Friday, November 30, 2012

Choosing Not to Play the Crooked Game

An old question asked of the washed-up cowboy who's lost all his coin in the saloon's game of cards as he laments that he knew the deck was stacked and he shouldn't have played:
"If you knew the game was crooked, hoss, why'd you play?"
To which the cowboy answers,

"Pardner, it was the only game in town."

I played my part in the NFOO Crazymaker game for thirty years; seventeen by the conscription of my minor status and thirteen more out of varying degrees of guilt, shame, obligation, fear and myriad other dark, compelling, binding chains of emotion.  Did I know it was crooked?  Did I know it was a fool's exercise as I ran and ran and ran myself to death on the giant hamster wheel of the parameters of my service to the needs, wants, desires and whims of the Clan's members?  Did I know that the end result, the payout, the promised reward of acceptance for my one and only self as a full-fledged member of the group was a hollow, rotten promise with less than zero chance of ever being fulfilled?

I can answer this completely honestly by saying: not usually.  I'm not sure that anyone with a normal background, that a non-abused or non-neglected person or non-ACoN person, could really understand that answer.  It seems that we either know something or we don't; that harm vs. non-harm is a rather black and white area with a firm dividing line down the middle.  At least it should be.

But for me, it's a complicated question.  I was well trained to doubt my own senses.  I was told from day one by master manipulators that what I thought was pain wasn't; that it was actually love.  That denying myself basic needs wasn't a bad thing; it was selfless giving and that my desire for reciprocation of that giving was nothing more than sinful and dirty selfishness.  That having expectations that I be treated with basic respect was wrong.  That my logical thoughts didn't really make any sense at all.  That what I said or heard or saw didn't actually happen, even when I knew it did, unless they said it did.

In a million different ways, they taught me that I was worthless, and that everything good about myself - anything that I could take even the slightest amount of pride in - would be used against me, over and over again, to cause me pain until I grew to hate those once good things about myself.

So, did I know the game was crooked?  No.  I just believed that I was crooked instead, just like I'd been told.

But I did find out, eventually.  I pushed back from the table, took the pittance of my wealth that was left and attempted to exit the game.  Shit got hairy then, let me tell you!

I persisted, though, because I had seen.  I knew.  Once I saw that they were dealing from the bottom of the deck and had aces stuffed up their sleeves, well, I couldn't unsee.  I couldn't unknow anymore.  So I had to fight my out, and I sustained some heavy injuries in the process, but I made it.

It wasn't until I'd gotten clear that I stopped to evaluate the people that I'd been sitting around that table with in the first place.  That's been an education.

I saw ENF most clearly first, as his crimes were the most dramatic, had that hint of flair that really made them stand out in memory.  Then I had to look at NM as she was the other complicit adult.  I looked deep enough to begin to understand that she was guilty of her own crimes as well, and though they were more under the radar and subtle than ENF's, they were just as if not more heinous.

The only people left to examine were my siblings; NSis, who is four years older than me and GCYB, two years my junior.  These were by far the hardest relationships for me to deconstruct.
They were my cohorts in childhood, my sometimes life-rafts in surviving the fucked up tsunami tidal wave of crazy (h/t Lisa) that was my 'family.'  We fought together in some of the same gunfights, you know?  We were comrades and friends and I thought that we would always have each other.

I remember saying, "They had to live through the same things that I did, so I think we have strong bonds and we'll find a way back to each other."  So I was a little bit naive.

I couldn't quite figure out where to put the sibling relationships for a long time, because I couldn't get past the fact that NSis and GCYB were victimized by the Nparents too.  I didn't want to compare our battle scars, afraid that my knowledge that I'd been the favorite whipping girl and scapegoat would be confirmed, but I knew that we'd been on the same side at the very least, right?  I kept getting stuck in the loop of knowing that they were abused too, and I didn't want to write them off because I just knew that if they could just see what I'd seen - if they could just know the truth - they'd be able to get out too.

It took a long time and a lot of hurt for me to understand that they weren't ever going to get out, that my notion that I'd blazed a trail that could be easily followed out of the dysfunction and that they'd follow just as soon as they could was false based on one idea and one idea only.

