The no-contact rule.
An excellent concept in theory, yet so difficult to put into action. No other rule shapes the outcome of our recovery more than this one; the rule is a precondition for our survival.
But why is it so hard to follow? Why do we come up with excuses NOT to follow it, even if we know how important it is?
The addiction to one person is not easy to overcome. It takes determination, strength and foremost -the insight on a deeper level that we cannot go on like this anymore, without losing ourselves completely.
The following success story from AJ is about following and NOT following the no-contact rule, and how important a support system can be:
Several years ago I did the stupidest thing possible. I started dating my boss. My company had a strict no dating policy for its employees, but my boss convinced me that no one needed to find out. He pursued me like crazy until I gave in.
We were together over six years and amazingly (as far as I know) no one ever knew about it. We were very careful–my boss bordering on paranoid sometimes. I only told one friend about it, although I never told my boss that I shared our secret. Once the newness of the relationship wore off, he was terrified of losing his job and extremely careful about everything. Even his mother didn't know about me!
As anyone but me might have expected, he eventually decided he could no longer “live the lie.” Rather than looking for a new job or helping me to find one, he chose to break off the relationship. I was devastated. Of course, I had very little support, since I hadn't told most of my friends or any of my coworkers about him. His office was next to mine, and I'd hear him laughing and joking with other women through the thin walls. It was beyond horrible. I can't even describe the sick, sinking feeling I'd get in my stomach every day.
He took another job a year later, but I still saw him occasionally because we traveled in the same business circles. And I'd like to say that business meetings were the only times I had to deal with this guy, but I was my own worst enemy. I called him for the stupidest reasons. I'd linger after meetings hoping to speak with him. But he'd walk right past me, and I'd inwardly fall apart. No matter how much time passed, the feelings of devastation were always the same. I can't tell you how many times I sat in my car and cried in parking lots. And it went on for over a year.
I tried not to call him, but I'd always give in. You would think I'd have learned from the horrible way I felt after each of these calls, but I didn't. The worst of it was that sometimes he'd give me a little grain of hope (“let's meet for lunch”). My entire world would come crashing down when the hope got dashed. (“Sorry. Something came up. I'll call you in the next month or so.”). Talk about letting someone else determine my happiness! I should have just given him a remote control.
Finally, my friend said, “Look. Calling this guy isn't getting you anywhere except that it makes you feel terrible. So I'll tell you what. Next time you want to call him, call me instead. I'll pretend to be him–I think I can reject you as well as he can, you'll get the same results but feel better about it.” I didn't put much stock in her idea, but I was desperate enough to try anything. So, the next time I wanted to call the guy, I called my friend. She was so like him, so coldly rejecting and horrible that I had to laugh. It was so much more fun than calling him ever was. I'd hang up laughing instead of feeling like a spineless rejected glob.
It still wasn't easy. The only thing that helped was that I kept telling myself he'd be expecting my calls. I reasoned that every time his phone rang, he'd expect it to be me. But it wouldn't be! I didn't want him to even see my number on his cell phone or caller ID. Nothing. I thought it might bother him that I'd dropped out of his life so quickly. I don't know if it bothered him at all, but it sure made me feel like I had some power back. I think that feeling powerless was the worst part of our breakup.
I took a job in another city, which also made me feel better, probably because I stopped hearing his name. I started dating again. I worked hard to stay busy, so I'd have no energy left over for worrying about him.
Within a few months I was pretty happy with my life, something I never would have believed possible. But then (and this is, to me, the important part) I ran into my ex-boyfriend at a business convention. By now a lot of time had passed–over two years. I accepted his invitation to dinner, thinking I was past my feelings for him. But, as usual, when it came to this guy, I was completely wrong. By the time the conference ended, I was the same needy person I'd been two years before. My ex-boyfriend gave off mixed signals, but I figured out pretty quickly that he didn't want a serious relationship with me. He wanted me to get him a better job (I professionally outranked him now).
Anyway, it was heartbreak all over again! I couldn't believe the feelings came back so quickly and that all the work I'd done hadn't moved me past him. I didn't have quite to start over, but it was way too close! I learned then and there that breaking the no contact rule ever (!) is a really bad idea. I also learned that logic and reasoning have nothing to do with how you feel. They can help control your actions, but there was nothing I could do to talk myself out of my attraction to him once he was in front of me. And boy oh boy did it hurt when I figured out the real reason for the dinner.
My friend, who had been quoting to me from your website, finally told me to read it for myself. So I followed her advice. Reading about the reasons for no contact, as well as learning from the stories of others, helped me. So did the newsletters–I learned something from everyone. I recovered a second time. Even so, I have finally learned why it's important never to see or speak with my ex-boyfriend again. He's called me a few times (must still be job hunting!), but I don't pick up when I recognize the number. I delete his messages without listening to them–way fun! I figure maybe it's some sort of addiction, like alcohol. Whatever it is, not seeing this guy at all, ever, is the best thing I can do for myself. I'm engaged to a great man now –and very happy, but still not taking any chances.
Apart from having lived the benefits of no contact, I want to say that if I can recover and be happy again, then so can anyone. I was about as far gone as a person can get. Needy, dependent, desperate, begging–those all described me–and over a prolonged period too!
Getting myself out of the cycle of contacting him, having hope and getting crushed was the best thing I ever did. It gave me my sense of power back. And, most importantly, it worked. Thanks for being there for all of us, Eddie. I've definitely learned that your advice is right on.
I hope AJ's story gave you some inspiration and insight about the importance of the no-contact rule, and that you are one step closer to following it with the necessary devotion.