Substance abuse claims the lives of thousands of people every year.
This is her story.
Happy Belated Birthday, Mom.
You used to laugh about how we were all February women in our family. You, your younger sister, me, and two of my cousins were all born in the same month. You said it made us special. When I was small, I thought it was true. When I was small, there were still times I wanted to be just like you.
I remember making you birthday cards with clumsy hearts and sunshine drawn on them, folding them so carefully and neatly that my teachers were impressed. I remember handing them to you with excitement, waiting to see your smile and hear your praise. I remember you putting down your bottle of beer, just for a second.
After you died, I found most of the cards I made for you and, later, bought for you. Even in the depths of my numbness, I teared up a little thinking that it meant you were proud of me.
You loved me. I know you did.
No matter how you treated me, no matter how many times you told me I was getting fat, no matter how drunk or high you were, there was a part of me that loved you and wished your love for me took a different shape.
I told you once, after you'd laid the guilt on particularly thick, that when I hugged you I felt nothing. You got mad at me and said I was just lying because I was upset with you, that no one feels that way about their mother.
Still, it was your birthday. You would have been 54 if you just could have kept yourself away from the bottle. Away from the drugs. The little girl inside me wants to know why you couldn't love her enough to even try to overcome your addictions, even if the adult me knows it's not that simple.
It's never that simple.
Neither is love.
Indifference, though, that's a different story.
It's Christmas Day; I remember how I used to love watching my children's genuine delight in opening their gifts and stocking stuffers. I loved making the huge dinner, supervising and organizing the entire family. The meal would be spectacular and the children would play together without fighting, then..
My abusive mother would pick on my abusive husband.
Immediately, the atmosphere changed. Conversations became muted whispers and then, my drunk older brother would say something rude or outrageous and cap it off.
Now, my children are grown and have excellent educations. The narcissist I raised (as opposed to the one who raised me or the one I married), has a prestigious job in DC. She was more than a handful to raise.
I didn't know I'd been fighting narcissistic personality disorder my whole life. I just knew something was "off" within these three people; I fought them to within an inch of my brain with alcoholism/addiction, anxiety, fear, cajoling, religion, codependency, divorce, and finally, recovery.
Thank God for recovery and a plan. Gotta have a plan or I can't navigate my life. Other people have always given me the plan - I just waited for it and then reacted to each person the way I thought they wanted. That never seemed to work. Matter of fact, it seemed to complicate things; somehow making it worse. I always paid the price. Not to whine - I was punished without knowing that I was a victim.
The best way to ferret out a narcissist is they clearly identify the problem at hand. They don't know this is a compulsion and a major "tell" they can't seem to control. I learned early and hard that the people who think everybody else is lying is, in fact, the liar.
Or, the people who believe everyone cheats (at least some of the time), are in fact, CHEATERS. These people clearly identify themselves in personal or workplace relationships. Narcissists are rapacious and merciless; they will suck us dry; stepping over the dried husk of our souls onto their next chosen victim.
I've lived it, I married it, and I raised it, narcissism. I'm recovering in my narcissistic (with Munchausen Syndrome) psychopathic mother's home until I can get my shit together to "go back where I came from," she reminds me thousands of times each day.
So back to the title of this post: Christmas Day.
You'd think, given her preoccupation with convincing her fellow church members, doctors, sons, my children, various random people that cross her malignant path, that she is the Mother Teresa of this town, that Christmas would be a special time of year.
She took great delight in singing in her church's choir in an ecumenical service. She bragged about it all over the neighborhood while complaining loud and long that she's the only one who can read music; she has to "carry the tenor section."
While she's saying this, I'm thinking, "Shit, I wouldn't tell anyone that I'm "carrying the tenors." I'm female!"
I've finally figured out that my mother loves, LOVES, weird and perverted attention. That's her narcissistic supply. Her personal favorite is to be outrageously socially incorrect at the store.
