He is my “brother.”
Or, to put it more aptly, my “street brother.”
Even more accurately, he was my drug dealer. When my then-fiance went to jail, he took care of me by making me his full-time driver. Shortly before my man “B” went in, our dealer “J” began referring to me as his “sister.” He had quite a few “sisters” surrounding him – none related by blood. One of the first times J and I were alone together (ever), I told him that if he wanted me to be his sister, and wanted me to consider him family, I’d take that seriously; it would be a big deal to me.
He said he understood and agreed.
B was arrested within a few days of that conversation. J was my first call. He told me to come over. At the time, I still had a drivers’ license and a legal vehicle with insurance. He kept me by his side pretty much 24/7 for the next 6 days.
Unfortunately, 6 days later, we were arrested together, in that vehicle. He was absconding from his probation officer and was charged with Intent to Distribute (with Priors) among other things. I was charged with DUI and possession – since it was my first arrest in this state (and my prior out-of-state record had been expunged), I was released after being booked in. He and I sat together in booking before he was dressed out. That was the last time I saw his face. My brother. 10 1/2 months it was until I saw him again.
He hadn’t written down my number when he was booked in. Having done as much county time as he had, with no one writing to him or paying for phone calls from him, he hadn’t seen the point. I promised to write him a letter when I got home that night including my phone number. When the phone rang 5 or 6 days later and the automated voice announced his name, I grinned and accepted the call immediately. I could hear the tentativeness in his voice when I answered. He hadn’t expected me to pick up.
Two or three weeks later, J was transported to The Point, which is the nickname for Utah State Prison’s main campus – so called because it’s location is directly across I-15 from “The Point of the Mountain”, which is the dividing line between our two most populated counties – Salt Lake County (home of Salt Lake City) and Utah County (home of BYU).
I alternated letters, keeping greeting cards and stationary and stamps in my purse at all times. When I finished a letter to B, I began one to J and vice-versa. B remained in County Jail and I spoke to him often, though the calls were expensive and the cost became prohibitive. I didn’t hear from J for almost 2 months.
Utah Department of Corrections has a You Tube Channel with a series of orientation videos for Friends and Family. I watched them all.
J’s first stop was “R&O” – basically Intake. While in R&O, he was not given an opportunity to contact the outside world and had almost zero commissary privileges. For a first-time inmate, R&O typically is 4-6 weeks while the staff evaluates the inmate’s compliancy, ability to understand and follow rules, evaluates their educational and programming needs and determines their long-term housing assignment.
The Point has different areas for drug offenders vs. gang members vs. violent criminals etc. Female inmates spend far less time in R&O typically as they only have one housing area for women. The other option available to inmates is to “County-Out”. Basically, the Utah Prison system is over-crowded and so several of the smaller counties with available jail space house prison inmates on a contract. Many inmates prefer staying in a County environment (whether that’s a housing preference or they prefer fewer cellmates or they like the availability of programs like “Getting Out” which is a communication option at some counties that is unavailable at the Point). Other inmates prefer staying in the main prison (or it’s sister facility in Gunnison) – commissary and phone calls being cheaper and the guarantee of jobs and/or programs to fill the hours.
After R&O, J went to Promontory aka The Conquest Program, which is the drug treatment program inside Utah State Prison for men (Women have a version called Excel). While in Conquest, he did not have the ability to have a paid job (inmate labor is underpaid – between 65 cents and $1.75 an hour – for anything from working in the kitchen, organizing and distributing commissary orders, working in the cafe open to the public, administrative jobs, custodial work, groundskeeping, maintenance) because of the nature of the Program, but he did become a Trustee (which is a position of authority within the housing section including responsibility for keeping the Unit clean, distributing meals) and in addition to nearly completing the program, he managed to earn his High School Diploma.
In Utah, when a person is sentenced to Prison, the trial court judge does not have the authority to limit or govern the length of the prison stay. A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of 0-5 years in prison. A second-degree = 1-15 years, a 1st degree = 5 years – Life and then there’s the “Super-First” which is, I believe either 15 or 25 years to life. Once a person is convicted and in prison, a different agency – The Board of Pardons and Parole (BOP), assumes jurisdiction over the inmate.
