AA and narcissism sometimes goes hand-in-hand. If AA is better suited for narcissists, then it is ill-suited for me.
Don’t freak out but… I actually agree with something I learned in AA: Drinking problems are really thinking problems.
Hazelden states that addiction thinking involves constant thought of using a drug, or alcohol, because of denial and excuses. I never suffered denial drinking because I knew why I chose to get drunk. I worried less about other people and how to communicate effectively when drunk. Partially because of my dysfunctional upbringing, and lack of help on how to react to it, I’ve mostly sucked at relationships with others my whole life.
The answer is simple yet complicated. I am the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic mother. Suddenly, at age 12 when I began my period, my mom started treating me distantly and criticizing me constantly. I was blamed for little things repeatedly: Hiding her car keys or clothes on purpose, leaving lights on that I didn’t turn on, not listening to a conversation I was not even present for. “You were there,” she’d say. “Are you calling your mother liar?”
Not once in my life did I ever hear my mother admit she was wrong. When I was eight, she estranged her entire family because they didn’t agree with her. They were evil and turned the whole town against us. “They are liars,” she said, “They want everyone to think I’m paranoid.” As a teenager, I was told my teachers thought I left the classroom in tears because they thought I was a cocaine addict. I trusted nobody, never knowing if what my mom said was true or not. As long as I was isolated socially, others would not know the secrets I kept.
I finally had enough when I tried to join debate club but a tidal wave of panic forced me to run out of the room crying uncontrollably. I just couldn’t talk without freezing up. There was no one I could turn to for help. Would I choose fight or flight? At 18, I dropped out of high school and married someone I barely knew. The thrill of making a rash decision replaced the anxiety I felt. Oddly, it seemed like my relationship with my mom improved with me being away, but I couldn’t understand why.
Two years later, I discovered evidence I thought proved my dad was unfaithful to my mom, and I ran back home. If I could fix this for my mom maybe she’d love me again. Maybe their marriage was the real root of all our problems? My parents, my older brother Ben*, and I all went to family therapy. By the end of the hour, everything was my fault because I snooped on my dad. My mom was allowed to label me a mentally ill alcoholic without anyone questioning it (or sticking up for me), because my mom is never wrong. What the fuck just happened here?
I went back to therapy the next time with just my mom.
“We’re here because I want to help my daughter,” my mom says. Would she lie to the therapist?
The therapist asks me how I feel. “I want help,” I say, nervously touching my fingers.
“We tried counseling before,” my mom explains. “When she was 16. It didn’t work.”
“I was too angry,” I say. “I told my mom I felt depressed when I was 12 and she didn’t do anything. But I stopped asking for help because thought I could fix myself. I didn’t want to be a burden to her.”
“Julie, you can never be a burden to me. When you were little you used to come to me with your problems, I don’t know what happened. When you were 15 or so you decided you hated me.” Lies.
“I never hated you, Mom. When I was 15, I showed you and Dad I was cutting my arms and you guys did nothing but give me lotion. I went to school the next day and had to cover my arms with long sleeves. I didn’t want to get you in trouble for not helping me. I told you since I was 12 I was crying all the time. You said it was hormones. I felt like nobody cared.”
She shook her head as the therapist took notes. “I took her to counseling, but Julie likes to play the blame game. I admit I was depressed once because… Because my brother was molested as a child and… I’m a teacher… I have no relationship with my brother because he hates me. And this did make me very depressed. I think Julie saw that and I told her over and over ‘you are not me.’ She knew that.” It’s never her fault, it’s her brother’s fault and my fault. Why does she say everyone hates her?
“You told me not to trust your brother or anyone in your family but that has nothing to do with me, Mom. You didn’t get me help you gave me an intervention.”
Her eyes become huge, and her voice turns stern and dramatic, “Do you want to tell the therapist or should I? Julie would sneak out and worry me to death. The rules never applied to her. I’ve read about kids who have opposition to authority. That was my daughter. I didn’t know where she was at three in the morning. As you can imagine my heart leapt out of my chest. A mother’s intuition and love is always there, no matter how old her babies get.” She participated in theater her whole life, is this where she honed her acting skills?
“I’m sorry for that, I really am. I told you I was sad you wouldn’t let me see my friends. It’s not like I asked to see them every single day. I wasn’t a bad kid, Mom.”
She interrupts me, “You couldn’t see your friends because I couldn’t trust you, Julie. But you still like to play the blame game, don’t you? You snuck out the house to have sex, you were drinking, making me look like a fool. But I love you no matter what, Julie.”
“You wouldn’t let me out—” My words fall onto the floor… She half-laughs, half groans. “That’s not true! You had a job. You went to school. You saw your friends.”
“I lost friends because they thought I didn’t want to see them. They laughed at me in school. They thought I was lying when I said I wasn’t grounded. They thought I was avoiding them on purpose. Other parents didn’t treat their kids like you did!” Read more”the fix”…