5 Emotions to Expect After Walking Away From a Problem Person

I experienced an array of emotions when I cut ties with my alcoholic father, and for me it was an emotionally conflicting time. Below are five emotions to expect when you choose to cut ties and walk away from someone in your life.
11/13/2014 04:40pm ET | Updated January 13, 2015
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If you have a person in your life that is toxic or is the cause of major problems, one of the hardest things you may have to do is to walk away from the relationship. It's no easy feat, especially if that person is suffering from an addiction or other mental health issues.

I experienced an array of emotions when I cut ties with my alcoholic father, and for me it was an emotionally conflicting time.

Below are five emotions to expect when you choose to cut ties and walk away from someone in your life.

1. Fear/Anxiety

Not long after cutting ties you'll have "What if... " thoughts -- "What if they really can't help themselves?" or "What if they are sick and I'm not there to help?" etc.

You'll likely think of scenarios involving that person that make you feel out of control and increase your anxiety. Those thoughts may tempt you to reach out to them.

In those times it's important to ask yourself: "Would I just end up doing what I've done before?"

When you have taken the role of caretaker, enabler or the responsible one, the inclination to step right back into that role will be very high; and it will be prompted by the anxiety you are feeling now that you have walked away. The desire to alleviate anxiety can result in you falling back into the same old patterns.

Also, a fixation on the wellbeing of that person can be a distracting means so to not have to experience your own emotions.

It is important to remind yourself why you chose to walk away in the first place.

You may manifest anxiety in the form of not eating, eating too much, other compulsive behaviour (including substance abuse), insomnia and an inability to relax.

It is especially important to get into a health program that aids anxiety; such as yoga, meditation and fast-paced exercise to increase your endorphins -- especially activities that take place outside.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Give yourself permission to jump off the hamster wheel.

2. Guilt

Most humans do not want to see someone suffer, particularly someone they care for. To be someone who walks away from that person, but also walks into a healthier life, is likely to bring up feelings of guilt at various times.

You'll experience a form of survivor's guilt and thoughts such as, "Am I a bad person for cutting out someone who has a problem?" and "Who am I to feel good?"

Feeling more guilt is a sign your life is on track. Expect to feel guiltier the happier you feel. There will be moments where you feel bad for having a happy life when someone else doesn't.

Remind yourself of the experience it was to be living the way you were. The pain you'll feel from desperately holding on is greater than you pain you'll feel from letting go.

Ride those feelings of guilt -- expect them, acknowledge them, and then focus on your life.

Remember: you deserve a happy and healthy life, too.

3. Grief

Be present to your loss. Eliminating someone from your life will feel like a form of death. It is normal to feel pain and deep sadness; it will cry out from places you never knew existed.

Since the act of cutting someone from your life is a result of decisive action, the perception that the person isn't dead but indeed feels dead is very raw.

You may experience tears at different times and in random places; you may be triggered by a certain place or event that reminds you who that person was in better times.

My mother would often feel a deep sense of grief when she was in a cinema watching a good movie. She said she would start thinking about the life my father was missing out on whilst cooped up, drinking alone in a bedsit studio.

Remind yourself that to feel grief is an act of healing; it is important to be in touch with the tragedy of what wasn't to be.

Don't be hard on yourself or expect to just get over it. Grief generally doesn't go - it just lessens. And it will lessen with time and as you continually let go and move into a state of acceptance.

4. Nostalgia

It is when we are nostalgic that we become most forgetting of the trauma we may have experienced whilst in relationship with the person. You'll find yourself reminiscing the good times and you may feel tempted to get in contact and connect.

Remind yourself why you walked away from this person in the first place.

You aren't a bad person if you end up contacting them and, if you do, be present to stress and/or the sensations in your body when you are in contact again;. If you remain self-aware each time you reconnect you will be reminded why a relationship with this person costs you more than aids you.

Find your own special way to acknowledge and remember the person without having to be in regular contact.

5. Relief

In the first few weeks of leaving the relationship, the feeling you may experience will be a sense of relief. You may get an overwhelming sense of weightlessness and a feeling of freedom: almost as if you have escaped.

You will also be aware of a sense of possibility and hope. This feeling may be ever-present and will be felt on and off throughout your life, particularly when you give thought to what you previously endured.

These feelings may also be described as reprieve, liberation and a restoration.

Allow yourself to feel this relief because this is a sign you are on the right path; feeling good is a good indication of good action. Expect this feeling to come and go, punctuated by the feelings above.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.