Several years ago when I was at a particularly low point in my life; I was a failing actress in an emotionally abusive relationship, one woman's story changed the way I defined success. For seven years I was an active participant in the Al-Anon 12-step program which I credit for helping me completely turn my life around, and it was in one of these meetings that I heard Julia's (a pseudonym) story. Julia was a fair-skinned, strawberry blonde with hidden eyes and bitten down nails. She always sat in the back of this thirty to fifty person meeting. I rarely noticed her because her withdrawn, tomb-silent energy made her invisible; almost a cypher in a room of messy, emotional, larger-than-life people fighting to recover from volatile, dramatic pasts. Months went by and Julia simply listened, then darted away ten minutes before the meeting ended in order to avoid post-meeting socializing. Then one June morning I entered the meeting to find Julia sitting in the front row, dead center. She was veritably shaking with nerves and near hyperventilation when the meeting began. Once the preliminary portion of the meeting was over the Al-Anon speaker for the day opened the meeting up for sharing. To my utter surprise Julia's hand shot in the air as if it had a will of its own. Julia was selected to share her story. Already tears were coursing down her face. She told us she never thought she would ever share her story, but her body psychotherapist said she needed to as part of her recovery from a traumatic childhood. (Here is a concise definition of body psychotherapy based on the work of Freud contemporary William Reich.) Julia began by telling us that her parents started taking her to professional acting auditions when she was just a toddler, and that well into her early teens Julia booked job after job; in commercials, television shows and even on Broadway. Then somewhere in her mid-teens Julia had a complete nervous breakdown and was incapable of auditioning or performing any longer. By the time she was in her early twenties she'd begun having periods of dissociation which included vast memory loss of the far distant and immediate past, the frequent sense that she was outside of her body looking down at it and thoughts about suicide.

How to get out of an Abusive Relationship? Awareness, people!

Asshats can squelch your Bad-Assery. You are a Badass. You just know you are. You have at least ten jets that propel you through your badass life. The problem is, when you date an Asshat, they can drain your jets. So instead of having all ten of your jets at your disposal, trying to change and control an Asshat can use up the energy from each and every one of those jets. I’ll offer myself as a case study: From 1992-1997 I dated and lived with an Asshat I frequently refer to as Mister Cruelly Handsome. During that time I was trying to make a career as an actress in Hollywood. And during that time I booked only two jobs. One national commercial and one guest-starring role on one episode of a television show. Prior to dating Mister C I’d performed in five music videos, five plays, booked two movies (one where I played the lead), booked roles in four television shows and had a 5-month run in a prestigious theater on the east coast, making me bi-coastal during that time. My focus shifted from building my career and body of work to managing a relationship I had no control over. I spent an embarrassing buttload of time stalking Mister C to make sure he wasn’t cheating on me (he still managed to), going to therapy with and without Mister C in order to figure out how to change and control him, going to self-help conferences in the hopes they could help me figure out how to change and control him, hashing over all the details of what Mister C was or wasn’t doing with friends, colleagues and pretty much even innocent passersby in order to figure out how to change and control him. Because I spent five years with only one or two of my jets at my disposal I got, literally, nowhere. I didn’t even move closer to my personal goal of marrying and starting a family. If anything, the more jets I used to move Mister C toward that future with me, the further I travelled away from my heartfelt desire. When I finally unclenched the fist with which I grasped this toxic relationship and let it go, suddenly all ten of my jets were on fire. Here’s what happened:
  1. I quit trying to become a professional actress.
  2. I started writing plays instead and three of them were instantly produced.
  3. I gained entrance into the exclusive UCLA master’s screenwriting program and finished my degree with a 3.98 GPA.
  4. I signed with the biggest literary agency in Los Angeles.
  5. I sold my first screenplay to Warner Brothers and made enough money to permanently quit my day job.
  6. I landed a succession of other screenwriting jobs for Disney, Fox Family and Lifetime.
  7. I met and married my husband.
  8. I became a homeowner with my man.
  9. I gave birth to two beautiful, beloved daughters.
  10. In the safe harbor of a loving relationship I continued along my journey of personal discovery and growth with changing myself for the better as my only goal.
And guess what? All of this happened within six years. Just one year longer than my dead-end, toxic relationship with Mister C.

So I have a task for you. I want you to make two lists.

(My client has given me permission to write about her story to help anyone else who may be struggling with self-sabotage.) I have a client I'll call Josie who has had three pregnancy scares in the last year. My initial advice was fairly simple, "Start using birth...

Addiction to a person is no different than addiction to a substance. All of the same symptoms can appear: -- Descent into a shame-spiral about the addiction. -- An inability to control your own behavior often participating in self-destructive, compulsive and furtive activities. -- The loss of positive relationships with other family and friends. -- Poor performance at school or work. And the list goes on. Beating your addiction to the Asshat isn’t just mind over matter, but the first and most essential step toward recovery does come from your mind; which is admitting to yourself (and then to another person and/or supportive group) that you have a problem. Next it’s time to make a plan for quitting, seek help and prepare yourself for the challenges you’ll meet along the way. Step One: Deciding to Quit
  1. Write down the harmful effects of your addiction.
How has addiction to the Asshat affected you mentally? Are you embarrassed by it? Has it preoccupied you to the extent that you’re not doing well at work or in school? How has it affected you physically? Are you so upset you’re forgetting to eat? Or eating too much? Are you drinking more than you should? Are you forgetting to exercise? Have you given up on self-care? How has it affected your other relationships? Have you lost friends because of your addiction to the Asshat? Are there rifts with family members? How has your addiction affected you emotionally? Are you depressed? Ashamed? Do you feel disconnected from the things you used to love to do? Write everything down. And be specific.
  1. Make a list of positive changes you want in your life. Imagine what it might be like if you were no longer addicted to the Asshat? Imagine not worrying anymore where the Asshat is and what he or she is doing.
What would that look like? Really draw that picture in your mind. Would you sleep better? Feel freer? Would you start taking dance lessons again? Would you start traveling again? Would you spend more time with friends and family who support you? Would that sickening feeling of dread that resides in the center of your chest when you think about the Asshat go away? Would you like yourself better and even feel proud of yourself? Write down all the ways your life would be without the addiction to your Asshat. You can even make an aspirational collage of images that reflect the peace, joy and love you could invite into your life without your addiction and mount it somewhere you can see it every day.
  1. Write down your Quitting Commitment.
Writing a list of important reasons to quit your addiction can help you when you’re feeling tempted to call the Asshat and get sucked back into his/her life. Your reasons for quitting have to be stronger than your reasons for staying with the Asshat, and when we’re in the throes of our compulsive behavior sometimes it’s necessary to have a list we can actually look at, hold and read aloud to strengthen our resolve. Here are some examples of solid reasons to quit your addiction: Decide you’re quitting because you want to have children one day who can count on a stable loving home. Decide you’re quitting because you don’t want to feel isolated anymore and want to see more of your friends and family. Decide you’re quitting because you want to be more effective in finding a career and then maintaining and growing your career. Decided to quit because you want to feel good about yourself and you want to love yourself again. Step Two: Making a Plan to Quit

Larry writes to ask a topic that might be familiar to those of us who have been married before the Dawn of Time. I hope my answer helps and would love your feedback in the comments below. xo S If you find my married sex advice...

Hello Dear Reader, Welcome to my very first "Ask Shannon" where I respond to readers' questions with my usual Je ne sais pas! This one's an absolute must when it comes to dating advice. TAKE IT SLOW! If you find my advice useful be sure to OPT-IN to...