12 steps of recovery from love fraud

Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following email from a reader called “Adelade.” Her previous posts are “When life ain’t fair” and “This is the time for me to learn who I am.”

Having grown up in a dysfunctional alcoholic environment, I spent just about 35 years involved in one “program” or another, and I was able to strongly identify with my “inner child” after one particularly grueling session with my counseling therapist. I could clearly see how my emotional development had been abruptly arrested during my childhood, and that I had developed into an adult whose every decision and action had been based upon the need for acceptance, validation, appreciation, and approval. Fear of “dysapproval,” “dyslike,” and abandonment were, among other things, the driving force throughout my lifetime.

Last week, when the discussions were flowing from new LoveFraud readers to the long-timers, I saw in myself a step-by-step process of healing that directly reflected that philosophy of nearly all 12-Step Programs, from addictions to co-dependency. I mean, isn’t that pretty much how we all were duped? We were addicted to trusting someone else with our very lives?

So, long before I made the discovery about the exspath, I had begun teaching myself how to speak and think “truthfully.” Speaking “truthfully” translates into plain, honest, no-sugar-coating speech. If I learned how to speak the truth without malice, perhaps I wouldn’t be such an easy target for sociopaths.

I digress. Back to the spur-of-the-moment 12 Steps of Recovery from LoveFraud:

Step #1: We admit that we had involved ourselves with a sociopath and that our lives had become a living hell.

What I believe that this meant was recognizing the glaring Truth: whomever the sociopath that we are involved with might be, we can no longer ignore the absolute fact that we have been used, abused, damaged, and discarded. It is a fact. It is a Truth. And, it cannot be denied if we have found our way to LoveFraud.com.

Step #2: Make the decision to sever our toxic relationship.

We have realized what we were associated with and we have made the choice to save ourselves, our finances, our sexuality, our system of beliefs, and our very souls. We have made the conscious, cognizant, and lifesaving decision to end the toxic association, for our own sakes.

Step #3: Admit to someone who “gets it” that we had been in a dire situation and need help.

Whether that “someone” is a counseling therapist, attorney, abuse hotline intake worker, or the “family” that we have on LoveFraud.com, we make the choice – the conscious decision – to reach out through our tears, our terror, our horror, our fears, and our despair and grasp the hands of Life. We need help – we need help – we need help because we do not have the tools and techniques to survive our experiences on our own.

Step #4: Recognize that we are a part of a Greater Universe.

When we are just beginning to survive our sociopath experiences, we tend to follow human nature and become quite self-absorbed. We believe that our experiences were the worst that could ever happen to anyone. Until, that is, we read stories like OxDrover’s, Witsend, Darwinsmom, Donna Andersen’s, and others. Yes, our pain is real, and the earth is still going to spin on her axis regardless of our agony. Whether we choose to place a “spiritual perspective” on this, or not, is strictly a personal choice.

Step #5: Agree to maintain NO CONTACT for the remainder of our lives.

Now, I realize that there are many of us who share custody with a sociopath and, for that reason, “No Contact” is a very difficult rule to self-impose. Well, for those of us who do NOT have children with a sociopath, stop trying to make sense. Stop trying to “talk” to them. Stop pretending that they’re speaking the truth. No river of tears, no impassioned pleas, no personal sacrifices, and no amount of money will ever “fix” what ails a sociopath. They will not care about your pain. They DO not care about your pain. And, they never HAVE cared about you. This Truth is a fact, and it is irrefutable.

Step #6: Make amends to all people that we had harmed, directly or indirectly, as a result of our sociopath entanglements, except when to do so would injure them, or others.

Yes, we were victimized. And, yes”¦.we never asked to be victimized. But, we must look beyond our own damages and recognize that our friends, family, and inner circle experienced collateral damage, as well. We’re not apologizing FOR the sociopath. We are apologizing that the sociopath exists. Do we use the word, “sociopath?” We’re not qualified, but we sure as hell can say that they “fit the profile OF a sociopath.”

