The dumping ground. Where all the unwanted things end up spending their eternity. Nothing there can grow, thrive and live well. Instead dumping grounds epitomize destruction, decay and toxicity.
Untreated, addictions however will and do grow. In fact, addictions need dumping grounds as a place to fully thrive to their potential. There cannot ever be anything there but destruction and devastation in these places that obstruct an honest, authentic, happy, and productive life.
It can happen gradually over time like a slow growing malignancy, or quickly like an out of control and deadly storm. Eventually if left to its own resources addictions will destroy careers, lifelong friendships, relationships and families. Lies, deceit and secrecy become a regular part of an addicted life. They are one in the same. Addicts will eventually find themselves shunned, ostracized and begin to draw themselves away from old friends toward other deeply troubled addicts who will enable and not pressure them to seek any help. One of only two outcomes can happen, a person gains control over the addiction, or the addiction controls them.
As I previously shared in my blog post, The Steadily Lowering Standards of an Alcoholic, “An alcoholic is someone who can violate his own standards faster than he can lower them.” -Robin Williams
And so through the advancement of the disease of addiction and substance abuse there begins a new set of lowered standards of living and of the type of people one seeks out in the dumping grounds of addiction, mental illness and substance abuse. A Narcissist can become the bigger fish they’ve long desired and pretended to be if they leave the bigger pond and swim over to a much smaller, isolated, unknowing pond where it is unlikely the truth will be discovered by other fish. It’s so much easier there where the standards are already low. Living in the mind of a Narcissist and an addict, if you feel you can’t keep up with your current charade any longer, simply begin a new one somewhere else. Going back a lifetime, the established pattern of personal failures becomes clear and is ever present.
When one chooses to dig around inside their (dark) shadow, down where the hidden garbage, filth, and disposed trash is, one inevitably ends up covered and surrounded by waste and refuse. One can be certain whatever else they find lying there on the dumping ground floor is absent of authentic value and is surely no one’s lost, misplaced or recklessly discarded treasure. It’s merely a parody of reality, and “authentically” their just reward for digging around through disposed remnants. There they will find only other scavengers. Other addicts. Other users. Other deeply afflicted, toxic and troubled souls much like themselves and they will feel relief there, for a while. Like pure, authentic rubbish if you will, they will likely stop at nothing short of complete personal, professional and often financial devastation and destruction through their poor choices and continued bad decisions. They will become so detached from reality with the advancement of time and their disorders they’ll do most anything to convince others including themselves, of the authenticity of the facade they’ve created and constructed, no matter of the eventual consequences to their life.
We all have our opinion and view of what defines toxicity. It’s often established through experience and acquired wisdom. Combining certain medications can be toxic (even lethal at times), just as many often learn in college during their first taste of adult freedom that combining alcohol types can be a very bad choice and well, quite toxic when they feel the effects into the next day. For most, that lesson learned serves them well in life moving forward.
But what makes a person or a situation toxic? People who cannot observe or maintain boundaries with others are toxic, people with unresolved issues, psychosis, substance addiction and mania can be as well. But one of the most dangerous toxic combinations from a mental health perspective is untreated alcoholism combined with a long standing, untreated, pre-existing personality disorder. These combinations such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, alcoholism or Bipolar Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder and alcohol and other substance addictions for instance are dangerously toxic combinations often with tragic outcomes when left untreated.
When feeling their secrets are exposed, the naturally competitive Narcissist will stop at nothing to “win” by playing the victim, usually and poetically at their own expense by desperate attempts to validate their irrational choices and convince themselves and others their bizarre behavior is somehow rational. History does not lie. Each time and through the years it is desperately revealed to those who are around them for any long period of time. When in that desperation they join forces with another addict with a long history themselves of severe personality disorders, patterned instability and substance abuse as well, it will once again be revealing, growing and festering in destruction over time. Ad nauseaum, ad infinitum.
