Archive | April 2012

Addiction versus Narcissism and Sociopathy

Yesterday, I read a post on a blog where the poster was speaking of people with substance abuse issues in what I consider to be a very narrow view.  Basically, what he reduced a person with an addiction was to “an addictive personality,” nothing more, nothing less.  Taking it further, the poster went on to say that addictive personalities have life-long, deep seated character problems, blame the world for their problems, and fail to take personal responsibility for their behavior.  That these comments were made my a retired psychiatrist, not just some man off the street, is even more disturbing.  While it is true that someone deep in their addiction will generally deflect responsibility onto someone, or something else, once recovery begins, so does acceptance of one’s own personal responsibility in poor choices, bad behaviors, and so forth.

However, to reduce addiction to a character defect, and to claim all addicts and alcoholics are merely addictive personalities does a severe disservice to those living in addiction, and those who have triumphed over their addiction.  Experience has taught me, both  intensely personal, and from extensive observation of others, that addiction is never that simple.  I believe this is especially true for women, because it is most often women who are subject to childhood trauma and sexual abuse, and these women are then are left to somehow pick up the pieces from those experiences without an instruction manual.

Childhood trauma and abuse lead to PTSD and, over a lifetime, PTSD can look like many, many things.  This is well documented in psychiatric world.  PTSD can lead to eating disorders, self harm, substance abuse, and repeated poor choices in life.  PTSD at various times in life can come out as depression, anger, and anxiety.  It can look like bipolar disorder, and is often misdiagnosed and treated as such.  Until the PTSD is faced, treated, and defeated, it can look and behave like so many things that are only red herrings.  Of course, childhood trauma and abuse that leads to substance abuse, or other self defeating behaviors, does not factor in any genetic components, also so important to acknowledge.  That a child who lives in an alcoholic home is more apt to be traumatized as a child goes without saying, and certainly in this case, you have trauma mixed neatly with unfortunate genetics.

It was while I was prison that I first became acquainted with the ACES Study.  ACES is an acronym for adverse childhood experiences study.  Adverse childhood experiences are, simply, put traumatic experience which occurred before the age of 18.  What I learned was among my fellow female inmates, nearly 100% of these women had an ACES score of over 6, with 10 being the highest possible score.  Statistics on women in prison who have suffered childhood abuse and trauma are generally quoted at being of 60% to 90%.  I tend to believe the 90%.  Since women in prison are almost always there for drug and alcohol related crimes, what does this tell us?   It tell me that these women, myself included, we not born flawed, nor defective, nor are we merely addictive personalities.  We are women who have been hurt, and hurt again, and then hurt some more, and we coped with that pain the best way we knew how, as faulty and personally destructive as was that coping mechanism.  Of course, when we are drinking or drugging, we are a perfect candidate for an abuser looking for an easy target to prey on, and the cycle continues, and gets worse.

But, alcoholism, addiction, and PTSD are all very treatable.   People do get better and go on to live healthy, productive, lives.  Some people go beyond getting better.  They move on to become authentic.  That brings me to my favored personality development theory, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.  As much as I like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Dabrowski rings far more true for me.  Loathe as I am to use Wikipedia as a source, for this topic, I am going to do it.  So, go here and read this: Positive Disintegration.  It’s not an easy or a quick read, but it is extremely worthwhile.  The theory is far too complex for me to give you a nutshell description here.

So, how can disintegration, an ugly term, ever be positive?  In certain persons, people Dabrowski terms as those with a high developmental potential, disintegration, as messy, and painful, and ugly as it is, eventually leads to the ultimate reintegration, and that is where the authentic person is found.   Dabrowski speaks of people with inherent overexcitabilies, similar to Elaine Aron’s traits of the Highly Sensitive Person.  A HSP, or a person with these overexcitabilities will see and feel life far more intensely than the average person.  I am a HSP, and I have several children who are, too.   Actually, I think they six out of the seven are, to one degree or another.  So, for we HSPs, life just hurts.  Are we born HSPs, or with these overexcitabilities, or are they born from childhood trauma?  What does childhood trauma do to a HSP?  Well, it may lead to that all important series of disintegration experiences, which, if faced appropriately, can lead to a beautiful place called authenticity.

I know many, many, women who are doing more than recovering from addiction, and healing from childhood trauma.  They are working hard to build their disintegration experiences into a firm foundation of personal integrity and authenticity.  These women, and I am one of them, have moved beyond excuses and blame and self abuse.  They live in honesty of all that they were, what they experienced, how it affected them, and those around them. We have a gleaming personal integrity.  We make mistakes, and take responsibility, we apologize, we keep moving forward.  It’s a beautiful way to live, and a gorgeous thing to watch.

