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The One Thing Needed to Leave an Abusive Relationship

There’a saying in Al-Anon (a 12-step program which is really for people who are addicted to other people … shyly raises hand) and it’s this: 

“You can’t fix your brain with your brain.”

What the hell does that mean? Don’t worry, I’ll get to it.

But first:

When I started my recovery from my addiction to an Asshat who lied, cheated, filed his dead foot skin onto a paper towel and left it lying around the house in places where I could step in it, I was full of pride.

These are the things the voice inside my brain told me:

1. You are so much smarter than the Asshat/abuser. You can trick him into changing. It’s for his own good.
2. He is awful and you are good and it’s very important you make him understand this.
3. If it weren’t for this f-ing Asshat you wouldn’t have to get up at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday to attend a 12-step program with a bunch of losers who are so much worse off than you are.

4. I can walk away from my abuser/Asshat through sheer force of will.

abusive relationship

This is what I looked, in pleather and rhinestones, when I thought I knew everything, right up until Life bitch-slapped me.

Does any of this grandiose, bitchy inner monologue sound familiar to you?

If so, you are probably trying to fix your brain with your brain.

Fixing our brains with our brains is thinking we know more than anyone else, and don’t need advice or influence from another person or spiritual guide to fix our own lives.

But here’s the thing, without help, even if we do manage to extricate ourselves from our current abusive relationship, we are likely to go right back out there and choose the same Asshat all over again, just in a different body.

It took a very long time for me to accept the fact that, when it came to dating and romantic relationships, I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing.

I had to hit rock bottom, what seemed to be a thousand times, before I became humble enough to finally seek guidance.

One of my rock bottoms was discovering my boyfriend romancing another woman at 2 a.m. in his apartment, which I’d been staking out for three days.
I was on a first-name basis with the cops in the police car next to me staking out a drug ring. We exchanged donuts. 

After my boyfriend’s flagrant affair, I finally got humble and asked for help.

Okay, don’t freak out, I like to use the term “Higher Power” when I talk about where I sought help.

But for those of you who are not religious or are agnostic/atheistic, a higher power does not have to be God.

  • It can be your sponsor in a 12-step program.
  • It can be your therapist.
  • It can be any trustworthy font of wisdom who is willing to tell you the unvarnished truth and give you ACTIONABLE TASKS in order to heal your broken bits and pieces.
Believe me when I say: A Higher Power is the #1 Thing you need to get out of an abusive relationship.

Because we simply cannot fix our brain with our own brain. I eventually asked a woman named Joan to be my sponsor in Al-Anon.

Joan was my higher power and kicked my ass by forcing me to take actionable tasks, using the 12-steps, to not just leave my abusive relationship, but she also helped me heal my broken places so I could change my choices the next time around.

Because I’d basically dated the same guy, just in different bodies, for a total of ten years.

And believe me, those ten years were like doing hard time at Rikers, even with conjugal visits. It was magnificent to get off that merry-go-round.

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  1. Fat Boy
    Fat Boy 15 January, 2015, 04:06

    Shannon, you really need to write about something other than perceived crimes of an ex-boyfriend from years ago. Why don’t you get off that high horse and try to be a better human being, instead of vilifying the people from your past who refused to feed your narcissism? You’re the abusive one, and anyone who’s read this self-glorifying shrine you call a blog properly will be able to figure that out.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 15 January, 2015, 11:06

      Hey Fat Boy — What to say to that? Hmm. Blogs can certainly lead to navel gazing there’s no doubt about that. But my Asshat series isn’t about demonizing my exes, it’s about trying to help other people who are in similar circumstances to the ones I was in. By revealing what I put up with (which was a defect in my character at the time – lack of self-esteem etc) I’m trying to demonstrate that I worked hard and made better choices and am offering, what I hope, are helpful insights for people who are suffering in emotionally abusive relationships now. Unfortunately there’s no real way for me to identify with these readers without revealing my past. I’ve kept the identities of me exes private, using pseudonyms. I suspect, like me, they’ve matured and are hopefully kinder and more loving to the women in their lives now. I really wish them no ill.

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      • Jeff
        Jeff 12 September, 2015, 14:26

        I must disagree with Fat Boy. You are obviously stating that you (and the rest of us) should not have accepted the behavior of the others in our lives and that we as a group contributed to our own misery by choosing inappropriate significant others and not getting them out of our lives.

        I tell my daughter that as bad as my marriage to her mother was that I still chose to stay, and therefore am responsible for allowing the problems to continue because I hope that she learns from my mistakes.

        I look forward to your recovery program.

        Reply this comment
        • Shannon
          Shannon Author 12 September, 2015, 19:25

          Jeff — I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m beginning to work on my semantics (“Asshats” does offend people), but it’s true we are the masters of our choices and accepting the facts that we are participants is being responsible for our choices, rather than victims. I love that you’re transparent with your daughter. Our generation is fortunate to (I hope) have more open, humble dialogues with our kids about what it is to be human. Best, S

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