What are delusions? Delusions are fixed beliefs that do not change, even when a person is presented with conflicting evidence. Delusions are considered “bizarre” if they are clearly implausible and peers within the same culture cannot understand them. Delusional disorder refers to a condition in which an individual displays one or more delusions for one month or longer. Delusional disorder is distinct from schizophrenia and cannot be diagnosed if a person meets the criteria for schizophrenia. If a person has delusional disorder, functioning is generally not impaired and behavior is not obviously odd, with the exception of the delusion. Delusions may seem believable at face value, and patients may appear normal as long as an outsider does not touch upon their delusional themes. Also, these delusions are not due to a medical condition or substance abuse. (1)
Some examples of delusions from reality can be falsified involvements, accomplishments, falsified relationships or connections with accomplished persons, or famous athletes or celebrities.
Alcoholic Psychosis can occur through exposure along with Delusions of Grandeur (Megalomania) and Alcoholic Delusions. These are two of several categories that fall within the scope of Delusional Disorders. Those with Delusional Disorders are often unaware their beliefs are untrue and irrational, even when faced with undeniable proof. (We will discuss these more in an upcoming article).
We learn through clinical research and individual evaluation there are numerous complex variables and deep, multi-faceted issues within personality disorders and the comorbidities/co-occuring disorders and alcohol or other substance abuses and addictions. When we can visibly see the disorders through close observation and examination of outward sudden uncharacteristic behavior, physical appearance and lifestyle changes, there is great cause for concern. When one chooses to leave their normal life, abandon their hobbies, standards, and interests and live inside the shadow as Carl Jung postulated, or as we’ve described here “the dumping ground” it is indeed a true tragedy.
The saddest part of all is not as much for the narcissist/the delusional addict, (primarily because they’ll do anything to convince, believe and attempt to prove their delusions are real), but for any healthy connections they may still have left who helplessly or possibly unknowingly witnesses the destruction as it unfolds. The only (albeit perceived) protection for the few remaining friends or healthy adult children in their lives comes from the distance and isolation they are able to create for themselves from the situation in order to attempt to protect themselves from the toxic, inevitable, eventual bad ending. There is no real protection from the bad ending as it cannot be prevented, but one can absolutely prevent it from directly impacting their own lives.
Reality and truth can certainly be disguised, covered, buried, camouflaged, hidden, denied and even avoided for long periods of time…but it always (eventually) finds its way back out to the visible surface. That’s the thing about reality and truth. Everything that is buried is bound to rise again, even if it’s lying dormant on the ground, unconscious if you will, dwelling at the very bottom of the trash heap.
(1) Delusional Disorder, Psychology Today.
“The Shadow Knows. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.” (Men being used here as the whole of humanity). In many cases, few truer words have ever been spoken.
I’ve chosen this title because of its significance to me on several levels. The Shadow was a popular radio show series in the 1930s that also was made into a popular comic magazine series and several movies over the decades. It is also an expression frequently used by some who are old enough to remember it, sometimes adopted into their vernacular as a commonly used catch phrase and perhaps most significantly of all, it’s completely true. The Shadow Knows. It truly does.
So what exactly is a (dark) shadow?
The “Shadow” according to Jungian psychology and postulated by Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung is the place in the human psyche where all the dark, unacceptable, shameful personality traits are unconsciously kept hidden from view. The repressed, the suppressed and or the disowned qualities of one’s conscious persona. These are the things that as the name suggests are dark, socially unacceptable, morally corrupt, ethically bankrupt and go against civilized societal norms and values. These are traits within a persona that one buries deep within them because they are well, very dark.