In the family, she'll stand with her back toward your face and bend over at the waist. Most of the time, she's naked underneath her house dress, so you get an up close and personal view.
Outrageously sexually abusive.
When I was 14 or 15, she'd "drop" me into potentially sexually destructive situations. I was clueless and terrified why grown men were treating me like I was coming onto them. She was always close enough to see the action and NOT RESCUE me. I was so shocked; scared by the adult males behavior, it never occurred to me she didn't do a thing.
When I'd tell her later, she always laughed and said, "Oh that's just the way he is, don't let it bother you." I'm still bothered by it.
When I finally figured out what she was doing to me, it enraged and empowered me. She was punishing me for being slender and blond with blue-green eyes. At 15, I didn't know or understand the implications of a parent who deliberately placed her child in sexual danger to get her kicks. She enjoyed it. Every time I brought it up? She enjoyed it all over again.
Christmas is almost over.
I am estranged from my children, cut off from my friends - my five adult brothers don't talk to me.
I've never been happier. I've finally pinpointed the reason my life has been a sharp turn and it wasn't me. I've been a victim of my narcissistic mother. How could I know? There is no shame in not knowing, not understanding why my life was like that.
Today is the day we celebrate the gift God sent us in the form of a baby, The Christ, Jesus. I don't care what your religion is or even if you've got one.
This is the best Christmas I've had in a long time, because I found this website.
I thank God for you, The Band.
One of the worst things you can do to an adult victim of child abuse is to tell them that you don't believe them.
Let's support her while she tells her story:
I didn't know what was wrong in my family - I just knew that something was wrong; terribly wrong. I remember being so damn scared all the time.
My father was, at times, a funny, gentle man who worked with the public and wildlife of California; he played a Martin guitar. Other times, he was raging or drunk - beating my brothers and, at times, my mother.
Afterward, my mother would play the piano, my brothers would disperse, and I'd hide in my bedroom; terrified. I couldn't figure out what was wrong - no one ever said a word after the violence. Plus, my mother was playing the piano, so everything was okay, right?
It's taken 53 years for everything to make sense, to become technicolor.
My mother is evil.
Micro-insults. Dis-information. Mockery. Cruelty. Specific injury. Arrogance. Unbelievable arrogance. And yet, people say that she's is a "delight" with the Vacation Bible School Children. What they don't see is the way she pinches that little boy while holding him on her lap.
"I don't know what's wrong with him..." she'd say when he cried.
Fucking Evil. That's what she is.
I've been scouring the Internet for some place REAL. Where dissemination isn't for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The horror I feel at the level of evil in a 78-year old woman is almost unspeakable. And yet tonight, I found The Back Band Together Project - I'm hoping this is a real website for the ragged survivors of the deliberate cruelty only a mother can impose upon her only daughter and five sons.
I didn't know. I just knew.
Fourteen years old, "I so wish we could have been able to afford braces for you." Okaaayyy. So, that must mean my teeth are ugly. Or my smile is ugly. Or I am ugly?
Or "She's so ugly, we had to tie a pork chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her," actually, that one was kinda funny since it was my favorite brother who said it. He wasn't mean then and he's not mean today. It was the way my mother reacted that was the kicker. She thought it was hilarious.
I saw flashes of that maliciousness; her evil barely submerged under her raging ego as she played the organ at church, singing in the choir. That same ego constantly prowled, always seeking ways to feed. One of her favorite ways to feed was me.
I was her primary source of Narcissistic Supply.
The only girl among five brothers, number five in the line-up, I was a child in constant trauma. In a family full of very funny people, this was so confusing. My dad was one of the funniest people I've ever known - a published author, a conservationist, he'd give you the proverbial shirt off his back.
Yet, I witnessed him punch my mother in the face, barely fracturing her cheek. He became an alcoholic with hydrocephalus.
She drove him to drink, then she punished him every day of his miserable life until he died. Alone. Tied to a bed, "for his own safety." She left him alone that last night, wailing in the hall that she "couldn't take any more," and insisted I take her home.