Step #7: Recognize our own frailties, vulnerabilities, and boundary failures and made efforts to repair and forgive ourselves for our mistakes.

The topic of “forgiveness” is a volatile one. There seems to be no grey area – either you forgive and heal, or you don’t and you stagnate. I disagree with both views. Forgiveness of “Self” is a moral, ethical, and emotional imperative. We were targeted, lured, and hooked by an organism that feels no empathy or remorse for damages that they create. We are not at fault with the exception that we trusted such a thing. So, we must forgive ourselves, FIRST. All the rest will come as it does, or not.

Step #8: Engage in open, frank, and truthful discussions about our experiences, how we were affected, and how our issues affected others.

Speaking about what happened to us, how it happened, and how it affected our friends, family, coworkers, and the rest of our inner circles is a part of the healing process. We speak truthfully and openly, but we keep in mind that “other people” often “don’t get it” because they have not experienced it themselves, or they are in denial. And, we are not responsible for anyone else’s issues but our own. We speak using facts – my counselor provided me with a sanity-saving mantra: feelings are not facts.

Step #9: Make every human effort to educate ourselves and others about the healing processes of sociopath entanglements.

By “educating ourselves,” I mean that we memorize and ingrain the Red Flags, and the Yellow Flags of sociopath behavior. The mechanics, studies, and statistics are utterly meaningless with regard to the healing process. And, the steps of our healing processes are not bound by a specific timeline. We must experience our healing and speak of our positive steps even as we re-examine how we were duped.

Step # 10: Allow ourselves to experience the grieving process in a healthy, productive way.

There are stages of grieving, whether it’s grieving the loss of a loved one, kicking a substance addiction, or losing the illusion that a sociopath has fabricated. We must be willing to identify and experience those stages with courage and acceptance. It’s OKAY to be angry! It’s OKAY to be sad! It’s OKAY to feel despair! But, we have to grab ourselves by our shorthairs and drag ourselves forward – nothing within the human condition prepares us for the carnages of sociopath entanglements. It is OUR time, now – our time to heal, to realize our own potential, to realize our own value, and to take our place as advocates for ourselves.

Step #11: Remain accountable for our own actions and decisions.

We can look to our sociopath experiences and say, “This is what happened to me and why I lost everything that I ever had.” What we cannot truthfully say is, “Because I was victimized by a sociopath, I am going to make stupid choices, bad decisions, and harm other people in my anger.” We may not excuse bad behavior on bad behavior. If we are wrong, or we’ve harmed another person (deliberately, or unintentionally), we stand accountable. It is not a mortal sin to be human. It IS “sinful” to refuse to acknowledge our own humanity.

Step #12: Continue to maintain our boundaries, NO CONTACT, and support and encouragement for ourselves, and for others.

We do not alter our boundaries on a person-by-person-basis. Our boundary failures are what allowed the sociopath into our domain, in the first place, and we may be wiser, but we will likely be hyper-vulnerable – more so than the “average” person. NO CONTACT is non-negotiable, even in situations of shared custody. We do not speak to the sociopath unless it involves the immediate safety/security/well-being of the shared child. All others are non-entities – they do not exist – they are not among the living – they are, in essence, deceased. We encourage ourselves AND others regardless of what our own issues might be. Through support and encouragement of others who are unfortunate members of the Sociopath Survivor Club, we are healed as we assist others in their healing processes.

So, that’s what it is, I guess. For whatever reason, I ran down the list of 12 Steps to the best of my recollection and attempted to put a LoveFraud.com spin on them. In writing these out with their explanations, I’ve taken another centimeter forward on my healing path.

I thank Donna Andersen, OxDrover, Mel Carnegie, and each and every one of you on this site for helping me along. We’re all going to push through our experiences at our own speed. And, may you each find the most sincere blessings of comfort on your own healing paths.