These are the traits that no one sees initially by the one possessing them, but over time when a balance upset is triggered and subsequently offset, (if the dark traits are left untreated lurking within the unconscious), they can begin to escape from the shadow and visibly out into view for all who know them well to see. Some examples are sexual preferences, deviant sexual interests, fetishes, breaking laws of God, laws of man, laws of the land and society, or other taboo curiosities they may or may not have acted on prior. Some of these may not be considered (by the person hiding them within their shadow) to be acceptable behaviors or expected standards of others. The balance between the light and the dark can become overturned by an upset, a life changing event or a disruption or identity ending in their life where one begins to live out what tendencies have been hidden inside their dark psyche, sometimes hidden for a lifetime. If the balance between the acceptable and the hidden (unacceptable) is shifted, one may see a person attempt to over-compensate for it by pushing the fulcrum to the other side. For instance a man who may have tried tirelessly to be a good, honorable, enviable man for many years exhausts himself into a crisis state or psychosis and begins to live inside his shadow where he is not good or honorable. These are very real traits but he has hidden them within his subconscious because they are undesirable. The shadow that he tried so hard for years to deny and keep hidden has come out. Think of it as a storage closet or a basement if you will where all your unwanted personal belongings you’ve hidden and held onto are put away and kept for years because you’re just not ready to see what’s there or sort through what’s kept inside. Think of the commonly used expression of someone having hidden skeletons in their closet. These are the dark secrets they keep locked away from view from others and from themselves. Unfortunately there’s really no way of knowing what dark things someone possesses in their subconscious until those features begin to come out of the shadow and present themselves. At that time it’s very easy to connect their new behavior with what they had professed to despise in others for so long. They will likely change friends, social circles and zip codes to somewhere no one knows them and those they do know will not be able to see what dark things they’re now living out that they’ve hidden inside their shadow for years.
There are different degrees of darkness within each persona’s shadow. Not everyone’s is as dark as some. As I said in a previous post, if one doesn’t address what secrets they hide inside their shadow, especially the darkest of shadows, one day they’ll wake up lying next to it wondering how it got there.
At a young age we begin to learn by observation and participation what is considered acceptable behavior in a civilized society and of course, what is not. Those behaviors vary depending on one’s culture. What may be considered rude or classless by one society may be acceptable or even an expected behavior in another. A quality such as selflessness for example may be expected in one culture, while another might promote self-advancement over putting others first.
When one has lived their life projecting their unconscious shadow onto others in a critical manner, it eventually causes a see-saw effect and a sudden, unexpected shift of power. The person pretending to be living in the light suddenly, without much warning becomes a person now living in the darkness. The darkness they possessed but projected onto others then becomes their life. The hatred they expressed (openly in some circles) for other races, homosexuality and homosexuals, promiscuity and promiscuous persons, the unethical, the characterless, the unrighteous, the liars, addicts and thieves are all examples of what can be inside the shadow. These are all the things that can be stored inside the shadow but once that balance is compromised, the shadow becomes their reality and they begin to live inside it allowing these dark sides to take over.
One can conclude the healthy yoking of the conscious and the unconscious would be to balance the good and the evil of one’s persona, the yin and the yang, the dark and the light, the positive and the negative. When one overpowers the other, there is chaos. When one is suppressed, like everything that is buried, it is bound to rise again.
For many of us who’ve witnessed the imbalance and sudden shifting of someone into the darkest parts of their shadow, we know how troubling and disturbing it is to see. It is however not entirely rare. The psychotic break that occurs within psychosis is indeed tragic. I have spoken with both colleagues and others who have had or seen similar experiences occur and while it is tragic, there is no assisting anyone who is unaware of their subconscious and the underlying psyche that has grown into power and is now in control as a result of the years of denial of its existence.
In order to live a fulfilled and truly healthy life it is imperative to have faced and accepted whatever is hidden deep inside one’s shadow. It is a very real part of our persona. It does not go away. The harder one tries to deny its existence the stronger it becomes. Like living in the light and denying the existence of the dark doesn’t make the darkness disappear. Looking at the world through the proverbial rose colored glasses and denying the existence of evil does not make evil nonexistent. In order to accept the good, the positive, the righteous, the honorable, we must first accept whatever undesirable traits exist within our own psyche with balance. Without this needed balance and healthy processing of these qualities one will inevitably one day as previously stated, find themselves waking up next to their shadow, and it will be a devastation for them and a fast moving downward spiral into a rapidly declining abyss and again, darkness.
The Shadow does, truly Know.
Narcissism, Grandiosity, and False Presentations.
When we think of grandiosity (as a healthy person), we may think of someone fluffing a story to make it more exciting to the listener, or the proverbial fish story of the “big one” that got away. Everyone embellishes a little at times, it’s human nature. With a Narcissist, grandiosity is an entirely different animal. It’s pathological. They present false achievements, false involvements, false associations, false connections, and pass them off as their own, sometimes going undiscovered, unsuspected for many, many years.
I know because I’ve lived it.