Now, she's the Queen of her Castle and I'm the Dark Invader.
Her adult daughter divorced. Recovering alcoholic and addict and well, recovering on every level. Good thing, too, or I'd be dead.
Narcissistic Injury is a real thing, The Band. Pay attention. If little injuries are starting to add up? There will be more, (and gradually or suddenly) worse if the Narcissist feels any real or perceived slights. That's Narcissistic Injury and you won't even know what you did wrong.
She's a malignant narcissist with Munchhausen Syndrome and psychopathic tendencies. She's had 78 years to perfect her work, and yet, each morning, I wake up hoping I'm wrong about her.
Then she'll pounce - extra points are always good. If she can get me first thing in the morning, it's like dessert for breakfast.
She hates me with a evil malevolence she can no longer hide. I've committed the ultimate slight and if I can't get out, she'll slowly torture me into killing myself or having me committed. She prefers committed - more sympathy for her.
Shamefully, she's abused public resources, using 911 as her personal button to "get my daughter out of my house; she has a gun and said she's going to end it all"
Yep. She 911-ed me. Six armed policemen showed up, pointing guns at me asking, "Where's the gun?"
You may ask what the hell I'm still doing living at her house. Go ahead. Ask. Everyone else has. Victim. Witness. Adult Protective Services. County-Appointed psychiatrist.
My Abuser is doing a gleeful giggling dance with her (unnecessary) walker. There. She's gaslighting me; she told me so, "You act like I'm Gaslighting you."
I'd never heard of Gaslighting; she told me all about it. It's compulsive. A narcissist must perform, when given a chance to reveal her diabolical plan. She told me her plan. Not too diabolical, except to the county budget and anyone who really needs those emergency services.
Now I know.
I cannot be manipulated to meet her twisted needs anymore. I pray I get out of here before she succeeds in actually harming me. And I hope this website is real, because 99 out of 100 people won't believe my story.
Thank you, The Band, for giving me a place to write.
We all have letters we'd like to send, but know that we can't. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can't send?
Why not send it to The Band?
I’m 37 years old, almost 38; yet you still have the power to make me feel like I am a teenage disappointment.
In my lifetime, I earned a prestigious degree. I married a great guy and spent years in a fantastic career. Then I decided to have children. I sacrificed my career to stay home, the same way you did, and I have three lovely children. As my children started school, I went back to work part-time and wrote a book.
You were very specific that, “Life is hard enough. Why choose to be fat?” when I gained a little weight in college. I’m still a size eight. I’d think you’d be proud. You can flaunt my pictures on Facebook of my perfect little life and family to your friends and they will all believe that I’m as Stepford as you are.
My husband and I have never asked anything from you. We don’t visit for more than three days at a time because we know your “Relatives are like fish – they stink after three days” policy. The only money we ever borrowed from you, a down payment on our first apartment, was returned after my first paycheck. We understand that you did not choose to have our children and that they are not your responsibility. We don’t impose grandparent duties or expect babysitting.
Today, I told you about a website I found where people can express their frustrations and find support – Band Back Together. I was really excited to share it with you, but I should know better. Your exact words were, “Are you sure they aren’t just a bunch of internet freaks? It sounds depressing.”
Guess what, Mom? You raised one of them. An internet freak, I mean. Sometimes the online world seems more real than the physical one around me. And why is that wrong? Don't we all live in our minds, not just in our bodies?
Your favorite saying is "Happiness is a choice." If I were allowed to say what I actually think, I would respond that denial is never true happiness. I will gladly acknowledge my struggles and adversity because through them I find fleeting minutes of undiluted joy. I choose those moments over your perpetual forced cheerfulness.
The child you raised is not perfect although you’ve taught me well how to appear that way from the outside. I drank in college and experimented with boys. Still do both with one guy in particular who liked it enough to marry me. He knows I’m imperfect and he is far from ideal as well. The truth is, the broken parts of us are what keep us together. And we are broken. Some years our marriage is barely tethered by a thread, but that thread is real; it has pulled us through heartaches you could not begin to imagine because all you see is the picket fence.