The BOP sets a hearing date for each inmate based upon his/her convictions – a 3rd degree felon will see the Board after 3 months (+/- depending on backlog); a 2nd degree, after 6 months and a 1st degree after 18 months (It’s unclear to me whether persons convicted of a “Super First” ever have the option to parole. J’s hearing was held approximately 7 months after he arrived at The Point. A few weeks after the formal hearing, the Board renders its decision – usually including a potential release date.
Here’s the thing: there’s a TON of bullshit rules about prison.
The first one I learned: inmates cannot have pictures of themselves. My first letter to J got returned because I enclosed a bunch of pics of him and me, him and his girl, etc. Just sent back. Letter too.
Next: persons on probation cannot visit the prison – in fact, if you have a misdemeanor conviction within the last 7 years, you cannot visit the prison (except to see family members).
“Family” is strictly defined. To be approved to visit someone you claim as family, included with your visiting application must be documentation of the relationship (i.e. a marriage license, both birth certificates showing a parent in common). So much for visiting my “brother.”
Putting money on an inmates books (so they can order items from the commissary for themselves) comes with substantial fees (about $6 added to whatever amount you’re giving them).
Phone calls are WAY cheaper from the prison than from the jail (depending on the jail). When B called, I was charged 29 cents a minute when I funded a prepaid account (each time I added funds to the account, there was a $3 surcharge). When J called, it was 10 cents a minute (also with a surcharge but still.)
J saw the Board after about 7 months and his tentative release date was set for two months later – March 28. Here’s the thing about that: because he would be paroling (as opposed to “term-ing” or terminating), Adult Probation & Parole had to pre-approve any address he wanted to reside at. This meant a parole officer would have to call and verify that J could stay there and perform a check of the place (to ensure it met parole requirements – no alcohol or firearms on the property) before his release could be confirmed.
An inmate without an address to go to has to wait an additional 6-12 weeks for a bed to open up at one of the halfway houses before being released.
Here’s the other thing:
Being a person willing to receive letters/calls from inmates immediately subjects you to A TON of requests.
Since J went up, I have written to several other friends who were sent up to prison as well.
Universally, they all want you to do something for them (and often for their friends as well). J had me send texts and make calls to his buddies’ wives and/or girlfriends who couldn’t afford to take calls, write to other buddies who had no one writing to them, put money on his books if I could. Another friend of mine, a woman, beginning her third stint at the Point, included messages from her friends for me to forward, requested magazine subscriptions, requested that I send blank greeting cards and silver rings from WalMart that she could sell to her fellow inmates… and yet another friend (without asking me first) enclosed a letter from his buddy to his buddy’s girl for me to forward. J was the only one whose requests I did my best on.
But healthy boundaries are TANTAMOUNT when you have a locked-up loved one.
Of course, when J received his March 28 tentative release date, his immediate request was for me to find him a place to go. I was on probation by then (making me ineligible), plus I was homeless and living in a shelter (a very comfortable shelter but not one I could receive him to) at the time. He submitted the address of his mother’s trailer and asked me to call her and tell her to please hide the beer and the gun so AP&P would approve the address and could he please stay there etc etc.
Did I mention I hadn’t ever met his mother?
Her first question: “Well, couldn’t he stay with you guys?”
She told the parole officer when he called that there was beer and a gun at the trailer so that option was gone.
J called me, despondent, asking me to try to find someone.
Finally, I asked my probation officer for sober living properties in the area that might help. He referred me to a place. I submitted J’s application online myself (he dictated the answers to me on a phone call). I committed to paying $500 before his release to pay his first two weeks’ rent and the application fee. I put up with bullshit flirting from the Program Director.
But I secured the address, submitted it to AP&P and got it approved.
The street sister.
Here’s the other thing about inmates:
You get a lot of promises about what they will do once they’re out.
Pay you back.
Make it up to you.
Change their Ways.
J promised me a lot of shit.
He was released March 28. The Program Director picked him up from the prison and (despite some crazy drama culminating in my emailing the dude’s boss) B & I were allowed to go to the Sober Living and see J the day he got out. An ex-girlfriend of his gave us a ride up there. She was clearly wanting/expecting to be the center of J’s attention. She turned a little green when I was.