The covert Narcissist is truly a master craftsman at playing the victim. They are able to create triangulation through their new source once the previous one has been depleted (or their true identity has been discovered) and convince (some) they’re the victim when in reality, things couldn’t be further from the truth. They victimize.
I know because I’ve earned my degree. I know because I’m a therapist. I know because of numerous old friends, exes, relatives, and business associates who have come forward with surprising, shocking facts and secrets. I know because I’ve experienced it.
A Narcissist has no true authentic self. They hate and hide from truth, from reality. Deep down, they hate their vacant self. They hate that they feel they must take their identity from someone else, usually a close associate or friend they can falsify details of events and their involvements in them. Someone they feel has achieved a high status and enviable success. These are accomplishments and people they covet and are resentful towards for not having achieved the same level of success themselves. They will create false accomplishments online and in places where they think it can go undiscovered by the person they’ve taken the identity from. When discovered and confronted, they will deny any knowledge of it, but continue to leave it as it is, never rectifying the public lie. They know it’s there because they had it put there, they even gave speeches about these false accomplishments. Speeches that belonged to someone else. Speeches that weren’t theirs to give. They leave it there because it gives them the momentary feeling of a level of success they feel vacant of and desperately long to have for themselves.
This grandiosity is needed to create their false presentation of false achievements. Besides, they’re not going to go back and humiliate themselves by asking the people they had place the false information online years ago to now take it down. The covert Narcissist is masterfully able to hide their true identity and behavior patterns for years, even decades from those around them.
I know because I’ve lived it.
Sadly, they do not feel they are good enough as they are because deep down, (often unconsciously and even subconsciously) they see themselves as they truly are, without an authentic persona. They attach and surround themselves with accomplished persons for as long as they can and any others who will enable their false persona to continue to exist, until they are discovered and must then drastically lower the bar of their standards to keep that needed source of admiration flowing from somewhere, anywhere that doesn’t challenge them to face reality and truth. Even so much as desperately, uncharacteristically resorting to hypersexual and extremely promiscuous types that they have previously vehemently maligned, devalued and degraded. (This pattern is well documented and researched. We have discussed this common behavior in previous articles).
Each persona they create belongs to someone else and is inauthentic.
It’s much healthier and healing to bravely face and deal with what one carries around hidden deep inside of them than it is to work tirelessly to keep it hidden inside one’s dark shadow. Once it’s faced and properly treated, one has the capacity to move forward into a healthy, truthful, genuinely happy life. All the fears they hide from themselves and the world around them would be released and properly managed. What they’ve hidden from everyone for years, sometimes for decades would then be settled. The hidden dark shadow from their dark psyche. (I’ll write more on that next).
If they don’t deal with what’s there everyday existing inside their dark shadow, it’s a guarantee that one day they’ll wake up lying right next to it, wondering how in the world it got there.
So what do they so desperately not want you or anyone to see? Is it just the vacant, stolen persona and addiction they’re protecting from view, or perhaps something much, much more? Something so deeply buried in their dark psyche, they’re too ashamed and afraid to acknowledge, reveal or admit. All one can do is hope they find a way to love and accept themselves as they truly are one day, and do it in a healthy way without inflicting further damage to themselves or other unknowing victims in the future they may use to conceal their reality from being uncovered and revealed. They may also quite ironically, open themselves up to become a victim by others who see an opportunity to take advantage of them during these desperate attempts to keep reality hidden from view.
I know because I discovered it. I know because I’ve lived it.
Listen and learn. Read. Study. Even if you’re not in the field of mental health there are many great resources available. Pay close attention to your gut and to the patterns of behavior and do not ignore the pathology. Your instincts will never lead you astray. They will always tell you the truth. All you have to do is trust in it.
In writing and selecting the title for this blog post I stopped to read it out loud. To me these words are so powerful. It represented such an important part of my life and many years. Looking back over all these years the signs should have been seen. I secretly longed for a deeper connection and partnership. A connection he was never capable of giving anyone before me and certainly not then to me. It would quickly be fabricated at times to smooth things over whenever I noticed him outwardly contradicting his previously stated priorities to me, and to us. I suppose I was so hungry for the deeper connection I was easily satiated with moments of false, fabricated deep connection. That’s something I’ve had to learn to forgive myself for, overlooking so much of his deep seated daily dysfunction.
