  Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service    


DOORS WILL OPEN ON Monday 9TH OCTOBER to Start with Me: Survivor to Staying Strong — my brand new online video course on how to get over an abusive relationship or narcissist.

Have you left or are thinking of leaving an abusive or controlling relationship?

Are you a Survivor of emotional and / or physical abuse, but still struggling to cope with how painful it is?

Or just trying to make sense of what happened?

Do you keep picking the wrong partner? The ones who are bad for you?

The full details are here, but let me show you just a couple of the things I’ve packed into course:

In START WITH ME: Survivor to Staying Strong I’ll show you how to get over a controlling or abusive relationship, even when you still love them and feel the intense pull back to them. How to stay strong so that you can:

  • deal with the pain of withdrawing from a controlling or abusive relationship
  • thaw out after being numb for so long (as a means to survive)
  • understand why we are attracted to abusive types and stay
  • understand why we feel sorry for our abuser
  • understand why we have such low self-esteem and how to heal it
  • stay strong when the pull back to them is so intense
  • break the cycle and unhealthy addiction to them
  • learn how to forgive yourself and / or them and move on
  • learn how to trust again
  • avoid going back to them or into another abusive relationship
  • stay strong and take your first steps towards living the life you love

But, if you’re ready to start this same journey I took to turn my life around, you need to act quickly. START WITH ME: Survivor to Staying Strong closes Friday, October 13th, at 11:59pm PST.

You’ll also get my First Course — START WITH ME: Victim to Survivor 

In the first of this series Start with Me: Victim to Survivor we looked at:

  • how to know if you’re in an abusive relationship
  • how to listen to and read your gut instincts
  • how the cycle of abuse works and leads you into an unhealthy addiction to an abusive partner.
  • the tactics narcissists use to manipulate you and how to step off the merry-go-round and not be controlled by them.
  • the warning signs that an emotionally abusive relationship might turn physically violent.
  • the danger signs a physically abusive relationship could become fatal.
  • how to decide if the relationship is good enough for you
  • how to walk away safely.

The most important thing we learnt was the only way to break free from an abusive relationship is to take your focus away from them and place it where it needs to be: on you. You need to START WITH ME.

  • Accept that you can’t change them, but you can change you.
  • Changing your behaviour in the hope that you will rescue them will only drag you down and your self-esteem further. It won’t fix a destructive relationship.
  • You can choose how you respond to them and any manipulative behaviour and take your power back.

Finally, we looked at:

  • why we are pulled towards a narcissist, even after they hurt us
  • how our self-esteem is key to setting healthy boundaries and saying no this isn’t good enough when someone abuses us.

We started to take the first steps towards saying no to being a victim and putting one foot in from of the other as a survivor.

I looking forward to seeing you there!

Are your relationships – past or present – good enough for you?  Do you deserve better?  Try my FREE QUIZ to find out!

Written by Vivian McGrath

Vivian McGrath is a TV Executive Producer who makes documentaries for major US, UK and Australian broadcasters.  She is also a survivor of domestic violence.  Her book ‘Unbeatable (How I Left a Violent Man)’ – her story of surviving abuse to finding success in love and life – will be published soon.  She hopes this blog will help others to become strong, fearless and successful too.  Find out more about Vivian Here.

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