I've been on the path toward recovery most of my adult life. Of course, it wasn't always defined as recovery. I just knew I had problems that were considered "secrets."
When I was younger, if you mentioned you were "in recovery," the person you were talking to would've stopped and said, "Recovering from what?" No one understood the aspects of alcoholism, love addiction or recovery from the torture of a narcissist or an abusive spouse.
"Recovering from what?" That's one heck of a loaded question. I'd already read every self-help book on the market.
At nineteen years old, I first sought spiritual counseling. I'd come to the enlightened conclusion that I was in a horribly abusive marriage and was now pregnant with our first child that He Did Not Want!
I'd been married less than one year.
In desperation, I called my Narcissistic mother, not knowing that she was a major part of my problem. She advised me to meet with a local Pastor at a very conservative church for spiritual counseling.
This is part of the mind fuck a NPD Parent causes their adult child. She, my NPD Mother, seemed very empathetic, loving and helpful.
Now I know that she hated having someone else controlling me. We all know how she LOATHED my NPD misogynistic husband.
So there I sat, across from a judgmental, older man still married to his only wife. She appeared so beaten down that when she opened the door to their home, I seemed able to see right through her.
My instinctive antennae, threw up a huge red flag. It screamed: DANGER AHEAD! DANGER AHEAD!
Of course, being a good adult child of an alcoholic as well as being trained for marriage by my mother, who had narcissistic personality disorder and Munchhausen Syndrome, I ignored my instincts and plowed ahead.
I can never forget how translucent the preacher's wife had become under his abuse. He'd turned her into a non-person.
She was me in twelve years.
In walks a willing victim - I'd asked to see him, after all. Boy, did he slam me.
After I told him about my marriage of 14 months, he said, "Either you are a terrific liar or you're in a hopeless situation." Huh.
But what does that mean?
Well, according to the good preacher, I needed to become "a better wife.
"Read this portion of the Bible EVERY day for 30 days - model what a good wife is and he will be a changed man.
No. That definitely did not work. My husband LOVED my new attitude. How submissive I'd become, how I subjugated myself to his every whim, completely under his control.
I tried harder to be a better wife for a man who'd never, ever appreciate my efforts. He'd simply find new, more creative ways to abuse me.
It took ten more years, two more babies, a dear friend dying way too young, before I fell apart again.
I started with cigarettes, with the intention of pissing off my husband. He smoked, so I smoked.
There's a saying in one recovery group, "Eating poison and waiting for him to die." Starting to smoke cigarettes in my thirties is pretty close. He didn't give a shit.
Next, I took a handful of Vicodin and washed it down with a Budweiser. Yeah. Now THAT helped me.
I was able to make a lovely dinner, care for my delightful children and thought I may even be able to endure sex with my abusive husband at bedtime.
Thus began my love affair with alcohol and prescription drugs. My children were destroyed, confused by the radical change in their mother.
My husband, however, never said a word.
Alcoholism is a genetic disease that may be successfully managed by total and complete abstinence. This is a medical diagnosis, a fact, and not up for personal debate. Like diabetes, if you got alcoholism, you have it.
If you want to live a long life as an alcoholic or diabetic, you have to follow a plan to stop the advance of all the devastating problems that arise as the result of improper management of the disease.
I researched alcoholism until I came to believe that I would die if I didn't cease drinking. My body could only take so much abuse. I couldn't hold my liquor, but I could take enough pills to kill a horse. Aahhhhh.
Plus? You can't SMELL PILLS! Yay! I'd thought I was tricking everybody. Turns out, I was only bullshitting myself.
My path to recovery was long and hard for those who loved me. I'd had no idea how much hurt I'd caused the people in my life.
I'd begun to abuse my prescriptions to avoid feeling the pain; the anguish of what my life had become. I was dangerous, desperate to escape the pain.
As my children got older, I was stoned for every event in their lives. I'd be wasted by the time we got to each planned event.
They'd become more ashamed of me, while I obliviously believed I was acting normally. My children began to give me a "field sobriety" test before we left the house.