His alcoholism was secondary to his Personality Disorder. Alcoholism is often hereditary and almost always secondary to much deeper, hidden issues and plaguing inner pain.
Most people believe that Narcissism is self-love. The reality of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a deep inner shame and hatred for oneself. A never-ending dissatisfaction with themselves and continuous self-degrading that is turned and projected onto those around them. That self-hatred will inevitably over time, translate into a deep hatred for anyone who loves them. They much prefer to surround themselves with people who could take them or leave them, who don’t care deeply enough for them to hold them accountable for their destructive behavior and choices. This is especially true when they can no longer find the fueling of their false self-esteem from the same Narcissistic source. In time, that source becomes depleted by their systematic, covert verbal devaluing often cleverly disguised and stated as being done out of love. In my case, the things he appreciated and loved the most about me, my honest, kind, joyful demeanor became the things he learned to envy and hate. These were qualities I offered and others could see in me that he didn’t have. He was outwardly proud of my chosen profession for many years. In hindsight, it offered him validation that he couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic with a personality disorder if his significant other were a therapist. Surely that must be true, for she would see it if it weren’t.
There was so much I didn’t see, so much that I missed and overlooked. He was able to get those qualities he wanted for himself through me, but over time he became resentful and envious that they weren’t genuinely found within himself, only through me.
A Narcissist can’t allow themselves to genuinely love, want or need anyone. Their personal connections are fabrications of normalcy. A Narcissist knows no real self-love and are therefore unable to purely, genuinely, deeply love another. Everything is just lightly lying, resting on the surface. Projection of their self-hatred onto others around them is a part of this disorder. Daily regular projection. I suppose because of all the years of a created persona that I lived with it was easy for me to overlook his personality disorder. I convinced myself they were just bad moods. He regularly blamed work for his mood swings and verbally reassured me of his love. I was so hungry for a sober, deeper connection and his sobered full attention, the attention I was certain I had before his resentment developed into a crescendo right before the sudden end. I was wrong. It never existed. It was a fabrication for years. And I had unknowingly allowed that to be enough.
He strategically chose me because of my profession as a counselor to help redeem and validate him in the eyes of others from his last failed marriage(s). Naturally, one would think I didn’t want to see it. Perhaps there is much truth to that. I overlooked and dismissed his constant conversation about it and his obsession with people with money and athleticism, perfectionism, sport specific prowess, job titles and financial accomplishments of others and all the people who in his eyes had these features. He compared himself, me and everyone else to these perceived ideas of perfection. His own self-created unit of measure by which all and everyone in our life was graded.
Any woman with traditional feminine values was always degraded unless those values were able to be mixed in with masculine (more valuable) values, ones of athleticism, and financial success. My stay-at-home wife and mom friends were always at the brunt of his criticisms for being financial users, gold-diggers, being burdens or leaches, they were unworthy dependents of their superior working/producing victimized husbands. In his opinion, a woman without traditional masculine values was of no value. Feminine values were worthless, pathetic and inferior. If they weren’t financial producers they were users. All women should work and contribute financially to the family he would say.
And there we have the pathology of a lifelong personality disorder. The painful verbal abuse he had witnessed as a child, unable to defend and protect the very first woman and last woman he had loved. The unimaginable shame he still carried. The heartbreak I would feel for him, for his never ending pain I didn’t understand until now. The pain he would share after drinking himself into oblivion and later regret and stonewall me for. As an empath, it was such a helpless feeling. He would frequently tell me how he wished his parents could have known me, how much they’d have loved me, and I them. I now understand the origin of the verbal and emotional abuse I witnessed and covertly experienced first hand.
As as we all know, what we permit, we promote. What we ignore, we empower. All and every “relationship” with a Narcissist comes with an inevitable expiration date.
