Having grown up in a dysfunctional alcoholic environment, I spent just about 35 years involved in one “program” or another, and I was able to strongly identify with my “inner child” after one particularly grueling session with my counseling therapist. I could clearly see how my emotional development had been abruptly arrested during my childhood, and that I had developed into an adult whose every decision and action had been based upon the need for acceptance, validation, appreciation, and approval. Fear of “dysapproval,” “dyslike,” and abandonment were, among other things, the driving force throughout my lifetime.
Last week, when the discussions were flowing from new LoveFraud readers to the long-timers, I saw in myself a step-by-step process of healing that directly reflected that philosophy of nearly all 12-Step Programs, from addictions to co-dependency. I mean, isn’t that pretty much how we all were duped? We were addicted to trusting someone else with our very lives?
So, long before I made the discovery about the exspath, I had begun teaching myself how to speak and think “truthfully.” Speaking “truthfully” translates into plain, honest, no-sugar-coating speech. If I learned how to speak the truth without malice, perhaps I wouldn’t be such an easy target for sociopaths.
I digress. Back to the spur-of-the-moment 12 Steps of Recovery from LoveFraud:
Step #1: We admit that we had involved ourselves with a sociopath and that our lives had become a living hell.
What I believe that this meant was recognizing the glaring Truth: whomever the sociopath that we are involved with might be, we can no longer ignore the absolute fact that we have been used, abused, damaged, and discarded. It is a fact. It is a Truth. And, it cannot be denied if we have found our way to LoveFraud.com.
Step #2: Make the decision to sever our toxic relationship.
We have realized what we were associated with and we have made the choice to save ourselves, our finances, our sexuality, our system of beliefs, and our very souls. We have made the conscious, cognizant, and lifesaving decision to end the toxic association, for our own sakes.
Step #3: Admit to someone who “gets it” that we had been in a dire situation and need help.
Whether that “someone” is a counseling therapist, attorney, abuse hotline intake worker, or the “family” that we have on LoveFraud.com, we make the choice – the conscious decision – to reach out through our tears, our terror, our horror, our fears, and our despair and grasp the hands of Life. We need help – we need help – we need help because we do not have the tools and techniques to survive our experiences on our own.
Step #4: Recognize that we are a part of a Greater Universe.
When we are just beginning to survive our sociopath experiences, we tend to follow human nature and become quite self-absorbed. We believe that our experiences were the worst that could ever happen to anyone. Until, that is, we read stories like OxDrover’s, Witsend, Darwinsmom, Donna Andersen’s, and others. Yes, our pain is real, and the earth is still going to spin on her axis regardless of our agony. Whether we choose to place a “spiritual perspective” on this, or not, is strictly a personal choice.
Step #5: Agree to maintain NO CONTACT for the remainder of our lives.
Now, I realize that there are many of us who share custody with a sociopath and, for that reason, “No Contact” is a very difficult rule to self-impose. Well, for those of us who do NOT have children with a sociopath, stop trying to make sense. Stop trying to “talk” to them. Stop pretending that they’re speaking the truth. No river of tears, no impassioned pleas, no personal sacrifices, and no amount of money will ever “fix” what ails a sociopath. They will not care about your pain. They DO not care about your pain. And, they never HAVE cared about you. This Truth is a fact, and it is irrefutable.
Step #6: Make amends to all people that we had harmed, directly or indirectly, as a result of our sociopath entanglements, except when to do so would injure them, or others.
Yes, we were victimized. And, yes….we never asked to be victimized. But, we must look beyond our own damages and recognize that our friends, family, and inner circle experienced collateral damage, as well. We’re not apologizing FOR the sociopath. We are apologizing that the sociopath exists. Do we use the word, “sociopath?” We’re not qualified, but we sure as hell can say that they “fit the profile OF a sociopath.”
Step #7: Recognize our own frailties, vulnerabilities, and boundary failures and made efforts to repair and forgive ourselves for our mistakes.
The topic of “forgiveness” is a volatile one. There seems to be no grey area – either you forgive and heal, or you don’t and you stagnate. I disagree with both views. Forgiveness of “Self” is a moral, ethical, and emotional imperative. We were targeted, lured, and hooked by an organism that feels no empathy or remorse for damages that they create. We are not at fault with the exception that we trusted such a thing. So, we must forgive ourselves, FIRST. All the rest will come as it does, or not.
Step #8: Engage in open, frank, and truthful discussions about our experiences, how we were affected, and how our issues affected others.
Speaking about what happened to us, how it happened, and how it affected our friends, family, coworkers, and the rest of our inner circles is a part of the healing process. We speak truthfully and openly, but we keep in mind that “other people” often “don’t get it” because they have not experienced it themselves, or they are in denial. And, we are not responsible for anyone else’s issues but our own. We speak using facts – my counselor provided me with a sanity-saving mantra: feelings are not facts.
Step #9: Make every human effort to educate ourselves and others about the healing processes of sociopath entanglements.
By “educating ourselves,” I mean that we memorize and ingrain the Red Flags, and the Yellow Flags of sociopath behavior. The mechanics, studies, and statistics are utterly meaningless with regard to the healing process. And, the steps of our healing processes are not bound by a specific timeline. We must experience our healing and speak of our positive steps even as we re-examine how we were duped.
Step # 10: Allow ourselves to experience the grieving process in a healthy, productive way.
There are stages of grieving, whether it’s grieving the loss of a loved one, kicking a substance addiction, or losing the illusion that a sociopath has fabricated. We must be willing to identify and experience those stages with courage and acceptance. It’s OKAY to be angry! It’s OKAY to be sad! It’s OKAY to feel despair! But, we have to grab ourselves by our shorthairs and drag ourselves forward – nothing within the human condition prepares us for the carnages of sociopath entanglements. It is OUR time, now – our time to heal, to realize our own potential, to realize our own value, and to take our place as advocates for ourselves.
Step #11: Remain accountable for our own actions and decisions.
We can look to our sociopath experiences and say, “This is what happened to me and why I lost everything that I ever had.” What we cannot truthfully say is, “Because I was victimized by a sociopath, I am going to make stupid choices, bad decisions, and harm other people in my anger.” We may not excuse bad behavior on bad behavior. If we are wrong, or we’ve harmed another person (deliberately, or unintentionally), we stand accountable. It is not a mortal sin to be human. It IS “sinful” to refuse to acknowledge our own humanity.
Step #12: Continue to maintain our boundaries, NO CONTACT, and support and encouragement for ourselves, and for others.
We do not alter our boundaries on a person-by-person-basis. Our boundary failures are what allowed the sociopath into our domain, in the first place, and we may be wiser, but we will likely be hyper-vulnerable – more so than the “average” person. NO CONTACT is non-negotiable, even in situations of shared custody. We do not speak to the sociopath unless it involves the immediate safety/security/well-being of the shared child. All others are non-entities – they do not exist – they are not among the living – they are, in essence, deceased. We encourage ourselves AND others regardless of what our own issues might be. Through support and encouragement of others who are unfortunate members of the Sociopath Survivor Club, we are healed as we assist others in their healing processes.
So, that’s what it is, I guess. For whatever reason, I ran down the list of 12 Steps to the best of my recollection and attempted to put a LoveFraud.com spin on them. In writing these out with their explanations, I’ve taken another centimeter forward on my healing path.
I thank Donna Andersen, OxDrover, Mel Carnegie, and each and every one of you on this site for helping me along. We’re all going to push through our experiences at our own speed. And, may you each find the most sincere blessings of comfort on your own healing paths.