Isolation of the victim is one of the primary tools of all abusers.
Whether an abuser is of the pathologically personality disordered or the garden variety asshole vein, the removal of their chosen victim's external support will always rank high on the abuser's to-do list. In the middle of a fire, a person with an exit plan behaves in an entirely different manner than a person who believes that they are hopelessly trapped.
In this respect, the goal of an abuser is to force their victim to be cut-off from outside help, or if that is not possible to force the victim to at least believe that if there is a way out, it's unreachable or undeserved.
When I was a child, I was held hostage as a member of the NFOO, both physically and emotionally. The NParents couldn't hold up the shiny-happy mask that covered their absolute insanity for very long, so our family packed up and moved every single year. Sometimes we'd make it for 18 months or so, but that was a stretch. In retrospect, I think of them as locusts: show up, suck the life out every available resource, move on and leave the land dead. In having any tenuous roots and branches of relationships to other people that I was able to establish as a little one yanked out every year - literally, I did not go to the same school two years in a row until my freshman and sophomore years of high school - I was being groomed to believe that the only people I was allowed to have long term relationships with were NM, ENF, NSis and GCYB. Functionally, they were the only people in my childhood world. And that meant that I had no way out.
There were no teachers who were able to know me well enough to step in, no counselors who knew me long enough to detect a pattern, no mothers or fathers of friends who heard or saw changes in my affect and worried about it. No one was allowed to know me long enough to fight for me. Any perceptive adult in my life who might have picked up on eccentricities, (if they caught me in a rare moment when I stepped out of line and peeked out from behind the iron mask of the Clan at all,) would have had to chase down the moving van to inquire after my well-being. What a lonely, sad, isolated childhood that was. It taught me that the few relationships that I did have - with the NFOO - were something very precious indeed and that I must preserve them at all costs. Which is just what the NParents needed to keep me hauling on that party line.
Later in life, I discovered that I had difficulty maintaining relationships with outside parties for more than a couple of years. I had trouble staying in the same job for more than a couple of years. Small wonder, eh?
Even when they were no longer able to physically separate me from external parties, the Crazymakers still held sway over my relationships with others. My friends became their friends, and then they'd drive in their wedges at every available opportunity. When DH and I tried to establish our own holiday traditions, we were being selfish and cruel, so they showed up at our house anyway, uninvited, and stayed for dinner. Shit, I'm 95% certain that NSis slept with my first husband the night before our wedding.
No wonder, I discovered that I had a hard time trusting people. That I had a polite conversational voice that I'd use with people and that was it, I never would allow any truth to pass my lips that wasn't about the weather. That when I hit it off with someone from 'outside,' I threw up walls to make sure that they wouldn't get any closer to me. I felt toxic. I gave up on ever having any close girlfriends at all. I shut down. I stopped sharing myself with people at all. I hid a lot. I just knew that there was something wrong with me; that I just couldn't be a good friend. I'd tell myself that a potential relationship wasn't worth the effort. I only figured out later that what I'd really believed was that I wasn't worth the effort.
I was NC with the Crazymakers for a good while - I think about a year and half - before I began to let anyone in past the gate of politeness and into my real life, and even then I was more careful than Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits, which is to say verwy, verwy. I spent entire relationships waiting to find out that I was being used, again, that I was fucking it up, again, that I didn't deserve a friend, again. Some of those relationships made it through that painful and constant vetting process. Some didn't. For a long time I felt like I'd failed in those relationships that didn't spark or flamed out. It just didn't occur to me at the time that I didn't HAVE to make it work. After all, weren't my choices thus: take what you can get for as long as it's there, but don't get too attached, because it'll be taken away at any moment - or - don't get attached in the first place and pretend to be okay alone (or better yet, "Vanci, remember that your 'family' are the ONLY ones who will always be here for you.")
The Crazymakers even tried to destroy some of my fledgling relationships after I'd gone NC. How crazy is that? I refused to talk to them, but they sought out people with whom the N's had never had a relationship prior for the specific purpose of destroying new relationships that I had with those people by cornering those new friends of mine and listing of litanies of the Sins of Vanci. Gawd, can you even imagine what some of those poor souls thought? No wonder they mostly ran for the hills.
I kept trying to bring new people into my life, though, by conscientiously and carefully reminding myself to leave one or two doors to my soul open - just a crack - because I didn't want to be alone in the world anymore. And because the longer I stayed away from the Narcs and their legion of psycho-pets, the more I became aware of the fact that isolation from the external world was one of the ways in which they'd kept me under the Clan thumb. Slowly, painfully, awkwardly... I made friends.
I found people with whom I shared similar interests - like sobriety, hardy har har. As I got better, I found that people approached me with invitations - not just to Drink Wine and Buy Pricey Kitchen Stuff parties, either - but real, genuine, Hey We Think You Might Like This Movie Too kinds of outings. Apparently, I'm a lot of fun to be around. Who knew?
It was, for a very long time, uncomfortable to be vulnerable enough to get to know people and to let them get to know me too. Uncomfortable is a mild word for it; it was often excruciating. I discovered that I visit the bathrooms in public places quite often as a means to have a moment of composure alone. And somewhere, somehow, I became okay with that, accepting it as just another of my many, many quirks.
Because as hard as they tried to keep me alone and without ties to those around me, without support from people whose goal is not to hurt me, I know their secret now and I have for awhile.
They don't know how to form meaningful relationships with anyone; they only know how to use and be used, hurt and be hurt. They can't fucking stand it that I am absolutely surrounded by people who love me and whom I love back, because that's something that they will never, ever have for real. The closest they ever came was when they had me all scapegoated and slavishly in their service, and that's never going to happen again.
My oldest DD is turning 17 within the next couple of weeks, and what she's decided to do for her birthday is to go to a nearby town with a group of her girlfriends for an outing. She's known some of these girls since kindergarten, and she's close with a couple of the girls' moms, which is something that I am entirely grateful for. The more people she has that love her in her life, the better off she is, in my opinion. She said to me, "You don't mind that I won't be spending my whole birthday with you, do you?"
To which I laughed and smiled and told her that I love her but that spending your 17th birthday with your life-long girlfriends is the healthiest thing in the world. Youngest DD had her 15th birthday a few weeks ago, and our house was filled with seven 14-15 year old girls, some of which have been friends since kindergarten as well. I cooked for them and cleaned up after them and other than that, I stayed out of their way and let them have their night, which they took full advantage of until they crashed out at four in the morning.
Man, it's fucking awesome to see my girls living in that sea of friends, held up by the joy of their relationships that have nothing whatsoever to do with me. Cycle: broken.