I slowly realized that they would never follow me out of the NFOO because they didn't want to leave the NFOO.  They have stayed within the drama-filled, hate-fueled crooked game in which the House will always take ALL because that is where they choose to be.  They're not like me.

I saw the truth.
I had to act.

They saw the truth.
They slammed the door on it and held a confab to determine who was to blame for letting the truth out of it's god-damned box in the first place.  (Guess who that was, come on, just guess.)  Then they set about trapping it and burying it again.

That's a fundamental difference, boys and girls, a philosophic deal breaker of epic proportions.

I used to wish that they could find their way out.
Now I understand that they see the exit plainly, but they're choosing to stay in the game.

If I live to be two hundred, I'm not going to understand it (anymore than I can understand how a normal drinker leaves half a beer on the table because it got warm or flat or why it's so hard to get sharks with little frickin' laser beams mounted on their heads or any other ridiculous thing.)  I do, however, understand that their choices are theirs and I am not responsible for either of those things.

I'm just glad that when I was presented with a choice, I chose to leave.


PS: Thanks to all the bloggers out there who've been dealing with sibling issues and posting about them; your struggles always help me to define my own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grateful for the Nots, Too

Between pie making and turkey prep, thought I'd pop in and leave a quick note to say:

As I spend a day tomorrow hearing about others' gratitude and talking about and thinking about how grateful I am for all that I have, I will NOT feel guilty for taking a moment to be grateful for all the people who are NOT in my life anymore, all of the bullshit that I will NOT have to deal with during the holiday, all the drama that will NOT be sitting at my table, all of the pain that will NOT cross my threshold.

I hope that you all have a lovely, trauma-free holiday and that you will cherish all the good that you do have as well as the absence of all that bad that you don't.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Purpose of Boundaries

I believe in setting boundaries.
I think that learning how to set boundaries around our homes, hearts, lives,souls, spouses and children and family of choice is a mightily important step for ACoNs to take.
Most of us weren't taught in childhood - when we should have been taught - to establish those crucial lines, buffers, stop-gaps and walls.  We weren't taught that we have a right to defend ourselves in body in spirit or mind.  We were taught that defending ourselves was tantamount to inviting increased pain, at least I was.

Learning how to defend myself and more importantly how to protect myself, has been a hard fought uphill battle of the last few years.  I've had to relearn stores of data in order to correct the system glitches that the Narcs implanted years ago.  It's involved serious contemplation of all the relationships around me and often I've been forced to the realization that some of the relationships I had - which I'd once thought were normal and healthy - were seriously messed up.

I've discontinued long term friendships with people whom I truly thought were on my side because as I've learned to control my controllables (read: ME) I've had to face the fact that many of these people were using me for my extraordinary Scapegoat Superpowers.  I've discontinued my relationship with sweet alcohol as I've become healthy enough to understand that what release I found in its tickly bubbles was both short-lived and false (plus, you know, it just plain quit working.)  I've discontinued doing the dance of the FFA - that's Fake Friends of America, you know what I'm talking about; the people who invite you to purse parties and talk about how fat they are and what diet pills work or brag about how super special their kids are and compliment you on your haircut and sharpen the knives of gossip and fakery incognito so that they can slip the blade in when you turn around to see what was on that plate of crudites.  I don't want anything to do with relationships that involve more than, oh, let's say 5% vague falsery, and only as it regards those subjects that fall under the heading of TMI, basically any topic involving the word 'discharge'. I'm okay with friends lying to me about that.

So, essentially, I have learned how to have a small amount of honest, truthful and full-disclosure relationships with other real people.  This is a good change in my life.

I have learned how to protect myself from potential relationships with dishonest, untruthful and sneakily fake relationships with fake people and their fake intentions.

Here's the thing, though.  Narcissists and those controlled by Narcs aren't either one of these types of people.  They're a whole different banana.

Now that I've taken a somewhat circuitous route around the ballpark, here's what I've come here to say tonight...

Locked doors keep out honest people, but thieves know how to pick the locks.
Fences make good neighbors, presupposing that the groups on both sides of said fence are willing to respect it.
A country's border doesn't mean anything once the rockets are launched.