So how does a personality disorder develop? There are many theories and many causes. It’s a fascinating pathology. It’s even more fascinating when you go back and slowly dissect the childhood occurrences that had been revealed throughout the years, and the overall feeling and childhood experience with his parents. If a son feels he failed his mother in protecting her from either physical or cruel emotional abuse, perhaps even both, there can be a self-hatred that develops and eventually, they become their father, doing much of the same to their own partner. It’s so tragic really, as if a child could do much to protect an adult. The human psyche is a complex one. Mix that in with masculine pride and we find a recipe for a lifelong disorder and painful, insatiable dissatisfaction within themselves, their marriages, their careers, and within others in their life. They will have developed a deep, metastasizing, destructive self-loathing, and debilitating hatred for themselves. And that hatred will then be projected onto whoever is closest to them. Their long established lifestyle standards will have to be lowered to remain “on top” in their mind. This too will steadily decline with the progression and advancement of the disorder and addiction.
I didn’t see his personality disorder. I was unknowingly fighting a battle, a battle and a lifelong war no one could win. After years of mistaking his shallow living and loving on the surface, I suppose I learned to only see the value of things on that surface. I suppose it was an unconscious survival tactic. Many people in our close inner circle included. I valued people who do not value people. I became attached to people who do not attach to people. I compromised my values and learned to live a life and receive a love where there was no depth, no true partnership, or deeper meaning within my relationship. He was incapable of having a meaningful, real, loving relationship with anyone. How can anyone honestly love another when they despise themselves so deeply? How can anyone give the love and approval to another that they cannot feel or express for themselves? If they cannot love themselves, they cannot purely love anyone else. It’s all a facade. Until it isn’t.
A narcissist’s idea of love is how others make them feel about themselves. It’s never a sustainable state. It is always temporary. The self-hatred eventually resurfaces, punching through the euphoria of their new segwayed solution once they realize the new Narcissistic source is no longer ideal enough to save them from themselves. There is no such person to make someone love themselves. That is when the euphoria disappears. This is especially true when a person close to them unknowingly dismantles the narcissist’s false persona. There’s no stability in that kind of love. There can never be real love because it, because they are not real. They never were and never will be.
I encourage you, do not be afraid to look closely, to dig deeply into anything your “spidey sense” is telling you.
Life comes and goes quickly and time is often a thief. Be brave, be honest, be courageous, be strong, and all the rest will simply fall into place.
There’s not a simple explanation really, or is there? In the beginning, the anger from his most significant recent/previous relationship was still very strong and ever present from the start. There was never much time in between each one I later learned. Such blame, anger and hatred he expressed toward her. In hindsight, she had most clearly called him out. I was told, “My ex had me convinced I was an alcoholic!” Those therapists didn’t know what they were talking about, he would tell me. I listened. It’s what I do. His due diligence, his groundwork for the next new “relationship” (with me) had been successfully completed. I would unknowingly help him rebuild his self-damaged image, albeit temporarily. He eventually managed to destroy, to ruin it for himself once again in time. Anyone who had doubts about it all before, was certainly not in doubt about it now.
I bought it all. Every word. There would be no future discussion in store for us about his drinking after that. It was already off the table and I knew very clearly how he felt about the topic. He had already convinced himself he didn’t have an addiction to alcohol. At least outwardly speaking.
I do appreciate a really good red wine. I enjoy being able to identify its complexity and process the uniqueness of what makes it special, to take time to contemplate it’s uniqueness. Like a beautiful piece of art you stare into and see something new and different than you had noticed before.
I was often told I was too slow of a drinker, as if that could somehow ever be a bad thing. I’d have one glass to his three or more at times. If the waitress or waiter didn’t return to refill his glass fast enough, sometimes I’d lose my glass of wine. I’d look down and it would suddenly be in his hand. He even did this at home. I was too slow in consuming it compared to the rate of his refills so it was taken from me to be consumed by him in the meantime, the in between time. The problem was clearly visible (I would later learn) to everyone, except to me. Sometimes we miss the most obvious things when they’re closest to us.
Ironically no one could begin to know just how much he really drank, and it was A LOT. He didn’t drink to enjoy the art of the wine or the scotch. He drank to get drunk. The heaviest drinking was typically done alone after our evening out was over and I was asleep, not in front of people. If it were a party, embarrassingly, we had to be the first ones to arrive and always the last ones to leave. It was embarrassing. I addressed it constantly with him to little avail.
