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The alcoholism and narcissism link - Ostracism and being the scapegoat in the alcoholic family

Old 10-28-2016, 09:07 AM
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The alcoholism and narcissism link - Ostracism and being the scapegoat in the alcoholic family

For anyone dealing with an alcoholic who exhibits narcissistic tendencies, the article linked to below is a must read.

A quoted section from the article ...

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"My experiences in various Alanon and ACOA meetings is that they are full of scapegoats and ostracized family members. In one I went to, between a third and a half of the attendees either had no relationship with their family members or barely any contact with family members (aka very strained, superficial relationships).

It was shocking for me to learn this! And also upsetting and baffling.

In most of the Alanon meetings I have attended, the people in them are gentle, quiet, reasonable, responsible, respectful souls.

The attendees that show up every week for years and years are community leaders, teachers, therapists, yoga instructors and nurses with altruistic motives, people who have worked very hard on themselves to do the right thing, to go way out of their way to help others without expecting anything in return.

In short, they seem like the most empathetic members of society.

When I think of the people in these groups, I think of the doting nurses in hospitals who allay your fears, and make sure you are comfortable as you transition through a scary and emotional time. Some even seem downright saintly. And these are the hated black sheep of their families? I was aghast! How did it end up this way?

Scapegoating (in terms of the family) means being bullied by the entire family. The family picks on one of its members, blames that person for everything that goes wrong in the family, desperately goes on fault finding missions to explain away abuse, and (mis)interprets the victims feelings in an ugly way to further convict and bully (more explanation coming soon).

So, as it turns out, the most bullied members of society are in the helping professions: nurses and school teachers as evidenced by this NPR broadcast here.

The scapegoating of these kinds of members of society actually makes sense when you research why.

Alcohol destroys the part of the brain that is in control of empathy (NBC article here). The disorder associated with a lack of empathy is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (alcoholism can mimic this disorder has been well documented in psychiatric literature).

Narcissists constantly indulge in situations where all blame for life events and relationships that go wrong are heaped onto someone outside of himself, usually a scapegoat.

The documentation for Narcissists who pick a child to be his or her favorite (usually labeled a golden child who can do no wrong), and another child to be a scapegoat (who is the least favored and can do no right) is well established in psychiatric literature also. ...

The Scapegoat role is assigned to the child who has the least amount of traits of the Narcissistic parent (usually a sensitive empath).

Since alcoholic brain damage mimics Narcissism, the Narcissist chooses a scapegoat in the family who is the most sensitive and empathetic and heaps all blame for what has gone wrong on this member (while convincing other family members who share similar bullying characteristics to help in ganging up on the scapegoat).

And who are the most empathetic members of society? Nurses, school teachers, yoga instructors, home health aides and the like. "
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The full article is here ...

Misadventures with Angry Alcoholics, Bullies and Narcissists: ostracism and being the scapegoat in the alcoholic family
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:10 PM
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Thank you for the article. It sure hits home.
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:24 PM
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Really interesting TTHG. Thanks for posting.
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:45 PM
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Very interesting. I still can't figure out the A in my life. On one hand he is a classic narcissist, but on the other he often discusses his problems as the result of things HE'S done. Meaning, he is fully aware that he is the problem.The only time I see the scapegoating is when he brings up how his father treated him - which may or may not be true - as being the reason he is the way he is, but still does not condone his behavior towards others.

The part that makes all this the more tricky is when you can't trust who they are because you don't know if they themselves truly believe what they tell you, which in my case is rational awareness of his problem and his responsibility, or they are just telling you so you shut up. That in other words is their brain so damaged they really believe their own delusions?

The A said to me, "you will never have to go through this again" as he was putting away all the bottles of household items containing alcohol I dragged out to the car and locked during his last binge. I wondered to myself, does he truly believe what he is saying right now eventhough history has proved that he WILL do it again? In other words, how much damage has all the alcohol and poisonous items he has ingested done to his brain.
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Old 10-28-2016, 01:00 PM
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This is my understanding of personality disorders...

All personality disorders fall on a spectrum. In order to be diagnosed with NPD you must meet 5 out of 9 criteria which is really hard to do. I believe many people are a**holes but not actually NPD.... they fall on the spectrum and display traits of but are not full blown. Full blown NPD is incurable... there is no "their" there, they have destroyed it as a defense mechanism.

Alcoholism mimics NPD in the sense that the person becomes selfish and is unable to have empathy for others. Alcohol warps the brain and the person's perception of reality in very similar ways, I like to think of it as the addiction hijacking the body like a parasite... it is keeping itself alive at any cost.