When I began on my journey to learn how to protect myself, I thought that setting and holding boundaries would protect me, sure.  But I also thought that I was teaching other people how to treat me, that I was saying, "Hey, this is the line and I will only tolerate behavior that doesn't cross it," so that those others would stop crossing that line.  This is a natural thought process, I think, to a normal person.  When I drive, I stop at the line before intersections, not in the middle of them.  When I fly, I stop at the line on the floor that I'm not supposed to cross until the TSA lady waves me through.  That's what lines are for, designation of a change in the plane of existence.  Before the line, I do one thing.  After it, another.  It makes sense.

But Narcs don't respect lines, especially lines drawn by the Scapegoats, the ACoNs, the children, those whom they wish to control - basically everyone that they allow in their lives.
Locked doors, fences, unlisted numbers, space boundaries, borders: all these things are red flags to the bull-Narc's eyes.  They must possess, own, control, have it all.  I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too, and your children and your money and your spouse and your house and your time and your food and everything else you've ever had or might ever have.  That's the only boundary acceptable to a Narc; I get you all, or you get nothing.

So what have I learned?  I learned how to draw boundaries because I needed to learn how to do so in order to keep myself safe in the world.  I learned how to be clear, so clear, about what I need, what I'll accept, how I will accept it and the circumstances under which I will walk away.

I've learned that the people around me who respect these boundaries are the people in the world that I might potentially have a relationship with.  And those who cross these boundaries once are people whom I might still have a relationship with, as long as we can have an honest conversation about the line-crossing and come to an agreement that it won't happen again.

Most importantly, I've learned that the people who choose to trample my boundaries are the people that have no place in my life; they're the Narcs and the users and the abusers.  They're the lock-pickers, fence-jumpers, rocket-launchers and it's best to A) Stay the fuck away from them, B) Call the police when these people show up.

I set boundaries for me.
Anyone who chooses to cross them is doing nothing more than giving me absolute proof that they don't deserve to be in my life.


Cyber-Gut Feeling

I wrote a post a few days ago about the fact that I know that I will have more confrontations with members of the NFOO at some point in the future; specifically that I know that they will initiate more confrontations. 
About how I've done what I can to keep myself and my family safe, but expecting Narcy Narc and the Narcy Bunch to change their stripes is just ridiculous; they won't ever change.
About the fact that I'm battle ready.
And I am.

I mentioned specific evidence that convinces me of their future planned encounters; that they've tried to use social networking to contact the DD's and have posted passive-aggresive Narcy shit directed specifically at me.  I noted that my plan for the last two years in NC had been to check profiles once a month to keep my finger on that nasty-Narc pulse.  That was on 11/7.

I checked profiles this weekend - my once a month peer into the dungeon door actually pops up on an email calendar, which I find a bit funny as it reduces crawling through the sewer pipes of their lives to just one more task reminder.  I checked... guess what?!?

NSis and GCYB have private profiles now.

So I'll just say this once, and then I'll be able to move on.
NSis, GCYB or any of your minions, friends, anciliaries, flying monkeys, etc: do it.  Bust my anonymity.  I dare you.

I triple dog dare you.

I can't wait to publish your names here.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Battle Hardened and Attack Ready

I'm not a big believer in the pursuit of Why, particularly when it comes to the why of the way that Narcissists behave. I used to be. I used to be on an a quest to understand their actions, to comprehend their logic, to break all of the assaults and behaviors and manipulations down into little bite size pieces with explanation, coat them with the sweet sauce of exposition and make them more palatable for me to chew up and swallow.

I spent scads of time on this journey to understand. I wrote checks in an attempt to purchase relevance. I thinked and thought and thunk some more in my efforts to figure it and them out. The only answer I received had more to do with acceptance of their natures than understanding of their motivations; they do what they do cause they do it. But that was a different post.

In my failed Quest to understand the Holy Grail of Why They Do the Evils They Do, though, I did learn a lot. Most of what I learned concerned the How of their actions.

ACoNs are trained from day one to NotSee and to UnSee. We know the truth of most situations, in my experience, as we are generally intuitive, observant and highly attuned to the gestures and actions of those around us. These attributes are often keys to our survival. We know what's really happening, but we are forced by our Nfamily to carry those truths silently within ourselves and to keep mum. We know the truth of the evil deeds, but we are trained to protect the perpetrators from their own actions with lies. Then, in the ironic twist that is inherent to life with Narcs, we are blamed for their evil actions in the first place.

