The Psychopathic Parent- An Adult Child’s Story of Recovery

     The most challenging and difficult step to take in recovery, is to admit that something may not be quite right with your boundaries, choices, behaviors, values….

Being in a trauma bond with a psychopath is very, very much like an addiction. The powerful pull to the relationship, continues long after it is over…for awhile…and as with any addiction, sometimes people get hurt in pursuit of our drug of choice, the psychopath. We may also be contending with other addictions that need our attention and focus, but the most powerful is to the dynamic of the relationship.

Once we arrive in a place where we have studied the disorders and can’t learn anymore about them and we are convinced that this is what we were dealing with in the relationship, a new cascade of healing events needs to take place..and begins to happen when we can look HONESTLY at ourselves and our participation…our PERSONAL dynamics that got us into the relationships in the first place.

In my pursuit of the relationship,   with what I know now was my severe dependence upon my drug (my ex) people got hurt. My children were in the line of fire. This has been one of the most painful parts of recovery for me. Piecing it out and dissecting it, has come in small bits at a time, because the fallout upon them was traumatic and the guilt I have felt, knowing the pain that I caused them, in dealing too much with it all at once, puts me into DEFENSE mode and then into despairing. This is NOT a place I want to be in when dealing with the realities of others pain caused by me. Intentional or not. Professional help in dealing with trauma inflicted upon your children is advised. 

The impact upon my children is unquestionable and undeniable. During this process, I spoken to them all, describing my actions in detail and apologizing for it. I had to make amends with them, to reassure them that what happened was NOT their fault. The responsibility clearly rests with ME. They are adults now, and the age difference between my daughters and my son’s is a generation from oldest to youngest, and somewhere in between.

I see clearly how my childhood abuse, which was extreme, impacted my life, my choices and my children. I see clearly, my patterns. I see that my last psychopath was eerily similar to my father, both in image and in behavior. My father was wildly psychopathic and a “successful” one at that. I had Daddy issues, big time, but I also had Mommy issues too. I wrote out my abuse history several months back for my therapist at her request. It was painful to see, written out, the patterns and behaviors, the abuse itself, but what was so shocking to me, was not just how many did it, but how extreme. It was shocking to see, in writing, that there was not one safe human being during my entire childhood or adolescence. I had NO idea, other than visiting friends homes and knowing that it was “different” and more pleasant somehow, that what I was living was NOT NORMAL.

I was desperate for love growing up. My first sexual encounter was with a fast developing narcissist. When I look back on it now, the family dyanamic in HIS family was obvious, as well as HIS role of the Golden Child. Mine was the scapegoat. I was re-creating a trauma dynamic with the siblings (who were Golden Children), who were “trained” by my psychopathic parents, to degrade, ridicule and hurt. This is exactly what happened in that first relationship. Even THEN I knew something was very wrong with me, but not WHAT. Even then, I was desperate, clingy and needy and reactive. I was a high drama child and I created messes wherever I went, trying to win the love of a MAN, my father.  The guy that was my first sexual experience, was one of the most abusive. I believed I dearly loved him and it wasn’t until very recently, that I realized that this would set the tone for the rest of my relationships too. He would also be the one who would later rape me.

On the rebound from Psychopath-in-the-making, I was successfully paired up with what would be my first and only husband. He too, was psychopathic, with a horrendous alcohol and drug problem. I was NOT an innocent party in all of this. I had NO idea how to take care of myself. When I attempted to do something that meant I would be successful, I sabotaged it with my dependence. It was easier to let a psychopath tell me who I was,.. I KNEW how to be a failure and I knew how to respond to the dynamic. It’s funny to me now, how that works…I wasn’t “thinking” about anything. I spent my life REACTING. I had no idea until two years ago, that what was going on, was a pretty serious case of complex PTSD. I had been sexually abused by EVERY male figure in my life, as a child, that I should have been able to trust, including once, by my biological father while he was very intoxicated. My stepfather was the first to molest and it went on for about four to five years. When I told my mother about this, I was slapped across the face and called a “liar” and grounded “indefinitely”. The feeling from her rejection, still rings true in the feelings of familiarity in each of my abusive relationships. When she had done this to me, I felt like I might not breathe, I was in such emotional pain, and I completely shut down. I was eleven years old.

