This is much the same as someone with a substance addiction who can function perfectly well when they’ve had a dose, but fall apart in sobriety.
If you continue to give them what they want, they will continue to subjugate you to their needs and wishes. As long as you are an effective source of supply, they will continue to keep coming back to receive their hit.
This is why it is so vital that you cease all forms of communication in order to break free from a narcissist. You are the drug that keeps a narcissist going, but if you stop offering yourself up to be used, they will be forced to seek it elsewhere.
Slip up in any way, though, and all of a sudden you’ll find that the narcissist will hook their claws back in without a moment’s thought. It’d be like an alcoholic who has stayed sober for years taking a swig of vodka – the urge to take another suddenly amplifies in their mind.
You must go cold turkey from the narcissist. You must remove every trace of them from your life and you from theirs. You must break the cycle of demand and supply that forms the only real bond you ever shared.
The Inability Of The Narcissist To Change
Let’s be clear: narcissism is a personality disorder and not a mental illness. Because it does not result from a chemical imbalance in the way that, say, depression does, it cannot be treated – at least not effectively – with drugs.
Narcissism occurs because of altered brain structures that form over time as a response to events and stimuli. The connections that correspond to narcissistic tendencies grow stronger over time as they are reinforced with narcissistic supply, and so the condition is very difficult to reverse.
There are limited signs that therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might help in reducing the need to display narcissistic traits, but there are few, if any, documented cases of narcissists overcoming their condition.
This is precisely why you should make a clean break from any narcissists that you encounter. Their true behavior (and not that which they pass off as their false self) is highly unlikely to change and you should not expect it to.