Advice on cutting ties with abusive family?

I'm going through PTSD treatment, and am slowly starting to get a better idea of what "my needs" and "my responsibilities" are, as well as what isn't my duty or responsibility. I'm realizing that so long as I'm in close contact with my family (and my current job), I won't make much progress with my own recovery. I feel empowered by the idea to cut myself off from family (and their financial support), but it also feels scary. It's a lot easier to leave a job than to leave your mother and father. They're getting older, and more frail. And as toxic and problematic as they continue to be, I'm afraid that they'll get sick and die soon and I'll realize I made a terrible mistake, and it'll be too late to apologize or get back in touch.

If there are others who had a similar dilemma but decided to go through with cutting ties anyway.... Do you have any tips on what I can do to make this process easier? And did you ever actually regret it? Or did you get to the other side wondering why you didn't cut ties sooner?
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
i still believe i chose the safer poison in cutting ties with my birth family 40 odd years ago, i still hold it was, far and away, the safer poison. but it was still poisonous and my own case is criminally extreme. i cut the ties while i was still a teenager, and i still kind of wish i could have done it sooner. however, i don't recommend it if there is any other option available. i call that family estrangement, "my sucking black hole" and the screams from my sucking black hole have been deafening entirely too many times over that 40 odd years.

increasing your financial independence and social distance is a far gentler alternative which doesn't require burning bridges.
 

Freemartin

MyPTSD Pro
I cut ties with my family of origin a year ago. Long story short, my old father is taking care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s. He’s really exhausted but doesn’t accept any help by anyone else but me. He kept insisting I leave my wife and move to other side of the country to live with them. He repeatedly threatened suicide etc. Plus, he’s been abusive my whole life.

For a long time, I tried to maintain some kind of relationship with them, but then one day, when he once again called me, drunk and abusive, I just had enough. I blocked him on my phone and never unblocked. He has sent me literally thousands of emails, but I’ve read none of them. My wife reads his mails every now and then and responds in a generic, polite manner. So, my father thinks he’s emailing with me when in actual fact he’s doing it with da wife. It feels a bit bad to be deceitful like this, but it’s the best thing I can come up with right now, tbh.

Looking back, I really wish I had cut ties sooner. I just kept trying and trying to somehow deal with the crazy abusive shit he threw at me. I spent gigantic amounts of energy just not getting undone. And now, when it’s over, I feel relief and elation, even.

One more thing: after I had cut contact with my father, it took like two weeks to fully grasp the extent of the emotional violence I had endured. I was like, holy shit, this has been so. f*cking. Crazy. I was really quite shocked to realize how bas it had been and how badly I’d been hurt. How much fear and anxiety I had lived with.

I can’t give you any advice, but I’d say it’s true what they say about being in contact with one’s abusers and hence not being able to really heal.

Just my 2 cents.
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Maybe if you re-frame what your trying to do. Take the focus off escaping and cutting ties with your family and prioritise becoming more independent from them and channelling your energy into self development and self progression.

There's a difference when you re-frame it.
 

gealach

MyPTSD Pro
I cut ties with all but 1 family member, nearly 20 years ago. Moved, changed my name, deactivated email, etc.

The last straw was a massive one, and there was no coming back from that. No regrets about my decision.

If those people had really wanted to restore some kind of relationship, there were ways to find me, it's the 21st century... they never even tried, which confirms that I made the right decision. I've since discovered that some have passed away, and I still have no regrets.

It was the right decision for me.
 

GrumpyCat

Learning
After my mom died and I finally melted down and had the first of my mental breakdowns. my brothers treated me like some kind of china doll for a while. But after a while it went back to the same BS it always has been. Denial, abuse, denigration and degradation. My dad, while supportive on the surface, still plays all his little control games, and has never dealt with his own PTSD and mental issues. He is sick and he is worse since my mom died. So I've cut all ties.

I see this as positive. If I can't have a healthy relationship with someone, I'm not in the place where I can just compartmentalize it and get on with things. I am incapable. I don't know if I'll ever be capable. I just know right now, cutting off contact with them and exiting stage left was the best thing I've done for myself in the past four years.

Whether or not it's good for you or any other person is up to you. For me it has been overwhelmingly positive.
 