From that point on, my reactions were either very extreme and dramatic, non existent or inappropriate for the situation. I was emotionally disconnected from myself for years to come. Emotionally disconnected from life and what that truly meant with appropriate foundations in love, care, trust and respect. I was violated and I violated. I was manipulative, self destructive (I never cut, nor did I have a drug or alcohol problem early in life) in my relationships, other destructive with my children emotionally because I was not able to give them what they deserved from me with my full attention. I was abused by my psychopathic husband in a hundreds of ways, physically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually. Oddly, this was “comfortable” for me, familiar, like an old soft blanket I could not sleep without. I stayed long past the time to escape. Financially and emotionally dependent upon him, I endured abuse for 20 years. It was his physical abuse of one of my sons that broke the marriage, as well as my involvement with my next psychopath of ten years, who would be the one to deliver the worst blows to me and to my children through me. He was married and I was married when the relationship began as a friendship.

I pursued this relationship, in the beginning. There was something about this man and his REPRESENTATION to me that felt as though a soul connection, a kindred spirit. He was extremely calm, cool and collected. He rarely reacted to anything that would otherwise upset someone else’s apple cart. It was unbelievably attractive to me at the time. I saw him as extremely stable, the image of loving husband and father, who was being abused by his wife. At the time of the exit of my marriage, which was extremely dangerous for me, he was my knight in shining armour and would rescue me from the hell I had lived and I would RESCUE him too. I fell absolutely head over heels for this man. I had never been so driven, so DEPENDENT on someone for my happiness. This man would be THE ONE to love me right out of what was my life of insanity. I left my marriage. He, of course, did not and never intended too.

I mistook his calm, cool and collected demeanor as emotional and spiritual maturity. I could not have been more fatally wrong. He was one of the most dangerous psychopaths I have ever seen or been with personally, other than my father. And a successful one at that.

What is so profound about this last experience, is that it escalated ALL of my behaviors. The reacting, yelling, screaming (which he provoked and enjoyed), “lecturing” for hours with regards to his outrageous behaviors (he enjoyed this too and it took a long time before I realized why), manipulation, lying, hiding, secrecy, deviant sexuality, alcoholism (started with him, wine was his MO with each target), crying for hours, begging, pleading, needy, clingy, overly confident, doing anything to please and taking copious and outrageous amounts of abuse to a whole new level of extremes. He was my alcoholic, berating, sarcastic, brainwashing, mind fucking, sexually coercive, manipulative and abusive, biological father. He was my rejecting and emotionally withdrawing mother. He was my first sexual experience relived, the first abuser exponential, stonewalling, evasive, silent treatment mother fucker. He was my spiritually punishing and authoritative Pastor (he was a licensed Pastor and worship leader at his church). He was a snake.

And he was everything I believed I deserved, every abuse delivered to me by one man for ten years. I was as emotionally non commital to him as he was to all of the women he preyed upon. I never met his parents, but heard the stories. In some twisted way, my behavior was as familiar to him as his was to me. The perceived “chemistry” I believed we shared, was not one of healthy love, care, respect and values, it was dysfunction and sickness personified…and I could not, for the life of me, let GO and when I did attempt to try, he would come back…

There came a time when a miracle happened, but it was undoubtedly, at the time it happened, the most painful traumatic experience for me because it busted through my denial. It brought awareness home front and center. It knocked me emotionally on my ass so hard, there was no way to deny what was happening to me, in the relationship and who he was to me. I had allowed him to degrade me for years. I was his personal poison container. When he divorced and began to date, we were together only a very few short months and in between my blindness to his outrageous behavior, he was love bombing and targeting women behind my back. Even though I KNEW this in my heart, my mind and in my soul, I was ravaged. His evil shown itself because there was no reason to hold up the mask any longer. The last time I saw this man, we had lunch at his house, then had sex. His son was due home from school, so the act was finished, I got dressed, and after I did, my ex asked me to hide in another room…the children knew me. They knew I was the “other woman” in the affair with him, and had hurt their mother, but I could not believe that this man would ask me to hide from his son, now that he was divorced. I did as he requested, and his son came through the door, and asked who was there, seeing my car. His father lied to his son and said no one and tried as hard as he could to direct conversation elsewhere, as his son came into the room and saw me standing there. He turned immediately around and said, “Dad, you lied to me!”. But he said it in a  way that meant he had heard his father lie before, and the feeling that I had, the day my mother slapped me across the face and called me a liar, after I shared with her about what my stepfather was doing to me, was the SAME feeling I had that day….