Of course I'd pass...then. But by the time we got to our destination, I'd be an inelegant, clearly-altered, nicely dressed, stoned mess.
My children were mortified, angry and powerless is protect themselves.
Back To School Night was forbidden to me by the kids.
My kids tried humor, tears, anger, recriminations, reenactments and shame. The only thing that made a dent was when my youngest daughter asked for prayer at our church.
I tried the good codependent guilt trip by telling her,"Don't EVER tell anyone what's going on in this house!"
At a sage fifteen, she told me, "Mom, you're the alcoholic, YOU NEED PRAYER."
I entered treatment after my oldest daughter got married - I have little-to-no memory of her wedding. She knew better than to ask me to help her with the preparations since I was as dependable as a cool wind in August. More shame.
We finally discovered a herd of pink elephants in our living room. We've only just begun cleaning up the enormous piles of elephant shit. Thank God it's pink - easier to find.
Who knows how long it will take to finish up the recovery? Every time I believe I've run off the last one, a rogue elephant stampedes through the house.
I never do know what it'll look like, smell like, or the damage it'll do. I just know that I have to deal with it, no matter what.
I earned it.
The good old fashioned way.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder can permeate every family dynamic.
This is her story:
Smiling down at my beautiful three-month old daughter, her eyes the most beautiful dark, chocolate brown I've ever seen. Her tiny little lips perfect cupid bows, a personality as big as Texas shines from her eyes, lighting up her adorable face.
A crowd-stopper at three months of age - she already has two bottom teeth! I'd swear on a stack of Bibles that she understands me.
Of course, I keep my feelings to myself - ALL mothers must feel this way about their children, right? This little brown-eyed beauty WAS special; for a secret reason. Only one other human on the planet knew the horrible secret I kept locked deep inside.
This child was almost an abortion.
At twenty-one, I found myself pregnant again, thirteen months after giving birth to another baby, married to a man so horribly abusive that I'd pray for a fist to my face just to get it over with.
I was bound to a theological system misinterpreted by the men who preached it. Looking back, I wonder how many of our religious leaders were covert Narcissists, using a Loving and Benevolent God to abuse the women in their lives and congregations. I'd see it Sunday after Sunday, women in impossible relationships seeking answers to their pain.
Divorce was unheard of; separation with "the intent of reconciliation" was the "Christian" term for what to do when you finally ask for spiritual guidance from the "Leaders." You'd see these women each week, desperate for solace, battered from years of being "obedient," weak from loss of hope.
Surely, God must hate me.
Or, I have to work harder, pray more, be a BETTER wife. I knew he was a bad man when I married him - I made my bed, I must lie in it.
At home, I have one beautiful, precious green-eyed blonde baby, thirteen months old. She doesn't have a mean bone in her little body. She's a sweet, loving baby with a tender heart, not an drop of malice.
We can tell. Moms. We know.
When my beautiful sweet daughter was thirteen months old, I found myself pregnant again, unable to get a divorce. I know that I cannot have another child with this man.
I told no one.
Finally, I told the only person I knew would never judge me if I decided to have an abortion; she knows I cannot have another child with this man. My loyal to the death sister-in-law, best friend, wife of my favorite brother.
She took me to Planned Parenthood.
Abortion had been legal less than ten years at the time; pretty bold move, if you ask me.
She and I sat in the waiting room, silent. My brother was watching all the kids, never ever saying a word about the choice I was making. He never judged me, he knew my husband.
As we sat in the waiting room, I prayed to a God I desperately needed to hear from. I was considering the Christian unthinkable.
My decision wasn't the baby's fault; my decision was based upon the monster I'd willingly married. I hadn't known that he was a Narcissist and a misogynist. He no longer tried to hide it. I know that another baby was NOT part of his diabolical plan for world domination.
Needless to say, I changed my mind about the abortion.
I stood up, looked at my best friend and said, "Let's go."