J went through his property bags that day. His prison-issued Bible, his court papers, the one letter he had received from the ex-girlfriend, the one from another girl and the three foot-high stacks of cards and letters from me.
I’m still proud of the way I held my brother down while he was away. I’m proud of him for staying sober since the day he and I got arrested almost 18 months ago. Better than I’ve done.
But I’m supremely disappointed in him.
He and I don’t talk anymore. He prefers to help out buddies who use him and his goodwill – even though they are still using drugs. Buddies who jeopardize his parole status for their own reasons. The girlfriend who told the cops the drugs in my car at our arrest were his – then lied to everyone on the streets about he and I for months, never wrote to him or anything, cheated on him, but when she lost her kids a couple of weeks ago (due to continuing to get high on heroin after a 90 day inpatient program), sitting with her was more important than trying to help me through a hospitalization.
It hurts to admit, but the fact is that people in prison are different than the people they were before or return to being after their incarceration. I loved my brother in prison. I will always love him in so many ways. But I don’t like him out here. And I can’t allow myself to be used by him anymore.
I have ended all contact with incarcerated persons except my now-husband, B, (who is back in county again *sigh*) and I have made an exception for his best friend. I have changed my phone number. I have blocked almost everyone on facebook. J isn’t blocked, yet. I did “Snooze” him for 30 days. it was too painful seeing his comments to lowlifes and dumbasses I know to be still hustling.
The last post of his I saw was that his PO has told him that if he continues to do well he will terminate parole successfully at the end of April.
Well done, Bro. Proud of you. Wish I didn’t know for a fact that you could have gone back to prison at least twice for breaking the terms of your parole. Not getting caught isn’t exactly what you should be striving for here.
Wish I had a way to show you how much danger I can see you’re in.
I wish prison weren’t a revolving door.
And even if you manage not to go back in the next 5 months +/-, I wish I could be convinced that you understood what REAL priorities are, what REAL friendship should be, what REAL family does for each other.
I don’t know where to start this, but I need to put it out there to start healing.
I’m now 42 years old and I’ve always needed mental health care; I hear voices and I see things that aren’t there. I was molested and raped as a child and again as a teenager. I couldn’t cope, so I began self-harming – just to feel something; anything, however this behavior was never allowed in my house.
When I was 16 and tried to kill myself, my parents took me to an ER out of town and then swept it under the rug. Never to be spoken about again.
In 2004, I took a job with my father as my boss.
See, I’ve also always been a high-functioning addict and I wanted so badly to NOT be the black sheep in my family; I wanted my parents to be proud of me. So I took this job. I worked so hard for many years. At work, people thought i was a “princess” because my father was our boss. Little did they know that I got all the shit jobs that could never be done late or missed. Even when my oldest child collapsed with leukemia, I was given a laptop and worked from her hospital room.
My husband and I use pain clinics, but if we run short, I’ll buy some to help get us through the month. Plus, I’ve always had bad panic attacks and I smoked weed to help out with those and help me sleep.
Last year, a woman wanted me fired and gone.
She broke into my Facebook and found a conversation, between my husband and I, that we’d had about a year before. She took pictures of this conversation, then showed them to my father. The conversation included information about me being bisexual and about buying weed and a pill.
I was fired, as was my husband. I was disowned by my entire family.
The same family that KNEW that I had mental illnesses, heard voices, saw things, and that I experienced black-outs during which I did and said things I’ll never remember. They didn’t offer me help – they set me out, cast me aside. After running my life, (they controlled what I wore, what vehicle I drove, what I did with the kids…etc.) they washed their hands of me and walked away.
My brother also works for our father – did I mention we were all cops? I was not a cop but I did time-keeping for the jail and registered sex offenders.
My brother had me pulled over 48 hours after I was fired and disowned, he had his people tear my truck apart searching for drugs and other illegal stuff. All they found was a single pain pill that belonged to my husband. I told them it wasn’t mine, my husband told them that it was his, yet they still wrote me a citation for possession.