Contrast all of the above with the narcissist, or the sociopath.  These are the people who are truly flawed to the core.  They do not get better.  They are the extreme in the term “treatment resistant.”  They lie, blame, fail to take personal responsibility, but worse, they see absolutely nothing wrong with that behavior, or themselves.  They almost never seek treatment, and if they do, they almost always use it to hone their craftiness—too learn how to better fake being human. Since they believe there is nothing wrong with them, they do not seek treatment to get better. They generally do it to shut someone up, usually a partner.  In their minds, there is nothing to get better from, so they lie their way through therapy, and the therapist often gets sucked in by their charm, so he or she may actually pat the narcissist or sociopath on the back and tell him he’s just fine.  For this reason, in many ways, it is far better for a sociopath not to seek help lest he come out of it more advanced in his manipulation skills.  These people are the users and abusers in the world, and they are everywhere.

So, give me addiction and PTSD and a messy looking life any day!   I am healing, and I moving forward, and I am better, and lest I sound a tad narcissistic, I am beautiful.   I am not an addictive personality.  I am a glorious, genuine, human being with integrity, kindness, compassion.  I live a wonderful life.

Idealism and Radical Acceptance: Where the rubber meets the road

I’ve mentioned before that I am a tried and true, dyed n the wool, Meyers-Briggs tested, idealist. This changes being an idealist from what I am to it being who I am. There is a big difference. There are any naturally happy, optimistic, people who try to find the positive is most situations, but these happy-go-lucky folks are not true idealists. They don’t ache to the bones over injustices in the world, and they seem to come to terms with “Life isn’t fair,” pretty easily.

A real idealist, like me, will rail against injustice, and will wage an almost constant internal battle trying to wrap their heads around life not being fair. I know I sure did, and sometimes I still do. I do not innately get mean, unkind, vengeful, and just plain nasty. When I hear it, or see it, it always makes me wince, and causes some deep pain, even if the person hurt isn’t me, or someone I love. I’d greatly prefer not to even know some of these more ugly emotions exist in the people I know, but they do and I somehow manage to love them anyway 😉

 

However, in the last few years, something has changed within me. I am not fighting life anymore, and life has not been a cakewalk in the last few years. What changed? I made some pretty important decisions. I decided that I deserved happiness and love and all good things just as much as anyone else. I decided that I am more than good enough just as I am, and I decided to be me as fully as possible, not allowing others to attempt to recreate me in their own image. At the same time, I decided not to try to change others into something they were not. I decided that I’d had enough of shame, and that my life was too full for mean people, and negative people, and for people who hurt me without a second thought. I decided that life was as good as I made it, and most importantly, I decided that, no matter what, everything was going to be okay.

 

All of these decisions just happened to coincide with my 50th birthday, which was also the day I left my abusive husband with only a child and a dufflebag of clothing. Basically, I decided to be happy, and to take full responsibility for that happiness. That this all happened when I was homeless, facing a prison term, and with my sister’s husband dying seemed to amaze most everyone. My own counselor at the time once said, “I don’t know how you do it. You keep going, and you keep smiling, and you seem happy.” It was true. I was happy. Then she said, “Radical acceptance. That’s what it is. That’s what you’ve got going on.” That was the first time that I had heard the term “radical acceptance,” but yes, wrap all of my decisions into a big ball and that is what you get—radical acceptance, of life, and others, and of circumstances, but most importantly, of myself.

 

I cannot even begin to describe the freedom I feel every day now, and I felt that freedom even when I was in prison. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons that God wanted me in prison was so that I would realize that I had really been in prison all of my life. At first, others built the prison walls, and I just stayed put, and then it became an entrenched way of survival and life long after the initial wall builders were gone. I didn’t put myself into that prison, but it was my job to break myself out, and I did just that, finally freeing that poor, wounded, little girl for good, while I was in an actual concrete and steel prison. There is a certain irony in gaining true freedom while in prison…

 

I love my life and my life is good, but my life is messy as hell. It’s never been neat and tidy and I have no reason to expect that to change, but I don’t care. What I have within that messy life fraught with circumstances that would crush other is love, and joy, and freedom to be me—messy, happy, mostly peaceful me.  I have God and my integrity, and I have found that’s all that I really need.