Now, here I was, my second daughter cradled in my arms, about to nurse her. Her sparkling chocolate brown eyes, smiling, her cupid bow lips curved in what appeared to be adoration, her two tiny, sharp as hell, teeth visible. I'm thinking, "Look at her. I almost lost all the joy I feel this moment." Love washed over me as we locked eyes.
With her eyes still locked onto mine, grinning widely, she bit me - a pain sent shock-waves through me. Still, she was smiling.
I reared back, flicked her on her cheek and said, "NO." She just looked at me.
I picked her up, looked into her beautiful sparkling brown eyes and said, "Don't you EVER do that again! Do you understand?"
She started howling like I'd broken her arm.
I put her back into her tiny little bassinet, letting her cry it out. I was PISSED: that kid just bit the shit out of my nipple and ENJOYED it.
From that moment, I knew this child was different from her sisters.
My middle daughter has an off-the-chart IQ, and she was mean. She lied compulsively, even if the truth would've better served her. She created chaos between her sisters. She'd steal.
She was beautiful. Charming. Gifted student. Master manipulator. Opportunistic. Seemingly innocent while being precocious. Musically talented, she sang like an angel, gifted at piano.
Rage was one of her tools. Fear of upsetting her caused an entire family system to revolve around her until she was three.
Then, I outwitted her.
There are consequences for EVERY decision to be bad, do bad, or cause bad and a parent must be consistent, each and every time. Once I understood her motives, it was easier to separate her bad behavior from age-appropriate behaviors.
My kid had to know that if she was going to choose to misbehave I'd move Heaven and Hell to reach her, make her apologize, sit on my bed for 15 minutes. THEN, she had to tell me what she'd done wrong and why. If she decided to be stubborn (and she always did), I had to be more stubborn.
She had to sit on my bed for 15 minutes for me - I knew I had to be calm to discipline her. If I tried while I was angry, it fed her own calm. She fed off chaos. If I removed any scintilla of what she was trying to get, forced her to accept responsibility for her deviant behavior, we both won.
I gave my beautiful, talented, gifted child the gift of shame.
Shame to my little girl equated rage. Discovered doing something intentionally and deliberately wrong, hurtful, deceitful or self-indulgent didn't cause her to feel badly.
No, she became enraged when she got CAUGHT.
I could always tell, like only a mother can, when she switched into survival mode. I called it, "Making her sit down while she was standing up on the inside."
Self-will is incalculable. The strength inside a person cannot be measured.
If this power is used for good, we see people like Mother Teresa. If this human spirit is used for personal gain, we see people like Hitler.
I was raised by a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Munchhausen syndrome, married a misogynist monster narcissist.
When she was fourteen, she chose evil over kindness. By then, I was a newly separated mother of three teenage daughters. Her behavior went into overdrive, becoming worse each day. Every attempt to help, use therapy, use love failed.
Her fangs grew before my eyes. Her rages kept our home in constant fear of upsetting her.
I got pissed.
I told her that I knew and understood how she thought. Why she behaved the way she did. What her motives were and why. The only explanation of my knowledge was divine intervention.
She sat transfixed as I spoke to her.
As I did, she began to cry genuine tears - I did not take mercy on her. I continued explaining, using vivid adjectives that finally reached the shame deep inside her.
My hope, my prayer, was that she would choose to use her genius for good, rather than personal gain and self-indulgence.
Nobody gives a shit about a genius who's an asshole, I explained. Your choice, I told her. Now YOU get to pick whom you will serve. You've just reached the age of accountability.
Self-indulgent genius and future criminal?
Or earn multiple masters degrees? Master many languages? Become a world traveler and consultant?
The choice was hers.
I graduated with my Bachelors of Psychology in December 2011 and in June, 2012, I got what I thought was my dream job, although, has nothing to do with my degree. In fact, I don't need the degree for the job.
The job offers good pay, good insurance, and has very little contact with the public - which I thought was a good thing, considering I have generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. As these conditions are exacerbated when dealing with large amounts of people or stress, this was a good thing, or so I thought.
I work in a small department - only nine people - coding insurance claims for a local medical company. All of us are women.
There were many red flags, which, in hindsight, I realize I shouldn't have ignored.