It's the definition of CrazyMaking. How does a child survive this paradox? We learn to UnSee, at least to the best of our abilities. Of course, it makes us sick and causes us great pain, but we become masters of denial.

So, when we try to get better, when we begin to walk a path we hope will bring us to healing, we often are surprised by the outright heinous, forcefully aggressive assaults that the Narcs begin to hit us with. We've been ingesting their lies for so long, making up our own lies to protect ourselves for so long that invariably at some point we began to believe them.

I remember telling myself that surely it couldn't have been as bad as I felt. They probably didn't mean it that way. I was being overly sensitive. I wasn't perfect either, and maybe I was being too hard on them.

No wonder I couldn't be honest enough to see their attacks for the declarations of war that they were; I couldn't even be honest with myself about the facts of the abuse I'd suffered at their hands. I was stripped to the bone emotionally and had no capability to understand my own actions, no less someone else's. Throw Narcissism in the mix and all bets of comprehension were off. It was all I could do to even cope.

In retrospect, though, I can see a clear pattern of escalation from the very first boundary that I drew with the N's to the final storming of the beach that resulted in No Contact.

In the movie Casino, Joe Pesci plays strongman Nicky Santoro, protector to casino veep Ace. His portrayal of the character is terrifying partly, I think, because Joe Pesci's what, five feet tall? Regardless of his small stature, no matter what he looks like or what he seems to be, though, he's a vicious, brutal killer. This is how Ace (Robert DeNiro) describes Nicky.

"You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead."

Set aside reason, forget about reasonableness. This is how Narc's against the wall of a boundary communicate; with an ever evolving and escalating series of attacks. Civil tools aren't going to get them to back off.

You want them to stop calling you to scream at you? They're going to call you to scream AND they're going to get someone else to call you to scream at you too. You ask them to stay away from your children? They contact those children in every way they can think of, even moreso than they've ever shown any desire to talk to them before. You change your number? They show up at your house. You call the police when they show up at your house? They show up at your work. You ask them to leave? They call your customer service hotline to complain about how you treated them while pretending to be a non-involved customer. You manage to find a way to cut them out of your life completely? They stalk you and find out who your non-involved friends are, make nice with them and try to turn them against you. You lock your doors? They peer through your windows. You move on? They hunt you down.

They do not stop. Ever.

They can go into a cycle of dismissiveness, sure. They'll move on at points, find new victims, stay away for awhile if they can find other sources of Narc Supply. Junkies can usually find a new supplier, you know (but that doesn't mean that they forget their favorite drug.) Mine did, and there have been times when I've been lulled into the deceptive calm; into believing that silence is equivalent to serenity and that maybe they've just given up, gotten over it, moved on. This isn't truth, though.

They are fully capable of changing their game, developing different tactics and strategies, and they're good at it. (This, more than anything else that I know of, speaks volumes about them. If they are capable of changing the way that they come at me to hurt me, then they are absolutely capable of changing the fact that they are hurting me. Simple math then makes it easy to deduce that the capability to change is there; willingness to do so is what's missing on their part.) I've made it hard for them to get to me, and this creates some space because they aren't willing to work that hard, at least not today. They're getting their fix somewhere else, you see, so right now at this very moment, I get a pass.

But I'm not off the hook from their attacks. I'm back-burnered, that's all. Sooner or later, I've no doubt, there will be a trigger (my money's on my oldest DD turning 18 in a couple of years) and then they will be back in force (probably coming at my daughters rather than me; predators always go for what they see as the easiest prey first.) We say in alcoholic recovery that the disease of alcoholism doesn't go away when we stop drinking, it just hangs out behind our backs doing push-ups and getting stronger, waiting for an opening to slither back into an active status. So too, I believe, are the Narcs lurking in the shadows out there, just thinkin' shit up.

I'm not a paranoid conspiracy theorist. I don't sit around detailing or stressing about the ways that they're planning to get me. I just don't ignore the truth anymore.

