Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

I know, a fairly shocking title – read on.

There is one topic which never fails to bring an immediate reader response.

Narcissism.

My mother was what I would call a forerunner in the world of alcoholism.

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In a generation of women who stayed silent and dutiful in marriage and most importantly either ignored the obvious or kept the secret, she did not.

That’s not to say my mother had the initial strength to leave my father. She loved him and that love never faltered. Honestly, I can’t say for certain she would have left him, had he not done the leaving for her.

But my mother did not live the type of life of secrets and shame which can accompany living with a drinker. Especially in a generation where women donned housecoats or pearls and kept the face of the family intact. In other words, for all outside appearances, nothing was amiss.

I do not remember a time my mom shied away from our truth.

I do not remember a time she made apologies for having chosen a man who could not overcome alcohol.

I do not remember a time she made us feel sorry for ourselves.

This was our reality.

And she firmly believed it was God’s intended path for all of us. 

I remember a woman who in my twenties told me she felt sorry for me not having a father.

Do not feel sorry for me,” I said. “Because I have never felt sorry for me.”

There was nothing to feel sorry because a brave woman who was far ahead of her time acknowledged and accepted her circumstances and rose above them.

She was a minority.

A woman raising five children alone amongst a world of two-parent families. She could have felt different. She could have felt victimized starting over and becoming the physical, emotional, and financial support for the entire family. She could have felt the type of shame which accompanies alcoholism. She could have judged the women who remained in marriages of either overt or weekend alcoholism.

Instead, she grew even stronger and more faithful.

And she served as the listening ear and emotional support to many women who remained in marriages with this type of affliction.

Remarkably, never quite aware of the fact she boldly embraced and spoke about a secret many still kept behind the four walls of the home.

I’m not entirely sure why my mother never felt embarrassed by something which induces silence in the majority.

I think it was a combination of her New York moxie, innate leadership and that in general, my mom didn’t make apologies for any aspect of who she was.

Eventually, over the years an awareness was raised to the culprit known as alcoholism. Support systems began to manifest and healing could replace a spouse’s sense of enabling shame, isolation, and loneliness. In time, more women would leave regardless of financial vulnerability.

Far be it from me to oversimply the far-reaching pain of this disease.

An impossibility as I am the adult child of an alcoholic.

I am simply saying it came out of the dark shadows of one generation.

The secret finally shared.

I wonder if narcissism is this generation’s secret?

The disease which begs awareness and acknowledgment as spouses and families suffer behind the four walls of the home.

Because much like the drinker it is the family who often solely witnesses the worst.

The individual the outside world isn’t privy to.

And much like the overly caring enabling spouse of the alcoholic –  who goes from making excuses for the bad behavior to crying to begging and to all out yelling and saying terrible things as their home life turns to chaos – so too is the spouse of the narcissist.

Add to that the similar confusion which evolves…

The alcoholic and the narcissist who suffer the actual diseases begin to paint an unrealistic picture of the loving and loyal spouse who ironically refused to leave them at their worst. Of course, this is not difficult to do as the aiding spouse has destroyed themselves while choosing to remain in an unredeemable and an impossible situation.

Both the alcoholic and the narcissist believe their clouded perception of reality due in part to different aspects of their respective illnesses.

And sadly, both of these illnesses compel a family to revolve around one singular, destructive and difficult personality which ultimately implodes all emotional safety in the home.

Yet, no one talks about narcissism.

There are little to no forerunners.

There are no emotional support systems.

There are no listening ears.

While much like the weekend alcoholic, the narcissist walks freely seemingly operating at a normal level.

And the world is oblivious.

Unaware of the narcissist’s subterfuge.

All of this begs the question.

How is it possible?

How are the emotional abuse, financial abuse, control, destruction, unethical and illegal divorce tactics and prolonged divorce proceedings still hiding in the dark shadows?

How is it possible?

A generation later women are still expected to don housecoats and pearls.

And pretend for all outside appearances, nothing is amiss and everything is intact.

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