During my interview, my soon-to-be boss told me that the girl who I was replacing was leaving thanks to a horrible rumor about her husband that another girl (who'd been fired) started. I couldn't understand why she was leaving as the girl responsible had been fired, but I chose not worry about it.
I was a little surprised that The Boss was sharing this during the interview, but she said she wanted me to be aware of the environment I'd be entering. She wanted me to know that no one else started rumors; that she considered it an awful thing to do. I agreed with her; if you have a problem with someone, you should talk to the other and work it out, rather than talking behind their back, allowing rumors and half-truths to be spread.
She also said during the interview was that the two women had gone to HR and The Boss's boss to complain about her, which she was deeply offended by. She explained that if you have a problem with her, you should come to her first to discuss it. Another flag, but I figured that she was right; it was professional courtesy to take it to her first.
It wasn't long before The Boss asked me how I was enjoying my work. I assured her it was wonderful and during our conversation she began complaining about several of my coworkers.
I was shocked.
She'd been clear during the interview that she didn't like talking about others behind their back. Plus, she's The Boss - The Boss isn't supposed to complain about employees to other employees; it causes huge problems. Backstabbing from the top leads people to believe they're better than everyone else, and it makes the more paranoid among us wonder what she's saying about us behind our backs.
After that, I started avoiding conversations with her. I wanted to avoid hearing her complain about other employees so I wouldn't see them differently. Plus, I didn't want to give her ammunition to complain about me.
Soon, I got comfortable enough with one of my coworkers that I started talking about my problem: sometimes I wished we didn't have so much overtime, because it made my new husband upset that I didn't have as much time for him.
Shortly after that conversation, we learned that our department might be outsourced. I told the same coworker that I'd be updating my resume in case we didn't have jobs much longer.
Then, The Boss stopped talking to me entirely. The other girl who did my job began ignoring me when I said anything, gave me sideways looks, and started keeping her headphones on. Several times a day, she'd go into the back and whispering with The Boss.
To cope, I started listening to music - I figured it was okay as my coworker did it.
At the beginning on January, The Boss asked me aside for a talk.
She proceeded to tell me that everyone in the office hated me - no one wanted to work with me, because all I did was listen to music. They thought I was a snob. I'd made my primary coworker cry as she thought I wouldn't work any more overtime; she felt she was doing more work than me (not true). That I'd said to her The Boss was "ruining my marriage," and "I hated my job so much I was revamping my resume."
Everything I'd said to my primary coworker was repeated, and twisted to The Boss to make me sound awful. I was sobbing.
The Boss continued - she realized that I was introverted, and while I'm good at my job, and she felt I was highly intelligent, if she'd known, I was introverted, she wouldn't have hired me, as the position required an extrovert. Which is silly, because half the people in the office are quiet introverts.
Finally, she named the people who hadn't said anything about me; that she was guessing how they felt. I learned that the only person who has a problem with me is my primary coworker whose lies The Boss believes, as they're friends.
After that, I tried to change. I quit listening to music. I made an effort to talk more, even though my work suffered. I worked more overtime, and began working on some of my primary coworkers work to help her.
It hasn't been enough.
For a week, The Boss and coder coworker seemed to like me more, and now things at work are just like they were before I was taken aside by The Boss. What's worse, I absolutely hate my job. I have horrible stress headaches that radiate into my teeth. I can't sleep because I'm so sick with worry about the next work day. I get physically sick to my stomach at work. I can't eat. I'm having daily panic attacks. I cry all of the time.
I can't take it anymore.
My husband might have a job that may allow me to quit, but that might take awhile. We're likely moving in the next couple months, either for his possible job or to be near family.
In the meantime, I have bills to pay. I can't just quit my job. He makes enough now that we'd still make our bills, but the credit cards we stupidly got in college would go unpaid. I would feel awful. And, frankly, I don't want to try to find another job to have to quit in a month or two.
I just don't know what to do.
I just know I can't continue working there.
I'm an adult child of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder.