I don’t come home for more than three days because I can’t stand to pretend for you any longer than that. Your grandchildren are great little people, but each have their own struggles; I acknowledge those and try to help them through it. I don’t want them to ever feel like they have to pretend to be something they’re not. We spend every waking moment in your house not being ourselves and trying to fit into what you want us to be.
My husband and I almost separated after the last time we visited you. The “perfect” pressure was too much. So no, we aren’t going to make it for Thanksgiving this year. Not for Christmas either.
Today, you asked what I want for Christmas. I don’t want another matchy outfit from Talbots. It isn’t me. It never was. What I’d like is for you to see me for who I am and just be OK with that. If you can’t, I’ll still love you. But I also love me, so I won’t choose to spend time with you.
We all have letters we'd like to send, but know that we can't. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser. Letters where actual contact is just not possible for whatever reason.
Do you have a letter you'd like to send but can't? If so, send it to us.
Please, The Band, keep in mind the mission of Band Back Together and the Guidelines for Submissions are very clear in that we are not a rant site - the purpose of our posts and our mission is to be able to share our stories in a safe manner while encouraging healing.
Every time you text me, I wish you would understand I don't want to hear your dry way of telling me you love me. I wish you could understand that I don't want to respond to you not because I am a rebellious child, or because I have been a bad daughter, but because you failed me as a parent and you can't accept that.
Maybe your current situation has made you temporarily soft, but I don't fall into that sick pattern of yours. Now you love me...now you don't. Well, I don't love you. And you certainly don't love me. If I could, I would push you out of my life for good.
Stop calling people and bitching that I don't call you. Specifically, stop calling my grandma (you know, my father's mom, the one you so hated back then and talked shit about) to complain that I don't call you or victimize yourself.
Everything you did to me - the things you don't want to hear and define as 'our differences' like the psychological abuse, locking me up, choking me, punching me, dragging me across the floor while my son screamed - you said I deserved it.
Well this is what you deserve for all of that.
Sometimes I stop and think, then feel pity for your situation; you're all alone with a life to carry on your own, having to carry all that guilt without me there to take it every day. Then I realize I don't feel anything anymore. Especially when I remember that I'm far away from you because my husband made the bigger effort, how you tried to separate us, and how when that didn't work, you tried to take my son from me.
I realize it's no use telling you the truth because you can't accept - you will not accept - anything that I say. I'm always wrong. And that sole reason is why I don't talk to you, or call you, or anything. Maybe I send pictures of my son, but not because I feel pity for you, or because I wanna get along; it's to show you he's doing great.
Remember when you said I couldn't handle being a mom and being married at the same time? Or remember when you said you understood my son better than I did? Or when you said I am not a good mother? Remember all those things every time you look at his picture.
You are lonely because you only see the flaws in people. You talked badly about my father because you only saw the flaws. He's a much better person without you. And you hate that, don't you? Because you can't be a better person with anyone, you only seem to bring the worst out of everyone.
Give up - we're never having a relationship. I'm never giving you that advantage over me, or giving you the chance to twist my life again. The first time in my life that I push you away, and guess what!? I'm doing better than ever.
I remember your dark and heavy words that day: I hate you so much I can't stand to look at you.
Do you know how long it's taken for my son to heal from watching you do all of that to me? You pretended in public that I was the bad one and you were a victim trying to carry the weight of my past.
Well, fuck that! Wake up and realize no one is buying into your bullshit anymore and that's why NOBODY calls me after you call them to bitch that I don't give a fuck about you.
I am not letting you back into our lives to destroy it. Get help, learn to construct a better life around you, but don't worry. I am still, STILL, not letting you near us.
And no, you certainly don't love me. Because I am not the same person you used to abuse.
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