Almost two years ago, the DD's let me know that NSis and GCYB had been trying to contact the DD's via social networking. This was almost three years since the last time I'd spoken to either NSis or GCYB. We're talking absolute radio silence, not a phone call, a letter, nothing, nada, zilch. The DD's have always had private profiles, but we took the additional steps to systemically block NSis and GCYB (and the minions that I know of) from the DD's profiles. And I started checking NSis and GCYB's profiles once a month from a dummy profile. I didn't really want to know what was going on in their lives, but I know them pretty well. They've rewritten history to the point now that they really believe that I'm the bad guy, the catalyst of their unease and destruction. This works to my advantage in a way, because they're not careful, they stand so firmly on their false moral superiority that they don't particularly watch what they say.

I'd lay dollars to doughnuts that if they did succeed in getting a response from the DD's or making a connection somehow, they'd be crowing their success from the mountaintops. So, once a month, I check and see what kind of shit they're flinging on their cyber walls.

Two years ago just after Thanksgiving, NSis posted a whole bunch of pictures of the "family" as it exists today all dressed up and posed by the Christmas tree. And the title of one of those Norman Rockwell portraits of traditional family bliss: "FUCK YOU VANCI." Of course she used my real name.

After NM's drug induced and mismanaged near death stay at the hospital in April of last year, NSis posted a comment about how "all the family is here with us now." Then she followed it up with a clarification, "Well, all the good family." Then yet another clarification, "I didn't mean any of the extended family in [another state], just Vanci."

So, no. I'm not off the radar. The guns might be pointed in a different direction momentarily, but they didn't lose my coordinates, not by a long shot. So they'll come at me or they won't when they feel like it, and they'll escalate as they see fit. They never took my opinion or feelings into account in the first place, even when I was the glue that held their lives together, their indentured servant who spoke to each and every one of them every day. They're sure as fuck not going to take my boundaries or wishes into account now.

Just like Nicky Santoro, they'll keep coming at me, one way or another.

That's dark, isn't it? Frightening, even.

But guess what?

They can't touch me.

I've done the work to break the cycle, and there isn't a single person on the face of the planet that I care about who doesn't know exactly who the Narcs in my NFOO are, and exactly what they do. There also isn't a single soul I care about who doesn't know exactly who I am, what I've been through and what I stand for. They may have rewritten history in their minds, but I've got the facts, the proof and witnesses galore of what and who they really are, what it really is and who I really am.

I have truth on my side, and I stand ready for anything they can throw.

Come at me, bros.

And we'll just see who ends up in the (metaphorical) hole in the desert.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Narc Attacks

A few of my blogger friends are currently under attack from the Narcs in their life and as a result I've spent some time today thinking about and remembering what that felt like.

It's been a long time since I had to endure the full-frontal assaults.  I disconnected long enough ago from the NFOO that we don't have many paths that cross anymore on a regular basis (i.e. I don't work with people who plan BBQs with the N's,) and what brief small town encounters we do have are largely non-events because I could give zero fucks about them.  That's right, you heard that right; how many fucks do I give?  Zero.

 My Narcs are the kind that really don't want to work too hard, you see?  They came at me fast and furious for the first year, but my reactions at that time were soft and shaky and they no doubt knew that if they kept it up long enough, I'd break.  Go back to my lifetime long pattern of giving in.

If they were betting people, I can assure you that that they went all in on my coming crawling back, repentant, to the hearth of the Clan.

Losers, then.

But after it became apparent that I was out, truly out, and that their old bag of tricks wasn't pulling me out of the hat, well.  They quit.  Largely.
A couple of half-hearted attempts were made, primarily when there was an out of the ordinary happening that they felt they could use: NM was hospitalized.  They called.  (And I went, something that I don't regret as it was a complete and total validation of the rightness of my decision to leave in the first place.)  But really, each of the random attempts to reconnect on their part were nothing more than a feeler.  As soon as they realized that I still wasn't going back to the old ways of game playing, well, they quit again.  Which I'm sure works out well for them: I'm a lot easier to blame when I'm not there being all pesky with my truth-telling.