NoWhereKnowWhere

MyPTSD Pro
I took about a year to think about it before I pulled the trigger so to speak. It is a spectrum imo depending on the situation it can be possible to distance yourself and gain independence. While keeping them at arms length. My family know very little about my life because they have proven they can’t be trusted with that information. Moving is a great way to gain some distance then life things get in the way. Oh I’d love to come for *insert holiday* but I have to work/go to in laws/ promised I’d volunteer at local shelter etc. when dealing with emotionally abusive and manipulative people I have no qualms with lying. With normal people I’ll state boundaries and explain. There’s no point with people who are manipulative they’ll just use it as a way to feel sorry for themselves and next hello you’re doing exactly what you didn’t want to do.

Something someone here said that really stuck with me when I was posting about being in the fence. About how hard it would be and sad all the grief.

They said we know how hard it is and how deeply sad and isolating it can be because we’ve lived it. We’re saying do it anyway it’s worth it.

Obviously slightly different situation regarding only one family member who sexually abused me. But I’ll always be thankful for that advice my life has been much more manageable since. I don’t have to be triggered all the time. And they were still very emotionally abusive and gaslighting of course they wanted me to feel crazy so I couldn’t understand or process what happened. I’m so much better off now I was actually able to do some work in therapy because I was able to step out of survival mode. It is hard but I’d do it again.

Definitely something to bring up in therapy. You can always try the hybrid approach and go back or go forward with totally cutting them off. There are always options.
 

Livi

Learning
I have been 2 years estranged from my sibling (but about 15 years on and off) and just a little over a year with my parents. I too have been through therapy and at some point it was put into recovery terms for me. I take very careful care of my sobriety and have for 5 years, so when I realised (with my therapist) that being in contact with my family was a potential threat to that aspect of recovery it was a real a-ha moment. At some point, just like deciding on sobriety... i chose me. It was that simple. I was tired , anxious and overwhelmed and I just chose me. I was lonely for a while, and I wavered a little but life has got easier surprisingly quickly. I can think clearly once again now and (not unlike when I was first sober) the world suddenly seems shinier!

I still worry about the 'getting old and frail' part and them dying. It will be very very sad when that happens but I couldn't carry on the way it was. Do I ever fantasise about calling them and everything being ok? Yep! Do I think that that would be the case? Sadly, No!

As for making it easier - I don't know about easier but I can share my process. I used to feel obligated to call every day. I just made that time longer and longer for a while until I got to about 2 weeks at a time. My family didn't seem to notice or at least they said nothing, and one day... I just stopped calling. I am lucky. No flying monkeys, no calls, no texts... it all just went quiet. Not everyone is so lucky.

My main motivation was wanting to experience inner peace, whatever that means. I have moments of that now. I hope you find the right path for you. Wishing you luck whichever way you choose to go. x
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
It's a matter of what you want in your life.

If you want what they are then continue as is.

If you don't need what they bring into your life - then cut it off.

Or limit it. That's the other choice. Set your limits for staying in touch and stick to them....but it will take work to stick to your limits until they accept them.
 

LJ27

New Here
Hi OP
I have cut off my entire family and I dont regret as I think I would have killed myself as if I stay in contact with them
It has definitely helped and having a therapist validate my pain has helped me cut them off. It is your decision, but I will mention some of the cons to consider
1. Extreme guilt at the start
2. No support system whatsoever eg If I lost my job I would be homeless and this is scary
3. I have told my mum how much I hate her and what a terrible mom she was and this helped me end ties as I said what needed to say, I thought about what I would feel if my parents died and not telling them how much I hate them would haunt me but I would be ok if they died since I have said my piece
4. I am missing out on other things tied to family eg I will never meet my niece/ nephews or see my pets again or celebrate xmas
5. Loneliness - I am alone 24/7 and sometimes its so bad I think id be better off being around abusers than alone
Something I would consider is making contact minimal ie quick phone call so that its not so hard initially
If you feel that you have other support system and are financially able to cut ties than go ahead but these are the cons I experience
 

MnM

Confident
The fact that you feel the need to make a decision speaks to your responsibility levels.
Are you okay with letting it be a bloody mess pushed off the side of your desk?
Are you okay with being the adult in the room, moving on with your life, becoming independent financially and emotionally, and not making a decision?

Sometimes we want answers when there are none, and we want to make ordered sense of something that is chemically disordered.

I wish I'd left my family when I thought of it when I was 8. But I made different decisions. I have to let that mess be, because it is. I have very very clear boundaries and only engage when I feel like it's within my sphere of tolerance. If it negatively affects me emotionally or physiologically just thinking about it, I don't touch it. Tomorrow might be a different day, I don't know.

It's a big fat mess. Try to put some love into it, for yourself.
 
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