Someone who is alcoholic can enter recovery, an NPD never will.
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Old 10-28-2016, 01:13 PM
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I will say what I once thought was clearly NPD in my partner, just didn't fit completely. He has shown a lot of empathy eventhough he continues to make my life a living hell. But...he has shown empathy and some messed up form of love. However....what I did find him to fit almost every single check box of, is Borderline Personality Disorder. Almost complete textbook case in fact. I think among Alkies you are more likely to find borderlines than NP. Just a thought and observation.
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Old 10-28-2016, 01:14 PM
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I think you can do sh**y things to people and still have empathy, just not at the moment of indulgence because your cravings far outweigh your consideration for others.
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Old 10-28-2016, 03:52 PM
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These family roles can also change as the family landscape changes. I was the hero child- oldest daughter, perfect grades and behavior, totally obedient, ultimate people pleaser and caretaker for a long time. Then my dad remarried. His new wife has a daughter just a year older. Since she lived with them full time and I was just a weekend interloper and my "evil" mother's daughter, new daughter took the place of hero child and I got to be the scapegoat during my visits. Everything that went wrong was now my fault, anything I did or liked or admired became laughable and unworthy. I was human garbage and they let me know at every opportunity. At 12 this abrupt transition was horribly painful and confusing. I honestly believed that there was something wrong with _me_, that some fatal flaw I possessed had caused all of this and _made_ my dad suddenly act this way. I had always felt I had to "earn" love by being perfect, and I suddenly couldn't do anything right.

What has really helped me to process that, and all of my other ACA issues, has been to enter into my own recovery. Yes, the initial knowledge helped me to understand that I needed some kind of help, but the endless analysis kept me stuck. As a child I had no choice in my environment and relationships. But the things I carried over as an adult are my responsibility to analyze and fix. So hero vs. scapegoat, victim vs. volunteer, whatever. None of that is as important as the power I have now to shape my own destiny, to define my own role(s) in life.
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Old 10-28-2016, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Smarie78 View Post
I will say what I once thought was clearly NPD in my partner, just didn't fit completely. He has shown a lot of empathy eventhough he continues to make my life a living hell. But...he has shown empathy and some messed up form of love. However....what I did find him to fit almost every single check box of, is Borderline Personality Disorder. Almost complete textbook case in fact. I think among Alkies you are more likely to find borderlines than NP. Just a thought and observation.
I agree with this. My ex...and probably my dad to a certain degree are highly emotional people and both have substance issues. They have some really narcissistic trails but then ive seen such genuine love and empathy. Ive identified more borderline characteristics in them. I have actually identified borderline chracteristics in myself as well but I've read a lot about codependency overlapping with borderline pd. Alcohol and substance just warp minds so much the person turns into a shell of who they may actually be deep down.
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:22 AM
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Thank you, great article and relevant
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Old 10-29-2016, 09:01 AM
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This is a VERY helpful, timely article.
Before I went N/C with my family, my middle sister would periodically tell me that I was always the favored child in our family.
This could have an element of truth, probably because I learned early to stay out of the way and blend in.
That sister, on the other hand, never met a fight she didn't like. She was always getting in trouble with our parents because she just couldn't shut up. She is still like this today.

Going no contact recently was the best thing I could do.
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Old 10-30-2016, 01:30 PM
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As a recovering alcoholic (25 years), this is my take on narcissism and alcoholism. I'm sure there are alcoholics who are also narcissist but the two aren't necessarily related. In AA's Big Book, Bill Wilson describes alcoholics as "self centered in the extreme, selfish, enormous self-will coupled with low self esteem". It's the psychology of the disease and simply abstaining from alcohol doesn't change the person much. The 12 Steps of AA are designed to ameliorate these tendencies and cognitive therapy can also help, but it is hard work and takes many years.

"His majesty the child", I've heard it described. I think recovery is about growing up, becoming a responsible person who doesn't always put themselves first.
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Old 10-31-2016, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Expanding View Post
This is my understanding of personality disorders...

All personality disorders fall on a spectrum. In order to be diagnosed with NPD you must meet 5 out of 9 criteria which is really hard to do.
Yes it is hard to do, but I someone who meets the clinical definition for NPD, who is absolutely diabolical to be around.

I have known this person for many years, and I have absolutely no idea when they are talking to me when they are being honest with me or not.