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381 Comments on "12 steps of recovery from love fraud"

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Psychopaths are very good at turning our lives upside down. And our ability to turn it right side up again is a long and painful journey. Our brains become rewired by a relationship with a psychopath. We were duped into a neurologic connection with them, and the neurotransmitters that keep us bonded are very difficult to put aside. If you think of romantic love as an addiction, think of romantic love to a psychopath as an afflicted addiction, one that creates a toxic glue.

You’ve done the hard work of no contact so, at least, you’re not exposed to more of his shenanigans. While you may think he’s moved on to a happy life, he’s simply changed the actors, but their roles will remain the same and they will soon come to know the same pain you have faced. It will happen to some sooner, and some later.

Battling depression is not easy, and sometimes, we need help. Finding a therapist who is informed about the impact of falling prey to a sociopath could move you along. Anti-depressants can also help you to rebuild your life and your self worth. Remember that what happened, happened TO YOU, it is not who you are.

Many of us here have been through the heart wrenching pain you feel and have put joy back in our lives. It starts small, like forcing yourself to get exercise and participate in things you like to do. Nothing builds self esteem better than volunteering to help people who are experiencing misfortune.

Whatever you do, know that there is caring and support for you here. While others may not understand, we do. And we are living proof that you will find joy again.


A must read: Just read this post and was so completely blown away by one persons response so I cut and pasted it:

I read the articles and comments posted on Lovefraud.com and I see my life, or parts of it, described over and over again. I see things my ex did (or didn’t do) written in the words of other people. I see myself in their stories. Often I find myself thinking, “Thank God my experience wasn’t that bad or that long” and other times I nod my head in silent, humiliated understanding that comes with first hand knowledge of the horror stories people share.

My ex has the most beautiful soul. He is kind and compassionate and loving. He is the most thrilling person I’ve ever known. Until he’s not. When he’s upset or inconvenienced or, God forbid, angry he turns into someone cold and hostile. His comments are scathing, filled with razor sharp words that open veins in my heart and leave me gasping at the pain. He is a master at flaying open my emotions and then disavowing any responsibility or ill intent. He used to tell me that I didn’t understand what he meant, that I was hysterical, or that I twisted his meaning for my own passive aggressive purposes. Maybe I was passive aggressive. Never mind the “maybe”. I was passive aggressive. That’s what happens when I can’t ask for what I need without being rejected or ridiculed or told that I am selfish for expecting something from him. I’d like to blame him for it but I’m the boss of me. I’m the one who made the choice to be passive aggressive. I have to own that. And I have to own that I still don’t fully fathom the impact he’s had on me.

I’m an addict.

I’m addicted to him.

I’m addicted to the way I feel when I’m with him the good, not the bad, though sometimes I believe I would accept the bad in order to also have the good. Maybe, possibly, if I’m just good enough and try hard enough and all the stars are aligned then maybe I’ll get some of the good. He’s so misunderstood, you see? He tells me so and so I have to believe that I’m just not giving him enough credit or being fair or being realistic. And he has ” legitimate excuses” for everything he does or doesn’t do. He was depressed. Then there was the physical pain: his elbow, his back, his guts. Then there was the dizziness that came and went, sometimes confining him to bed with the remote and sometimes miraculously disappearing just when something entertaining was planned. Then there was the encroachment of his privacy after we had to get roommates in order to help pay the rent because we only had my disability income to live on and all the money left to me by my father was gone at last. Then there were the accusations of flirting and disloyalty on my part that made him sad and sent him back into that depression. Then there was the day he called me a “stupid f*cking c*nt” and told me that he “deserved better from the woman who supposedly loved him.” Except I wasn’t supposed to internalize those words because he was just processing his thoughts about the anger he’d felt over something trivial and thought he could share that processing with me. But he didnt explain that he was recalling his thoughts or just processing them and wondering why he’d thought and felt those things. He just said the words aloud and left me to sit with them for 2 weeks and then, when I finally broke down in tears over them said, “What?! Oh God! I was just describing what I felt at the time! Not what I think of you!” and the logic of that escaped me because the words had had 2 weeks to sit inside of me, carving themselves into my cells. Eight months later, they still echo in my head almost every hour of every day. But I’m not allowed to be hurt or upset by them because, of course, they’re not true. He was just processing his feelings. I’m supposed to be glad he did that, right? That’s what women want, right? A man who will process his feelings with her.