I've known this a while. I periodically read what the Internet has to offer on the subject to reinforce myself. When I've explained what that's like to be an adult child of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder to others, I describe her as an Evil Robot.
To me, it seems she has no feelings; her objective is to destroy me. So I call my mom Evil Robot. (That's her contact name in my phone.)
I broke up with my mother in May 2010.
It was a great victory for me, but also, of course, very difficult. In August of that year, she called me for the first time, as a narcissist does not respect boundaries.
I didn't answer.
Just the idea of talking to her sent me into a tailspin, and I spent a weekend in my pajamas.
Things have gotten a lot better for me regarding my mother since that summer.
She's established a pattern of stalking me on the Internet and emailing, calling or texting me every couple of months to tell me what she's found. Occasionally, this can be entertaining; once she believed that a homework assignment I'd given my students was somehow a reference to her.
I read her correspondence, but I almost never answer it.
In the time since the split with EvRo, my life has been mostly wonderful. Maybe that's because I shed the skin with her in it or maybe it was time for my life to be good.
In April, I got married.
It's impossibly difficult to keep wedding registries from posting your name and wedding date to the Internet. She emailed me a hundred times justifying both why she's stalking me on the Internet while chastising me for excluding her from happy events in my life. How dare I keep a good light from shining on her! After the wedding, she emailed the photographer asking to buy pictures without my permission.
The whole thing is very creepy. When I talk about it to my husband, who has never met her, I feel like there's no real way to convey how this feels. How could anyone understand how wrong the whole thing is? Of all people, my mother helped me out with an explanation.
This summer I got a panicky email from EvRo saying she had a heart problem. Panicky fake health problems have, on occasion, been a part of the game when EvRo feels like I'm becoming too independent. Still, she's never claimed that she was dying, so I paid attention. I wrote an email back asking for everything I need if she dies. It seemed fair that if she is going to act like she's dying that I do too.
That was probably a mistake.
You have to hold your ground with a narcissist; everything gets reset when you respond. They don't see what they've done wrong. They see what they did that got you to respond.
My message to her asked her for names of banks, lawyers, credit card companies that I would have to deal with if she died. She provided none of that information, but gave me names of doctors she would be seeing and the date in November that she would be having surgery. She also gave me access to a hospital account to check on her health records.
The sad truth about a narcissistic mother is that a mother is the most pure and wholesome thing. And even if calling your mother Evil Robot is putting it diplomatically, you will worry about her when she has surgery. And the sad truth about this story is that she was going for a strong emotional reaction from me.
I stood strong - I did not call my mother on surgery day, because that was right for me. Even still, I doubted myself, staying up all night, crying. I wrote desperate emails to my best friend at 3 AM because it's difficult to validate yourself in the throes of doubt.
And then I checked the health records.
There. Was. No. Surgery.
The name she provided as her cardiac surgeon was the name of her dermatologist.
Her manipulation still stuns me.
I'm an adult child of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder and I've known this for a while. But this act is more callous than anything I could've imagined. In order to get me to respond the way she wanted, she went all the way to a fake heart surgery.
It's sad, really.
I can't imagine what it's like to have alienated everyone close to you. Both of her children told her that she couldn't be part of their lives any more. If it were me, I would feel like I failed completely as a human being and a mother. But I'm pretty sure she doesn't feel like she failed based on the email I got about a week after the day the surgery was supposed to happen (just enough time to see if I was going to come running).
In true narcissist fashion, she told me there was no surgery but completely ignored the horror of what she'd done. She told me she wanted to me to get over "whatever it is" that's bothering me in our relationship.
She told me that I needed to think about WHAT I AM DOING TO HER.
In the past, I've been okay at dealing with the emotional scars she left. This fall, I started a new job in a new town and the change has been stressful. Somehow the stress makes the scars more prominent.
This evening, I talked to my husband about the difficulty of dealing with her histrionics. I told him about the reactions I've had when she's contacted me at various times and the struggle of knowing that keeping my distance is the right thing for me.
He asked me if I would ever be able to talk to her; if I would ever be at the point where talking to her is meaningless to me and doesn't create an internal struggle.