Really, in the last few years, these attempts have seemed laughable to me.  They were pathetic stabs in the dark.  Nothing more.  They wanted the old, usable me.  They didn't want the new and improved version and they were just so fucking befuddled when they finally figured out that the version of Vanci they were looking for didn't exist anymore.  It was like watching the emotional equivalent of a Three Stooges routine where they're trapped in a dark room and trying to find the door.  They trip over everything, especially themselves.

But at the beginning, when every knock on the door, every phone call signaled another assault, I was terrified.  It's scary to have another human being stomp all over your safe places!  Especially when this safe place that you've so carefully created with boundaries and walls and double-chained and barred locked doors has taken you your entire lifetime to build and it's the only safe place you've ever been able to create for yourself.  And it cost buckets of blood just to build it.

And it's confusing to have to go to such lengths to keep out people who've spent their entire lives convincing you that this pain they're delivering on a daily basis isn't actually pain; that you don't know what you feel, that you just need to listen to them because they know what's better for you than you do and that if this thing they're giving you and calling love really feels like awfulness, well that's because there's something wrong with you and it's your fault anyway.

Everyone wants to be loved by their parents.  Everyone.

It's a hard thing to do, realizing that they don't love.  I didn't forget the 'us.'  They don't love. Period.

They spend forever teaching us that we are unlovable, that we are the reason that their love doesn't work, that we are responsible for the bad and never provide the good, that it is our job to provide in the first place and that we have failed before we start.

But it doesn't really have anything to do with us anyway, ever.
It's about them.

They can't love, or they won't love.  Either way, they don't love.

So take heart, dear friends.
In creating safety for ourselves and learning what we need, that we have a right to want it and taking action to ensure it, we are doing right by ourselves.

I've said to my DD's and some of the young ladies that I mentor often that I know this to be absolute truth:  I ALWAYS HAVE A RIGHT TO DEFEND MYSELF.  Always.
And so do you.

Sending lots of pixie dust into the ACoNverse tonight.


Thursday, November 1, 2012


There have been so many awesome posts up lately.  From the bloggers that were here when I arrived on this scene to the newly arrived, man, we're throwing some seriously good writing, great ideas and fan-fucking-tastic conversation around this ACoNverse.

I hear us talking about:
Overcoming fear.
Re-thinking doubts.
Standing tall.
Reaching out.
Our right to be heard.
Protecting ourselves.
Changing our minds.
Sharing our souls.
Spiritual journeys.

I hear us saying these things with:
Hard-won experience.
Correctly directed anger.

I hear us saying that we are:
Stronger than we thought we were.
Able to take care of ourselves.
Smart enough to know better.
Willing to break our chains.
Wiser than we should be.
Willing to pass it on.
Hopeful for our futures.
Accepting of our reflections.
Gentle enough to help.
Kinder than kisses.

I hear a group of people who were intentionally and maliciously broken down to lower than low, laid flat by evil people, forced into subservience and humiliated at every turn, beaten to a pulp and left isolated and alone inches from death of one sort or another.

I hear that same group of people reaching out to each other and the world at large and speaking in their true voices, calling out to the stars and sea and saying, like all the little Whos in Whoville, We are here! We are here! We are here!

We talk so much about the Narcs.  We detail their offenses to the most minute fragment.  We re-live the power that they had over us, the horrors that they inflicted on us, the pain that they caused us and their shadows that still lurk waiting for us in so many dark alleys.  We have to, we speak out so that others can know.

We talk, too, about getting away from them, in inches or in leaps, and the how and the steps of that process.  We talk about surviving, cherishing, thriving, feeling, loving, living and the ways that all those states improve when we are Narc-limited, Narc-less, Narc-free.

They tried to make us theirs,all theirs; readily available for their consumption and soul-killing fulfillment.  And when they couldn't, they tried to make us monsters.  And in doing so, they discounted our strength and thereby created something that they fear.

To their dismay, their best efforts only served to create truth-tellers, light-seekers, hope-spreaders, joy-sharers, memory-keepers, path-walkers, precious human beings who will never be defeated.  We are not to be trifled with, we are stronger than strong, smarter than smart and I just have to say out loud that after jumping around and reading so many of the awesome posts and comments that have hit these pages in the last week or so that I've come to one conclusion.

We, my friends, in all our different incarnations, are some Bad Mother Fuckers.
And I love that about this place.
As TW says, BLOG ON!