So I went to court, for the first time ever – I had never been in trouble before. I’d never even gotten a speeding ticket. The lawyer took me aside and told me the only plea I’d be offered was 11 months 29 days for misdemeanor probation. I took it. Even though I’d brought the pill bottle to show them the pill was legal. I knew if I tried to take it to trial they would give me jail time. I was an example to be made.
It gets worse.
The press got wind that we’d been fired.
My parents had the woman who had hacked my Facebook handle the press.
It went national and none of it was true. They said we were on meth. That I’d been arrested.
It was single worst time in my life.
Our landlord evicted us.
We had another trailer lined up in the county next to ours because we couldn’t go ANYWHERE in our other county without being followed by local police.
At the last minute, our future trailer fell through. We put everything we owned in a storage facility and officially became homeless. We rented a long-term motel in the neighboring county. We were both drawing unemployment so we just hid in the motel, licking our wounds and trying to figure out what our new life was going to look like.
For the first time in my life, I went to the local mental health facility and made an appointment to see someone. The blackouts where getting so bad that I’d broken into my mother-in-law’s apartment and stole money – I have no memory of any of it. They diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder, Type I bipolar disorder, insomnia, and schizophrenia. I was prescribed Vraylar (a new medication to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia). It has made such a difference in my life.
Then the next thing that struck us down, the unemployment dried up. No one said that it didn’t last all year. I worked there for 15 years my husband worked there for 21 years and we got a whole 6 months of unemployment.
So we go from living in a long-term motel, to living in our Honda. We had our pug and beagle with us and that was it. My husband’s mother decided to help us get a rent to own trailer, so we went to an estate auction (a little 85 year old lady had had a heart attack in her kitchen and died) looking for furniture and things like a fridge, stove, washer, dryer. We’d lost all of that when we lost our trailer.
When the time came, they started bidding on the actual house and no one made a bid.
Suddenly, my husband’s mom raised her hand and bid $30,000 on a $100,000 house. No one else bid. My husband and I sat rock still, holding hands so tightly that the color was seeping from our fingers. For 10 minutes, the auctioneer continued asking if anyone else had a bid. They didn’t want the house going for that low.
Finally the auctioneer said, “SOLD FOR $30,000!”
My husband and I grabbed each other and his mom and together we sat in our new back yard and cried and thanked God.
I managed to get a job at a gas station that’s within walking distance from our new house. I make just enough to pay our lights and water. I’m trying so so very hard to get us into the green, to get my husband’s guns out of pawn, and to get some money to help my grown kids out if they need it.
Truly, this has been the worst year I’ve ever known. I spend every evening wishing that I could speak to my parents, while knowing that they won’t answer me. I even tried sending an email last month saying that I was sorry for embarrassing them and that I loved them more than life, and got no answer.
But even though it’s been the worst year, it’s also been the best.
I got fired from a job that made me so unhappy, I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. Now, I work at a little gas station with no stress, just fun. I had forgotten that work could be fun.
I got disowned by my parents and completely slandered in the news. But, that meant that I’ve stepped out of my parents control. For the first time IN MY LIFE, I wear what I want to wear, go where I want to go, and say whatever I want to say. I went from homeless for the first time, to sleeping in the Honda, to owning my own home. No mortgage, no nothing!
It’s the light of my life! Now no one can evict us; we have our own home!
I went from never having any sort of mental health care, with blackouts so bad I turned the only mother-figure in my life against me due to something I can’t even recall, to feeling almost normal. I didn’t know that I NEEDED mental health care. It’s amazing that I do NOT hear voices, I don’t see things that aren’t there, and I’m neither severely over-emotional nor completely numb.
I guess the moral to my story is this: I’m learning and I hope that my story helps anyone else going through the worst things they’ve experienced. That if you are going through things that you can’t imagine making it through, if life has you by the balls and you can’t breathe without the weight on your chest, if you want to crawl under the bed until the sun rises. Just hold on. Hold on tight.
Things WILL get better. It may not work out the way you want – heck, just look at my living situation! – but it will work out in a way that you never could have guessed.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have problems. I’m still depressed, I miss my family so badly it hurts. I still don’t sleep (and when I do, I wake up screaming from nightmares that the last thing I said to my parents will be the last thing I’ll ever get to say to them.)