It was a really interesting question.
I'm so angry with her; about how little she values my emotions that I can't even imagine what that would feel like.
What the world where I'm free from her would look like.
Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
We were together nearly three years.
I loved him.
A few days after we got together, our sophomore year in high school, he professed his love. I told him I didn't feel the same. A couple of weeks later, he convinced me that I did. I still wasn't sure.
After we'd been together a month and a half, he pressured me into sex with him even though I wasn't ready. Somehow, he'd convinced me that I wanted sex as badly as he did.
Later my sophomore year, he convinced me that I might be pregnant - he thought the condom broke. I was terrified.
Finally, I told my mom, who went out to buy me a pregnancy test.
I wasn't pregnant.
He'd created this pregnancy scare so I'd feel I needed him. That's who he was: he'd do anything to make me feel like needed him to survive.
On my sixteenth birthday, he raped me for the first time; no, that's not true, he'd raped me well before that. See, shortly after we began having sex, I realized that I hated sex and I didn't want to do it. He'd managed to con me into it by making me feel guilty.
He'd even cry.
Not because I wouldn't give in, but because he felt bad for wanting sex when I didn't. Or, at least, that's what he told me. Now I can see he was manipulating me.
Eventually when he wanted to have sex, I'd say "I don't know" or nothing. He'd end up having sex with me no matter what my response was.
Four times (including my sixteenth birthday) he forced me to have sex after I'd clearly said no. Other times, I told him I didn't want to have sex, and he'd reply that he wasn't going to make me but he wanted to "lay" with me. "Laying with me" meant he wanted to lay naked together. He'd say "trust me," but eventually, he'd "lose control" and force me to have sex. I still can't hear someone say "trust me" without crying.
He isolated me from my friends; manipulating me into ditching them because he didn't "trust them." If I wanted to hang with them, he'd make me feel guilty
That's how I lost my best friend. Twice.
I didn't realize he was emotionally controlling; abusing me.
On the other hand, he was always saying things to make me feel special, "I will always love you and only you," and "If you ever break up with me, I'll be dead mentally and emotionally, but not physically because you asked me not to kill myself."
He claimed he'd been suicidal when we started dating; that I'd saved his life - he planned to kill himself the night he asked me to homecoming. When I said yes, and agreed to date him, he decided he wasn't suicidal. I still don't know if that was a lie.
After I broke up with him in June - I told him I didn't want to be in a long-term relationship for awhile - my mother informed me that he'd been abusive and controlling me. Looking back, she's right.
He'd "buy" my love after he'd abuse me so I'd stay. I'm ashamed that it worked. I dated him longer than I should've.
After our break-up, he stalked me.
He'd show up at my house at all hours. He'd visit my campground. He'd even show up at work. Eventually, I had to hide from him.
I thought I was over him.
I'd had a fling with a guy who broke my heart. Another guy used me. Stupidly, I made out with another guy.
I'm now a freshman in college, finally in a healthy romantic relationship. I still don't enjoy sex; I'm petrified of having another abusive relationship. But I know my new boyfriend would never abuse me.
Lately I've been thinking about the good parts of that relationship; I find myself missing him. I think about the good times; how he'd been practically family.
I learned he'd been planning to propose before we broke up. He'd been looked at engagement rings and was planning to ask my dad for his blessing.
I feel like I'm betraying my new boyfriend, even though I've already told him this - I don't want to keep secrets. He told me not to worry about it; he wasn't upset, he was glad I'd told him.
I want to get over that relationship - to stop missing it. That relationship damaged me. I know I did the right thing by ending it. When I'm home, I miss him.
He's in a new relationship with a friend of mine. He loves her, but I'm afraid he's abusing her. I'd love to warn her, but I know she won't believe me, and I don't want to ruin their relationship if it's healthy.
I feel stuck. I desperately want our relationship in the past, but I don't know how to get over it.
The Band, do you have any advice for this young woman? Getting over a relationship - any relationship - is tough. She could use your love and wisdom.
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