I’m addicted to the memory of him when he was in a good mood and loved me.

I’m addicted to the energy and space he took up in every place we were together.

I was addicted to the constant texting and phone calls that happened before we lived together and the roller coaster drama of trying to prove that he should choose me and not that other woman because she’s a liar and a cheat while I’m faithful and devoted and loyal and dedicated no matter what he does or says or what promises he broke in the 3 years before we lived together.

I was addicted to proving that I’m good enough and that I can accept and forgive and love him unconditionally while he spent time trying to decide between us, despite having gone back on his assurance that he was going to give her up and come be with me a half dozen times or more.

I was addicted to putting him back together after she chewed him up and spit him out and to being his best friend while he agonized over how much she hurt him and to being the woman he turned at last to because he suddenly realized that I’m the right choice and I’m the perfect person for him.

I was addicted to riding out his struggle with commitment and his inability to plan for the future because so many other women have hurt him and left him and devastated him.

I was addicted to proving to him that I’ll stand by him always, no matter the hardship, no matter the tests he throws my way, no matter the pain he causes.

I was addicted to martyring myself to his cause, to being the true blue girl in his life.

I’m addicted to him the way a child is perversely compelled to continuing to love the father that abused her and the mother that abandoned her, always going back for more, always desperate to prove she is worthy of their love because she thinks that if she just loves well enough or loves the right way then love won’t continue to hurt her the way it does now.

I’m addicted to continuing to send messages to his phone from my email. He makes unfair statements and I get angry and find myself glad that I broke up with him and just when I start to think I did the right thing he lifts me up with loving words and apologies and I sob over the fact that I’m the horrible person who “destroyed his life”

I’m addicted to the way he says “It was my fault for not loving you well enough baby” as if somehow that love will seep into me from the computer screen and make it possible for me to trust myself again”after so many do-overs and so many 2nd chances that the idea of it only being a “second” chance is laughable. More like a 30th or 40th chance.

I’m addicted to being able to tell him exactly how much pain he caused me without any immediate consequence and watching his apologies and regret appear in my chat window”knowing that he’ll manage to turn things around so they become guilt trips rather than accountability”and praying that it won’t happen because that might be a sign from God that he’s sincerely sorry and things would be different this time. This 41st second chance.

I’m addicted to apologizing”to feeling guilty”to punishing myself”to hating myself for ending our relationship”for ending my dream”so that he’ll understand that I really did love him. I just have to love him from a distance now because I can’t live in a home where both of us hate me. It’s painful enough that I hate myself for not being good enough for him, that I hate my inadequacy and my inability to live up to even his most basic expectations.

I’m addicted to reminding myself that he almost punched me in the face once, to reminding myself that that is reason enough to have left him. And I’m addicted to being angry at him because he says, “But I didn’t actually hit you!” I’m angry at him for that because it’s the lamest response I can think of to an act of aggression that could have turned into an act of violence. And I’m angry because I’m addicted to telling myself, “It could have been worse. So many people have it so much worse. Just let it go. He didn’t actually hit you.”

I’m addicted to trying to take less responsibility for the way my life turned out”to blaming him for what hurts me. And I’m addicted to being angry at myself for the way my life turned out”and angry at myself for blaming him for what hurts me. I’m addicted to that anger because I’m accountable for myself and my life and for what I allow”and no matter how much I felt like I loved him”I was supposed to love myself first and best and I didn’t.

I’m addicted to my new reality”the reality in which nothing seems right without that drama and chaos even though this calm, quiet, peaceful life is healthier and safer and more trustworthy. Even though this life is beautiful. And I’m angry at myself for this particular addiction more than anything else.

That’s how I know I’m an addict. I’m a co-dependent, enabling, door mat of an addict.