But for the most part, life is getting better, I’m enjoying my job and my house. My husband and I are doing well. I can’t wait for the next chapter to come. I know there will be more struggles and hardships but I’ve learned that things will work out, maybe not the way I wanted or thought it would. But, I’m going slow and finally, finally, I have hope.
For those of you out there in the bad place, go slow… hold on… and have hope.
The first time I used, I was 9. I stole some of my mom’s appetite suppressants. For the first time in my short little life, I felt like I could do anything. I forgot that I felt like I didn’t belong. Don’t ask me why I felt that way. I am an adopted child raised by a good family, so I should have felt fine. I truly believe that addiction is genetic. With dope, at long last, I belonged. I wasn’t afraid.
Life went downhill from there. I gradually branched out to other drugs. At 14, I was stealing my parents’ cigarettes and booze and smoking pot. At 18, I got introduced to what would become the great love of my life-meth. I really could do anything on that stuff-no job was too big, and my mind worked like a pinball machine with an electrical short-thoughts careened around so fast I never held one long enough to examine it, so I never really thought about feelings of inadequacy or fear.
At 19, I was tired of trying to make it on my own, so I found myself married to an abusive bastard; anybody who’s ever been through that can understand what I mean when I say that it destroyed any shreds of self-worth I had a chance of having. By then, I knew how to fix that-I used more dope. It didn’t matter what kind as long as it helped me shove those feelings of worthlessness into some dark, forgotten corner of my soul.
After 3 years of being smacked around, I fought back, left, didn’t look back, and didn’t quit fighting for a long time.
I went through a string of failed relationships for a couple of years, until I met “the one.” He actually started to redeem the male of he species for me. For a year and a half, I somehow managed to limit my drinking and drugging. Life was pretty good. I was living the suburban American dream.
In the end, untreated addiction always wins. I got involved in some unsavory business, running drugs up and down the interstate. For each time I got arrested, I made it through at least a few more times. I guess sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good, or I’d still be in prison.
My second husband finally had enough, and I got sentenced to prison knowing that divorce awaited me when I got out. Looking back, I can’t blame him. At the time, I was just enraged.
In prison, in a state far from home, I didn’t have drugs but I still had that fight in me, and the ability to stuff my emotions into some dark corner of myself and forget them. It allowed me to survive in a cold and lonely place. When I got out, I did what I always did. I got high. How else was I supposed to deal with my situation? I was 4 states from all I knew, being held against my will by a parole officer who wouldn’t let me move home.
Fast forward to 2005.
I’m on probation for yet another drug offense, headed for an inpatient drug treatment center at the judge’s (and probation officer’s) suggestion. I had reached that point where I used dope to become that static-y snow on a TV with no reception. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to deal with the mess my life had become and I damn sure didn’t want to deal with the mess that I had become.
I muddled along for a while until I had a using experience so horrific I will never forget it. I had finally used so much dope, trying to kill my feelings, that I had used myself into a corner and it was that dark corner of my soul that I had been avoiding for 27 years.
The dope had led me right into the hell I had been denying from the time I first discovered dope at the tender age of 9.
I got clean, finally. It hurt. Detox can kill, and I guess I considered myself lucky to be alive, considering the way I had used my body for a toxic waste dump.
And I grieved the loss of the drugs. I grieved the loss of the numbness. I was FEELING shit again and it was ookie and I didn’t like it.
The human psyche is an amazing thing, with a remarkable talent for self-preservation. I managed to avoid the real problem: here I was drugless, and the big shitty mess inside was still there. Denial became my best friend. I felt no emotions (or so I told myself.) I damn sure didn’t show them.
For the first two years I was clean, I was involved with another abusive bastard. Got a busted eardrum out of it. During that two years, I did a good job of not allowing myself to feel much of anything, partly out of determination to deprive that bastard of the satisfaction of knowing he had affected me, and mostly because I didn’t want to look at that big shitty fucking mess in my mind and soul.
I did all this while calling myself a member of a twelve step fellowship.
Two years into my abstinence, the pain of my living situation became too much. Denial, toughness, bad attitude-none of it was working anymore. Without the dope to numb my soul, the big shitty mess in the darkest corner of my heart began to fester. So I got honest. Well, a little bit, anyway. Six months later, I was out of the abusive relationship. I was healing.