He rarely had hangovers. If he did it was because we were somewhere he wasn’t able to drink a lot of water to prevent the hangover. He was masterful at re-hydrating. I would find bottles upon bottles of empty water bottles piled in the trash each morning throughout the week. Lined up and displayed on the kitchen counter each morning would also be all the empty bottles of wine, as if daring me to mention them. I would simply gather them all up routinely, and put them all in the trash without saying a word. It was the norm. High-Functioning Alcoholism. There’s a reason it’s called that. I overlooked his addiction. I felt the loyal need to protect him and attempt to hide the truth of his issues from our friends, neighbors, associates, and family. It was a self-sacrifice I didn’t see until much later. I now know I hid nothing from anyone except myself. They all knew, but I didn’t want to see it.
Our lives revolved and were centered around alcohol. Everything we did, everywhere we went included alcohol. Whether it was the gym first then the Chardonnay or drinking immediately after work. Alcohol was always at the center of the eventual plan of everything we did. After his DUI (that he was able to have expunged) one late evening while we headed home from our favorite Japanese restaurant, I was always the designated driver because of his arrest, and because I was also the one who drank the least between the two of us. It also allowed him to safely go everywhere as a passenger with a “roadie” large plastic cup of wine. We never left the house without him having a to-go roadie glass of Chardonnay in hand and in tow. I had unknowingly enabled the alcoholism to grow, to become stronger.
They say hindsight is 20/20. That couldn’t be more true. I never addressed the drinking successfully even though it concerned me constantly and worried me deeply. I knew if I mentioned it, I would initiate a battle that I couldn’t win. I was afraid for his health all the time. He refused to get checkups, refused to get routine blood work. He refused to get regular recommended colonoscopies, and prostate exams. Dermatology was okay, because that was for outward appearances, but nothing diagnostically that looked too far or too deep inside of him. Such strong symbolism within there. He focused solely on his outward appearance and neglected everything about himself that was on the inside.
His struggle with self-loathing, self-hatred, substance addiction and abuse, the unwillingness to address and talk about his patterns of behavior, his lifelong inner shame and pain was painful to watch and witness. He would sit up late at night, in the dark drinking alone. He was so profoundly alone within himself. The inner demons that developed long, long ago during his development and in his childhood would never be addressed. The ones he would speak of to me, would only later cause him to be angry for fear of exposure and vulnerability with me for all his hidden secrets. He lived in constant fear of dropping his mask and exposing the darkness within him. There would be what I thought were deep connecting conversations, but again now in hindsight, much of it I’ve learned wasn’t honest or real. If he slipped up and shared something real he would be cold and distanced the next day, angry with himself and now stonewalling me for his candor.
Many tales were just that, I later learned they were borrowed tales that weren’t his to tell. The saddest thing of all is that this is the destructive lifelong pattern. A pattern of fabricated, initially believable emotional connections to another then the eventual discontentment, disconnection and destruction. There was a deep abhorrence for himself in all that he did. When we hate who we believe is our true hidden selves, how can we love and respect anyone who loves us? How can we believe a person loves us for who we are when we have worked so hard at becoming someone else? His incessant pattern of selection for his criticisms of others were deeply, profoundly autobiographical. It resulted in his constant condemnation of others which was actually condemning of his true self. He projected that condemnation onto others. Everyone in our lives, in our close circle was spoken of negatively. No one was off limits or immune to his cruel words and judgments. There was something specifically selected for everyone in our lives.
It’s easy to miss high functioning alcoholism. We are culturally conditioned to see alcoholics as loud, obnoxious, jobless, unproductive, slovenly, deeply in debt, constantly and publicly intoxicated, and while many are, the alcoholism style of the functioning alcoholic is easy to miss when it’s someone whose outward professional and personal appearance seems to be so cohesive and together, at least at first initial glance.
If you notice someone close to you exhibiting heavy drinking patterns be honest about it with yourself. Don’t ignore and excuse behaviors that signal a real complex problem. You alone cannot help them. It will eventually tear you down. They have to want things to change and get help for themselves. Unfortunately I’ve learned it often takes hitting rock bottom before that will occur. Alcoholism is an indication of a much larger, deeper issue that without addressing and working on professionally, can and will lead to a rapidly downward spiral and an often tragic outcome in the end.