I could no longer deny anything. It was as crystal clear as could be. I left and numbed myself all the way home. How much longer was I going to allow this man to treat me like an animal, to treat me like a prostitute? How long was I going to compromise myself to the point of suicide with this man? Did I have that much self hatred? The truth of myself was so clear. The truth of my past, the pain and rejection was crystal clear. MY PARTICIPATION. I was staring boldly at MYSELF then. While he pursued me that evening, apologized and begged to take me to dinner…I went, but I HATED him. I hated him for what he had done to me for ten years and I realized that I hated myself more, to have put myself through it. It was time to show self love, to drag whatever dignity I had with me. A show of solidarity, through so much abuse, for myself. I had never experienced so much fear, stress and pain in my entire life as I felt those ten  years.

Except in passing, I would never be with him again. And in an action of more self love, with all the strength I could muster, I spontaneously stopped drinking alcohol too.

During this time, I was in school working on getting a Bachelors/Master’s in Psychology. I could barely function. I made it through that term and the next with an excellent GPA, but the blinding stress of recovery was taking a toll on me. I was reacting and responding to everything, crying, irritable and angry. I threw myself into my work. I didn’t realize it at the time, but school, and my efforts to stick with it, despite the traumas endured and the excrutiating, unhealed wounds that I had, forced me to keep fighting in a show of independence. I wanted it so bad. More than I wanted him. I wanted me, even when it didn’t feel that way…

But it was not to be. I began to become very ill, but it started gradually to where I could not keep up with my studies, and my PTSD was out of control. I was diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders and a serious cervical spinal issue that requires surgery and has led to myelopathy. Despite this, my determination was still for me. I was going to fight for my independence, no matter what my circumstances would be. I had been severely dependent upon abusers my entire life. I never learned how to be independent because I was never taught to be. My psychopathic father had a mantra that he spoke often to me, as calm and cool and collected as my ex…”You will never commit to anything. You will always fail.” I never, ever forgot those words and I internalized them deeply. They became a self fulfilling prophesy. I was terrified to be on my own in any capacity and when I tried, I failed. I didn’t have the tools to deal with life in even a simplistic way. I learned to sabotage myself and my efforts. My father’s hatred of me, became my own. And I chose psychopathic men to make sure that the self hatred would continue.

I used these men as much as they used me, but for different purposes.

I don’t recognize the woman I was two years ago. There are pieces of me that I’m still struggling to put together in maintaining my health (Idid not receive medical care as a child, except for immunizations, because my mother was afraid I would tell someone about my stepfather’s abuse), to which I had neglected for so many years, striving to become emotionally independent and healthy. Working on the financial independence, while adjusting to the term “disability”. I have remained single, for the first time in my adult life. It has been difficult, lonely, challenging, and very frightening at times, but it has also been the greatest, most empowering, strength producing experience I have ever had. I have gone no contact with all of my pathological, biological family members and friends. I have developed new and healthy friendships with people that share my new values, morals and boundaries. Love, trust and respect have taken on new and vital hope and meaning for me. I don’t  know if I will ever WANT to have a relationship again. I’m enjoying my freedom, and my life is peaceful and quiet, without drama, chaos and without abuse. It is no longer filled with fantasy and fiction of relationships with disordered individuals. It has given me the gift of more awareness, growth, responsibility and genuine love, for myself and for others. I can live with that, have all of that, without the pressures of a relationship. I never say never, but for now, I’m happy just learning about me.

There are casualities in every war that is fought in our personal lives. Coming from a pathological home, and bulldozing through adulthood, unclear and unfocused, made for inadequate, at best, parenting skills for me. I love my children dearly, even though my actions did not show that to them due to my chasing a desperation to be loved and validated, and there is fallout from that. They have had several traumas to which I was, miraculously, able to be present emotionally, because they had experienced abuse at the hands of others. There is a running joke with the children about how Mom was always throwing them in therapy and while they struggle with their own Daddy issues, whatever Mommy issues they have, I make myself available to them now, with regards to me as a mother and my choices that have wounded them. Each of them have come to me and shared conversations about what has happened in the past. None of them, despite my neglect, felt that I didn’t love them. For this I feel incredibly grateful and enormously blessed. My daughters struggle the most and they are the eldest of the six and witnessed more of the abuse and were subsequently the most neglected. Their Mommy issues play out sometimes and that is very hard, but I’m hopeful that we can work through them as each comes up. If you have children and they were abused by you (even if not intentionally), or witnessed the abuse OF you, I cannot stress how important professional help can be, as well as the willingness to HEAR THEIR PAIN and to VALIDATE their experiences. Even facing myself and my issues was not nearly the intensity of the pain I caused to them and having to FACE it. As adults, they will make their own choices, and some of them may not be what you like, and/or reflect what they witnessed or experienced, but it is STILL possible to give them the gift of HEALING simply by VALIDATING them, this can go miles in their own recoveries.