At least that’s what I told the world.
Until the physical after effects of the corrective surgery on my eardrum became unbearable. They also became a physical representation of all that was wrong with my psyche.
I could no longer use those old defense mechanisms. I could no longer be the hardass, the tough girl who didn’t give a fuck. I gave a fuck and I was tired of being broken.
Aunt Becky, I cried. Like I don’t think I have ever cried before.
I cried for all I wasted. I cried over all the wasted potential, the wasted years, the wasted lives I destroyed with my sick spirit.
I cried for a little girl who never felt like she belonged. I cried for my mother who couldn’t fix her child. I cried for what was left of myself and for the parts of me that were lost forever. I screamed. I cried until my throat hurt, my rib cage hurt, my head hurt. I cried until my entire head was so congested I couldn’t breathe. I cried over all the sadness I had never cried over, I cried over all the pain I never cried over, I cried over all the fear I never cried over. I have no idea how long I cried. It seemed like forever.
And then I slept. I slept the sleep of the damned. Because as I cried, screaming about how I was tired of being broken, I realized that nothing could fix me. I was doomed to this existence of knowing I was broken and the only thing that ever made me feel whole was dope and I couldn’t have it anymore. It had been killing me while it killed my feelings, except it wasn’t killing the feelings anymore. I couldn’t stop using once I started, and once I used I became this horrible beast who got arrested and burned bridges with the people in her life. So dope was out.
I was, finally, alone with the truth. I was rotten inside and nothing could fix me.
At 40 years of age, I’m glad I can say that a lot has happened in the 3 years since I cried that night and screamed my frustration at being broken. I started working the 12 steps of recovery from addiction. I have a sponsor. I have 5 years clean. I have a reasonably good relationship with my mother these days. I am now in a very serious and mostly healthy relationship with the man who held me the night I cried-he is truly a good man. I am in my first senior year of college. I have been well trained in the work I do and have been working the same part-time jobs for 5 years now. I’m good at my job. I have a few friends-true friends.
Aunt Becky, I wish I could give you a happy ending. I wish I could say that I have finally progressed through the 5 stages of grief. I think it’s safe to say I have passed through denial.
Yet I still can’t let go of those old defense mechanisms. It is so fucking hard to express emotions. It’s just as hard to live through them. So I shop. I eat chocolate. I find things to distract me. Often, I stick my feelings in that dark corner of my soul. Even the good ones. I still miss the ability to deny their existence. I don’t know what to do with them, so it’s easier to deny them.
I guess it’s progress, being able to admit I have emotions.
Some days, I get so angry. Why the fuck can’t I be normal? Why oh why do I always seem to feel inadequate, less than, afraid? At least the rage can be empowering, motivating me to get up and try one more day to find a way to heal my sick spirit. If nothing else, rage feels good. It’s so primal.
Some days, I’m depressed. The possibility of spending the rest of my life knowing I am irretrievably broken saddens me beyond belief. This is where I am grateful for my adoptive mother-she’s my REAL mother. Nothing ever stopped her, and rarely did anything slow her down. She always kept going. What an amazing example; I believe it’s the only reason I keep going on my depressed days.
Bargaining. Yes. I do that. I make bargains with whatever’s out there-if you would just fix me, God, I would try to touch another life so some other woman doesn’t ever have to live with the pain I lived with for so long. Just please fucking fix me so I am not afraid, ashamed, and insecure. Make me not hurt and I will try to share it with someone who needs to know it is possible to not hurt.
Acceptance. Not so much. Today, I refuse to accept that I am irretrievably broken. Maybe that is where the twelve steps are beginning to work in my life.
And maybe that’s the happy ending after all.
Adult Children of Narcissists have a tough go of it.
This is her story:
The following was a response I wrote on a message board about the topic of enabling, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ it happens, and how Narcissists and abusers get others to do their bidding. This was written from my personal experiences, growing up with a Narcissistic Mother and watching this scenario play out many times over.
Narcissists thrive on confrontation. They bully their way by having a tantrum anytime they don’t get what they want. They turn up the heat enough to obtain it. The heat rises until they get it. In short, they learn our boiling points, find our buttons, and study our weaknesses. They keep hammering away until they get what they want.