The Shakespearean line that has morphed itself and worked its way into our modern day vernacular, “Me thinks thou doth protest too much” has such a powerful, meaningful truth. If you witness and identify displays of rage, anger, blame, projection, control, jealousy, envy, intolerance, grandiose storytelling, criticisms, inner pain, passionate exuberance, a need for perfectionism, the struggle to “call it a night” or an overzealousness and constant (although sometimes covert) attention seeking, it is usually, most often a desperate attempt to convince you of something other than the truth.
I caution you, do not deny what you see and look the other way. Make an attempt to get them some help, or get yourself and your life safely out of their way and their path of destruction. If not, they just may drag you down deeply and into the abyss of their own downward spiral.
Be kind. Be content to be yourself and let others do the same. Treat yourself and others with kindness and respect.
Even now I can sometimes still hear the cruelty in my head. No one was off limits. Not anyone in either of our lives. I ignored it. I never spoke up. Tuned it out. Looked the other way. Pretended it was no big deal. But it was a big deal. It was most significant, not insignificant. I had missed it. I minimized and overlooked it. I compromised my values. I didn’t understand what was happening, what I was living. These weren’t just bad moods.
He made fun of his friends and my friends for just about anything, their brightly colored/dyed hair, he made fun of my friends for their weight, their education, their tattoos, their incomes, their “net worth” as he would often refer to, their credit scores, their physical features, their kids, their careers, their physical appearance, their physical shape, their relationships, made fun of our neighbors, his coworkers, his friends’ wives, wives who didn’t work, wives who worked but not lucratively, made fun of his friends for their golf game, their skiing ability, their needing/taking naps, their bankruptcies, their foreclosures, their divorces, their weight gain, their “hypochondria” as he would call it for their regular check ups and prescription medications, their outdoor allergies. He called them “genetically flawed.” He made fun of his relatives, my relatives and said very cruel things, even to me. You name it, it’s been ridiculed. No one was off limits. Literally no one. Anyone in his life or mine was wide open prey for criticism and condemnation and frequently was preyed upon. No one was excluded. No one was off limits. Nothing, and no one was sacred. I ignored it. I made excuses. I looked the other way. At times I even began to believe some of the criticisms I would hear repeatedly. I put on a happy face to coordinate with his mask. I pretended it was not a big deal. It was a big deal. It was cruel, cold, senseless and bizarre. It began to deeply impact me, to change me, but I continued to brush it aside as just a bad mood. Looking back I can see the immense intolerance and cruel judgement for just about everyone we knew, everyone in and around our circle and yet I protected it, protected him, and tried to hide the truth of his character from others (including myself), his real views of those in our lives. It bothered me, but I had become immune to it. It had become a regular part of my daily existence. His superiority. His sanctimony. His grandiosity. His world. I now understand where the intolerance was truly coming from. I never saw, never understood how much he hated himself, primarily because I didn’t realize how much of what I’d been told over the years was untrue. I guess I just didn’t want to see it. I minimized it. I compromised my values and in that, I lost myself for a while. I called the behavior patterns his “bad moods.” Love is sometimes blind to truth, and that blindness has its own set of consequences.
The self-hatred and the daily liquid self-destruction was painful to witness. What a helpless feeling it is seeing someone you love torturing themselves not knowing what to do, not opening up. I was in denial of his truth. What a huge burden for him that must have been to carry around all those years knowing at any moment it could all be exposed. As the long told stories and discoveries finally unraveled, so did the truth. People, I have learned, will come forward with it after the fact. They don’t share what truth they know until it’s over. I have no more false images or mirages strategically placed in front of me, just the truth. Truth is always far better than falsities.
Be real. Be truthful. Compare yourself to no one. We each have our own journey in this life. Have loyalty, character, honor, integrity. Surround yourself with good people. When and if you see questionable traits in another, see them as they are and don’t look the other way if you don’t like what you see. Avoid being blinded by created facades, mirages strategically created and placed in your path to distract you from discovering the truth of what you’ve been told.
If you feel the need to constantly belittle others coldly, cruelly, critically, if you can falsely take credit for another’s accomplishments, even so boldly and brazenly online at your former college/university fraternity, you are indeed, quite sadly, very small. You are in fact, little.