If I wrote about the absolutely destruction this person has caused to multiple people, the stories are so diabolical that you would likely not believe me. Though it is hard to meet the clinical criteria for NPD, there are people out there that do.

One of the biggest issues with a real NPD is that so much of their behavior is a false self, that they can be absolute experts at concealing who they really are. It is only when a situation occurs which really hits some NPD buttons that the mask comes off and their real NPD self is revealed - it is a horrific experience to be on the receiving end of.

Originally Posted by Expanding View Post
I believe many people are a**holes but not actually NPD.... they fall on the spectrum and display traits of but are not full blown.
Yes that's very true.

Originally Posted by Expanding View Post
Alcoholism mimics NPD in the sense that the person becomes selfish and is unable to have empathy for others.
Yes exactly.

I actually wondered if my ex had NPD because her behavior during the worst of drinking had similarities to the descriptions of NPD. The article made me understand how alcoholism mimics NPD.


Originally Posted by Expanding View Post
Alcohol warps the brain and the person's perception of reality in very similar ways, I like to think of it as the addiction hijacking the body like a parasite... it is keeping itself alive at any cost.
That is exactly how addiction was described to me by an addiction counsellor, with an emphasis on "at any cost" - when someone is in the grip of addiction, the addiction will make them do whatever is required so that the addiction can continue.
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Old 10-31-2016, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Smarie78 View Post
I will say what I once thought was clearly NPD in my partner, just didn't fit completely. He has shown a lot of empathy eventhough he continues to make my life a living hell. But...he has shown empathy and some messed up form of love. However....what I did find him to fit almost every single check box of, is Borderline Personality Disorder. Almost complete textbook case in fact. I think among Alkies you are more likely to find borderlines than NP. Just a thought and observation.
Hi Smarie,

BPD and NPD are so closely related that often there is overlap of NPD and BPD in one person.

The Diagnostical and Statistical Manual (DSM) is written as if everything fits into neat boxes, but reality is not always that simple.

https://www.clearviewwomenscenter.co...fferences.html ... reads ...

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"Based on overlapping symptoms, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are often mistaken for one another. The two personality disorders even have a rate of co-occurrence of about 25 percent, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). ...

Narcissistic Personality Disorder can exist on its own, but can also be found co-occurring with Borderline Personality Disorder. Mix and match five out of nine symptoms of NPD with five out of the nine symptoms of BPD, and you get someone who will likely be described at least as “difficult” or “high maintenance,” and who certainly is having a tough time in day-to-day life.

Both people with BPD and with NPD deal with an intense fear of abandonment. Enhancing that fear of abandonment is the fact that sustaining relationships with others in the face of these symptoms is a challenge to say the least. “Intense and stormy relationships” is, in fact, one of the characterizing symptoms of BPD.

In an article for Psychology Today, Susan Heitler, PhD, author and Harvard graduate, describes emotionally healthy functioning in the absence of BPD or NPD: “Emotionally healthy functioning is characterized by ability to hear your own concerns, thoughts, and feelings and also to be responsive to others’ concerns.”

In the world of the narcissist, that second part just isn’t present. Narcissists are unable to step outside of themselves to imagine any weight behind someone else’s opinion. This renders someone with NPD socially and emotionally ineffective, and affects their ability to maintain relationships.

On the other hand, those with BPD are often over-responsive to other’s concerns, especially when they are in the “idealization” phase of a relationship. But anger and resentment from putting the other’s concerns first inevitably cycles around, causing resentment, at which point the relationship will enter the “devaluation” phase.

The key to a healthy relationship, says Heitler, is finding the point where both parties’ concerns are taken into consideration. “When differences arise, socially effective folks are pros at finding win-win solutions because they routinely hear and take into consideration both their own and other people’s concerns,” she said."
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Old 10-31-2016, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by timetohealguy View Post
Yes it is hard to do, but I someone who meets the clinical definition for NPD, who is absolutely diabolical to be around.
That should have read "Yes it is hard to do, but I know someone who meets the clinical definition for NPD, who is absolutely diabolical to be around."

This is not one of those "I have a friend who" things haha. Honestly, the NPD is not me LOL
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Old 10-31-2016, 06:56 AM
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I think there is a difference between being a narcissist, and the alcoholic mindset. Narcissists are basically egomaniacs that think they are the greatest person to walk the earth, where alcoholism is an almost uncontrollable addiction. In the alcoholic mind, booze is most important thing in life, and everything else takes a back seat. Many alcoholics actually feel completely hopeless, that they are worthless, and that the alcohol is the only thing that can get them through life.
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