It’s pure ruthless persistence on a target they’ve studied for years, but they also come across tactics that generally work. When they don’t get what they’re after they commonly rage to scare you into giving in, or attempt guilt or sympathy ploys. Their purpose never wavers, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
Simply, a Narcissist or abuser will keep hammering and chiseling down until their targets are just plain WEAK. They do that by isolating the target from healthy relationships with anyone outside their control. And I mean close relationships, people that you’d bear your heart and soul to. People that would be out for YOUR good, that you’ve built a long-time trusted relationship with.
ACONs (Adult Children of Narcissists) often say they were forbidden from having friends, bringing friends to the house, and tightly controlled telephone usage. It is designed to create enough distance between you and others so such a relationship can never form.
Abusers detest anyone who may have more influence over you than they do.
If such a relationship already exists in your life, abusers will seek to drive a wedge between you and that person. Divide and conquer. The abuser creates enough stress on the relationships to create doubt in the other party. They swoop in to become the new ‘reality’ by inserting their perceptions on the weakened target.
My father is an enabler because he’s been trained by my mother to be. She hammers him by exploiting and over-blowing any little offense she can muster (creating conflict) to show how right she is, how awful she has it, etc. She hammers at him until he relents. She does the same thing to my siblings, through personal confrontation and phone calls. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I remember as a kid, we all knew it was just easier to give my mother what she wanted than deal with her rages. If an abuser does that enough, they are training us to just give them whatever they want, because we know what’s in store if we don’t. It’s cost/benefit analysis, isn’t it?
Welcome to the hammering machine. I knew that other people would take bad news better than my mother. So if I got caught in the middle of something between her and someone outside the family unit, she always won because even though I may lose greatly on something involving that person, it was easier than dealing with my mother’s rages.
There’s the birth of an enabler.
There comes a point where you just can’t deal with fighting them anymore, especially when you live under their roof. Even though we move out, that brainwashing has been reinforced for years, and continues into adulthood. Give your abuser what they want, or there’s hell to pay.
And even though we’ve moved out, Ns make sure they insert themselves in everything, don’t they? They appear to be interested in us, invade personal space, demand personal information, run amock over boundaries. The Narcissist is making it known that they have a right to everything about us, and will not stand for anything less than EVERYTHING. It’s so they can continue to insert their perception of reality into their target’s lives and retain control.
They continue forcing themselves onto the target, through phone calls or unannounced visits. If you’re never allowed to (or given the space to) think for yourself, how can you? Narcissists hinder this process as much as possible. It’s why they set themselves up as ‘always right’. If you control all the cards and all the information, it’s easier to manipulate things to your benefit. Thus how they move into the second stage of life.
It’s also important to note that everyone has a breaking point. Some much faster than others, due to the nature of the relationship (such as family friends, distant relatives). Others thrive on gossip and drama…but Narcissists know how to spot their targets and say the right things to obtain what they want.
In short, enablers are Narcissists’ servants. It’s like an abusive dog-owner. The abuser controls the entire environment. Some dogs will cower, some will fight back towards the owner. Dogs that fight back will be beaten more severely until they cower, are neglected, or are gotten rid of. But either way most will still protect the territory. They distrust everyone because of what history has taught them.
I guess I met Stef when I was thirteen or so, which would have made her twelve, but really, I felt like I’d known her forever. She was one of those people that the moment we met, it’s like we bonded instantly on some molecular level; like we were made of the very same stuff at the core. It’s rare that it happens, two people who simply know each other like that, two magnets pulling toward each other, instantly attached, but when it does, you can’t forget it.
And I didn’t.
Everyone loved Stef. She had this shine about her, something rare in a teenager, that made you want to be near her; like if you stood close enough, some of that sparkle, that inherent goodness that radiated from her would rub off on you, and for awhile you would be better for knowing her.
I am better for knowing her.
Stef was one of the first people I knew that loved me for who I was, warts and all, and even now, seventeen years later, I think she may be one of the only people who genuinely will ever love me. Maybe it’s because she understood me in a way that most people don’t. Maybe it’s because she was my first real friend. Maybe it’s because that was her gift; her shine. I don’t know.
