You feel your heart pounding. You know this person is hurting you and destroying your self-esteem but you just can’t seem to get away. It seems like you are drawn to them by some unknown force of nature. Even the tiny bits of attention or “love” that they bestow upon feel like glimmerings of hope for a beautiful future. When you’ve made up your mind to leave them you find you cannot resist when they beg for your forgiveness and promise that “it will never happen again.” I was also addicted to an abusive person and this guide will help you to break free and start your new life.
Educate yourself about the cycle of abuse:
Six distinct stages make up the cycle of violence: the set-up, the abuse, the abuser’s feelings of “guilt” and fear of getting caught, rationalization, shift to non-abusive and charming behavior, and fantasies and plans for the next time they will abuse.
Learn about the many types of abuse:
Domestic violence has many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence. Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors in some legal systems, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
Get yourself safe. Have a plan in place that includes a domestic violence shelter, a bag with important documents and necessities to grab in a hurry, and friends that can help.
Keep a journal to remind yourself of past situations and to document them. When the person is back on their best behavior during the honeymoon stage, this will keep you from being lured back in.
Make new friends, start a new hobby, or join a new group to distract you from the abuser and start to build your new life.
Get rid of all mementos that remind of you of this person. If you can’t bear to throw them away, put them all in a box and put it away out of sight. A safe burn pile can also be very empowering.
Talk to a counselor trained in the many different types of domestic abuse, such as mental, economic, sexual, and physical.
Join a support group, like Co-dependents Anonymous, if available.
Take bubble baths, focus on personal hygiene even if you have nowhere to go, splurge on that paperback or magazine you’ve wanted to pick up, or do anything else healthy that you normally save for special occasions.
Make a notebook filled with pictures of your dreams and hopes for your future. You can usually get used magazines for free for cutting out pictures for your collages. Look at your notebook when you are tempted to go back to your abuser to remind yourself of what you can have if you stay away.
Write a letter to your abuser that you don’t send. Get all of your feelings out, say goodbye, and explain how they have affected your life.