Because when I say that I miss the way I felt when I was with him”I know that’s my addiction doing the talking.

Because when I’m honest with myself I can say that most days I felt desperate to prove to him that I was worthy of his notice.

Most days I felt like a piece of worthless garbage.

Most days I felt like I was a stupid f*cking c*nt and that he deserved better than me.

And that may not be entirely his fault”because I participated.

But most days I felt incapable of being anything other than that worthless piece of garbage and I don’t know how someone who “supposedly” loved me could not see that there was something wrong.

I know I’m an addict”because I was willingly living on scraps—and I was starving”.and it was killing me”.and I miss that feeling of dying.

I am still sobbing from reading this. For three years I have been back and forth in a relationship and not able to leave and not able to understand what was going on. You just described perfectly what I am feeling and going through. I did not think anyone could understand. I am one week no contact and already second guessing myself and reasoning with myself how maybe this time I can fix it. I had hear about sociopaths and searched the internet and found this site. I have always thought myself to be fairly smart and never thought I could be conned. How can be addicted to something or someone so destructive to me? I am an addict and I wonder if I will ever be better….

[email protected]

Thanks for sharing this message. It’s unfortunate that the writer is not part of this conversation. If she were, I would impart the following to her:

Indeed, you are an addict as is everyone who engages in a romantic relationship. And when we engage in a romantic relationship with someone who betrays us, it can glue us even more deeply into our bond with them.

Alcoholics recognize their chemical addiction because they physically imbibe a fluid that makes their brain feel a certain way. Dope addicts, smoke, snort or ingest a chemical that also causes the brain to react. Among the love chemicals our brain produces is the nuerotransmitter oxytocin, and it makes us feel a certain way as well. A warm glow, love, and trust are just a few.

One purpose of oxytocin is to bond us to our love interest so that we can parent our children over the years required for their development. Interestingly, it’s a lack of oxytocin that creates the inability to feel affective empathy that is the focal point of “Cluster B” behavior.

When we are betrayed, which our brain perceives as a type of abandonment, we begin the immediate struggle with chemical depletion. If we were alcoholics, we’d sense this depletion from the shaking of our hands in DTs. When our hands began to shake, we’d run for the bottle to restore our balance. The depletion we experience from betrayal manifests in longing for the way our brains felt when we were experiencing the joy, peace, trust and desire of the chemicals produced by love.

Since predators are very good at stirring our brain chemistry, it is a difficult attachment to break. Sometimes an alcoholic can beat addiction on their own. Sometimes, they need help. It’s the same for the chemical addiction going on in our brain from the betrayal we experienced.

A large part of why we may have friends who think our attachment to someone who hurt us is bizarre, is that they simply don’t know the chemical workings of the brain. Enlightening society about how it works is one of the reasons I wrote my book. So if you have a friend who constantly faults you for remaining with or finding it difficult to break away from the person who harmed you, you might find it worthwhile to stick my book in their hand. And again, if you can’t afford to purchase a copy, (Amazon)let me know, through Donna, and I’ll supply you with one.


Hello jm_short,

Your comments about being betrayed….When we are betrayed, which our brain perceives as a type of abandonment, we begin the immediate struggle with chemical depletion.

Wow, I think I am really getting this..it is starting to sink in what is/has happened to me.I got the comment above from this blog. I was reading “older comments” and it was in July 2012. She wrote with such clear understanding of what she was going through and I just had to repost it. This site has made me cry…laugh…shake my head….and most of all it is making me stronger!

And, I hope, launching you down the path to recovery!

Wishing you the best!

Hi miss joyce, may I have the title of your book?

Hi [email protected]

I hope you’ll be changing your name to [email protected] soon! I’m happy to have been of help!

Jenni Marie-

The name of my book is “Carnal Abuse by Deceit, How a Predator’s Lies Became Rape.” It’s available in both paperback and Kindle form from Amazon. Thanks for your inquiry.


I do not know how to thank you enough for this article. I think Angels exist at Lovefraud.com.
God bless you all…


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