She walked tall, confident in her shoes, while the rest of us awkward teenagers struggled to figure out who we were, Stef always knew who she was. I learned that from her.
When my boyfriend slept with my friend, she was the only one who chewed him a new asshole. In a world where I had never had a soul on my side before, Stef was always firmly there, Team Becky all the way. She would have cut a bitch for me, no questions asked, because she was my friend and she loved me. Maybe other people had families that would do that for them, but I never had that. It had always been me against the world. I learned how to be a friend from Stef, too.
She was there when I’d gotten pregnant with my first son, holding my hand when his father, too, cheated on me. Again, she was the only one who stood up for me. I never told her how much that meant to me.
Shortly after my son was born, she got pregnant, too. Excited, we planned for this baby, a boy. When her son was born, the sparkle she’d had went out and was replaced by a sadness I couldn’t touch. Always a party girl, she took it to new levels, trying to drink away her pain.
No one knew what to do.
We tried to reach her, but nothing seemed to get through. She tried rehab, three times. She was hospitalized. Tried medication. In the end, she kept returning to the bottle, drowning her sorrows in a fifth of vodka. The only friends she had left were the late-night sort, the ones who didn’t care about the Stef I loved so dearly, the ones who didn’t know my friend as she had been.
She left me a message at the end of December from a pay phone, having no phone of her own, just out rehab again. Stef sounded good, optimistic, even, offering to get together for some coffee and a playdate with her two boys and mine, sometime in the near future.
That message came too late.
I got that message two days after I buried my first real friend. One of the only people who may ever really love me.
February 10, 2008, I got a call from Stef’s mom, telling me that Stef had died the night before, in her sleep. Liver failure, cirrhosis.
Stef was 26 years old and left behind two young sons.
I’ve never been able to write about her, although I’ve tried hundreds of times. I’ve deleted thousands of words because they were simply not enough. There are no words eloquent enough, true enough, real enough to express the kind of person she was. And getting her wrong is not an option.
I loved her. I love her.
I miss her so much that my heart hurts some days. I’ll probably always feel like there’s a part of myself missing now that she’s gone. That magnet, the part of me that was connected to her, that’s still looking for that other half and it’s gone forever. I’m lucky to have found someone like that in the first place.
Sometimes, in pictures captured when I am truly happy, I can see a certain expression on my own face that is pure Stef, and it makes me smile and laugh a little, because it reminds me of the e.e. cummings poem: i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
This site is dedicated to you, Steffie. When we meet again, and I know we will, I can’t wait to tell you all the things I never told you when I should have. For knowing you, I am better.
May your shine always be warm, like Stef; like the evening sun.
Writing has always been cathartic for me.
When I write, somehow I am able to process it in a way that makes more sense. And yet I have been avoiding putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys. I’m not sure what this means, except that I have not wanted to let go of some things that are still percolating upstairs.
The mind is a dangerous place, my mind especially. Neurons form associative pathways based on past experiences, and it is extremely difficult to reprogram them. Add to the mix…well, we’ll call it background noise, and some days I feel like the top of my head is about to explode outwards in a shower of gore and fire. I am a person who takes medication to keep things manageable, and I make no apologies for this. There is a marked difference in my mood and tolerance for everyday stumbling blocks when I do not have them, so I have chosen to keep taking meds. Even still, I find myself ruminating on past life experiences more lately, and I think maybe it is time that I purge.
I know part of it has to do with the weather. It’s fall, and warm with a cool breeze, the kind of day I used to hope for when I was running in Baltimore. That way, you see, it’s not too hot or cold in the abandominium hideouts where the other junkies and I liked to sit and hoard our meager scores. I miss sitting on scavenged milk crates, avoiding foul-smelling piles in the corners, and talking big with random people. I know it’s somehow disturbing that I miss the griminess, the feeling of being bad, the rush of my heart when a cop drove by (”Will he stop? Does he see me?”), and I want to leave it behind. It seems to dog me, waking and asleep. It would be so easy to slip back to that life of running and hiding and dealing with nothing.
So I guess I keep putting one foot in front of the other, having little community meetings in my head, and trying to concentrate on the good in my life now.
Some days it’s just really fucking hard.