 

The people in my life, with their neat lives, stand back in wonder and amazement. The people in my life love me dearly, and there are a lot of them. They love me messy, and happy, and real, and me. That’s radical acceptance on their part and it’s pretty darned cool. I think they even learn a little from me.

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Am I still an idealist? You bet I am, but I know how, and where, to channel that energy now. I have big plans for the future, and I know where changes need to be made in the world. I will continue to grow, but now that I am free, and I radically accept me, I am not going back to any form of prison again.

My ex-husband terrifies me….

 

I have been MIA for a few weeks, in the trenches, battling the sociopath.  One of the downsides to being an idealist is the way I think.  I do not think in mean ways, nor do I think about harming people—even people who have hurt me greatly.  So, when I find out that others have such violent, vindictive, hateful thoughts, and perhaps even plans, it throws me for a huge loop almost every dang time.  I’ve been forced to face a scary reality in the past few weeks; The sociopath and his girlfriend would like me dead.  This has pulled me right out of my happy little dream world and into a world, and day to day mode, that I am finding less than enjoyable.  I am terrified most of the time now, and that is just “so not me!”  After all, I HAVE been to prison, and I have lived through many, many hell-on-Earth experiences, and I have gone through these experiences almost blithely without fear.  But now I am scared, quite a lot.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that the sociopath is a lot sicker than I thought, and that his behavior is escalating.  His girlfriend appears to be completely obsessed, and is doing most of the dirty work for him, with his father lending a huge hand, as well.  What I have discovered, and uncovered, and continue to find over the last couple of weeks what  amounts to four Facebook pages, blogs, newspaper articles, and extensive Tweets regarding me, and the Guardian ad Litem in our divorce, and they are working to destroy us both.  The sociopath depersonalizes me by referring to me as “Mom,” in quotes.  Something new pops up every day.  Yesterday is was listing on Craigslist sites around the country.  What will it be today?  While they cry “censorship” and “free speech,” I refuse to feed the trolls and stoop to their level with personal responses, but I will not tolerate hate speech, libel, or defamation of character.  All of the newspaper editors that I have had to contact have agreed and have shut them down.  I have learned that I can speak the truth, honestly, factually, and without emotion, and people will respond with the right and proper actions.

I have Facebook posts, Tweets, Blog posts, everything, all saved to my computer, and all has been sent to my attorney, including the website the sociopath has on a place call GoFundMe where he “pimps” out our son to get people to donate money to him under false pretenses.  My attorney is afraid of “starting World War 3,” because everyone is scared of this family.  He tells me that the sociopath doesn’t have the balls to do anything for real.  I bet someone has said that to every woman, protecting her children, who has been murdered by her abuser.  I have made it clear I want a protection order, and yet nothing happens.  Any my son has to be around these poison people for some period of time, three out of four weekend each month.

The truth is that when we lived with him we never had heat in the winter.  I’d awaken with a baby to a house that was 38 degrees, and if I was lucky, with the cook stove, I might get the loft up to 54 degrees by mid-afternoon.  The washer broke and he wouldn’t fix it, so I washed all of our clothing, including dirty cloth diapers, in our kitchen sink for over 2 years.  A huge hole developed in front of the toilet, with a view straight down to the dug, dirt, basement.  No one would use the toilet but me.  My son had to use a potty chair until we fled when he was 4.5 years old.  We had no working oven, and three month prior to my leaving, the water pump broke and we had no running water.  We had farm animals, sheep, goats, a mama llama and her cria, and an alpaca.  Over the winter before I left, he left half of them starve to death.   I estimate we lost 25 animals.  He killed 25 animals.  He’d told me they were all fine, out in the back pasture, as I could not get to them because of snowed in fences and gates.  One day I went out to investigate a barking dog, and pushed beyond where I would normally go to find heaps of animal corpses.  Of course, there is more to tell, all sick and twisted and scary as hell, but I wasn’t scared then.  I was too numbed by the effort needed to survive.

The truth is also that, since we fled nearly 3 years ago, my son has never been cold.  He has always had running water, a full functional bathroom, and he can take a hot bath anytime he likes.  The house is not filled with a million flies, nor are there soda bottles filled with urine everywhere.  All of his issues that emerged after we left, some pretty severe, have been discovered, assessed, and dealt with to the point where he is a normal, happy, functioning child.  But, he remembers…he remembers it all, and at 7 years old, he’s begun to ask questions about what he saw and experienced.  I have no answers.  Daddy’s sick…  And now, Mommy’s scared, but I’ll be damned if my son has to feel that even for one moment.