Self forgiveness is something I’m working on now. That is a huge hurdle to jump. If an abuser is not shaming me or guilting me, I do it well enough on my own! I’m learning now about healthy self talk, and feeling my feelings as they come.

If you are reading this (and actually got through it!), and you are a survivor of psychopathic parents and abuse, I’m here to tell you, after my own experiences and the few survivors who really make it through the process that I know, that you are the most brave, courageous, beautiful people. It takes enormous strength and guts to face so much abuse and walk out of it alive and with AWARENESS. You are a miracle because breaking patterns, facing yourself, the enormity of your abuse history and those you have hurt and have hurt you, is not the rule. Psychopathic, disordered parents do major and extensive damage to their children. Living in this growing up environment is nothing less than a tragedy. Answering the call to your AWARENESS and then HEEDING it, and having an understanding of what healthy remotely looks like IS A MIRACLE. You may be breaking generational patterns of extreme abuse, although to do so feels and is, excrutiatingly painful, but the outcome IS worth the journey you are taking.

Your recovery, your ability to love, to make amends, to heal and be healed, is a testament to your humanity and strength and your depth and true character.

You will know a depth of love that most people will never know, because you have experienced the depths of hell in abuse.

Spend time getting real with you. LEARN TO LOVE AND EMBRACE YOU! You’re WORTH it! Promise!


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12 Responses to The Psychopathic Parent- An Adult Child’s Story of Recovery

  1. G says:

    Hello K.

    I just send you my comment….now I can see my first and familyname above my comment…I hope others can’t see it also…..if so…can you remove it?//
    Sorry, greetings G

  2. ann says:

    Wow Kelli
    reading your post took me down memory lane. For reasons i am still trying to decipher I married a man i now recognise to be a narcissist and endured 20 years of abuse.It was when he repeatedly physically abused my daughter and i threatened to go to the police he walked out.
    At that time when i was vulnerable and had no boundaries in walked my ex psychopath who i thought was my knight in shining armour. I thought i had finally found the soulmate i had been looking for and the fact that he was extremely intelligent, calm and collected and the very anthesis of my husband made him seem unbelievably attractive..Like you i was totally dependent on this man for my happiness.

    The worst part was that my two daughters were affected. and one of my deepest regrets is putting them at risk with a person i now recognise to be a sex maniac.After 18 months of staying in my house( he said he was being abused by his wife and of course i believed him)when i began to confront him about his promise of filing for divorce he just left..Wanting to find out what the truth was I went to meet his wife who lives in another city with his two children and learnt about his past escapades and lies. This was 10 months ago and although sometimes i have to fight the pain i am healing. Now i make myself available to my children and i can see changes in them too. I realize now that i need to talk to them about the experience and validate their feelings.

    I think you are incredibly brave Kelli in coming through all of the past and in remaining single and working on yourself, and when i read your posts i am filled with hope because i know if you were able to do it there is hope for me and other survivors. Love and God bless.

    • Ann,

      Thank you. I relate so well to something you mentioned in that your last ex was an antithesis to your husband. I SO understand that and this is why I fell so hard for the last ex too. It SEEMED to be the polar opposite of what I lived, when in reality, this man was the most abusive of them all and was JUST LIKE my psychopathic father, UGH!

      You will heal. I promise, is you stick with it. Doing something different is very uncomfortable for awhile, but even when if you might feel like checking out and going back or dragging another spath into your life, DON”T. It’s years of dysfunctional habits we are breaking and each day you RESIST the temptation and keep focusing on you, GETS BETTER. I’m so glad you feel hopeful. I’m very blessed by that. :)

  3. Yep, that’s me! Hi G! Welcome!

    All of those resources I have read. Claudia is a close friend. I’ll be doing reviews on her books soon. Dangerous Liaisons and The Seducer. VERY good books and her blog psychopathy awareness was very helpful to me too!

    I’m glad you’re reading on BR. It’s a great site! Natalie doesn’t focus on the disorders and I believe that education about it is very important in being able to let the relationships go. Knowing that they can’t change and understanding the dynamics of what happens in families of psychopaths is very important to in deciding whether NC is the best option with the family of origin because they are incapable of change too.

    Sounds like you are doing some great work! Thank you for posting the resources and despite the psychopaths in your life, NEVER give up on you!

  4. G says:

    Hello K
    Thank you for answering…unfortunately by this above comment I can see my whole name….can you remove it please and use only my letter G? thanks a lot, G

  5. After reading this post, I do understand how strongly you feel about no contact with extreme abusers. They put you through hell! It’s a blessing & strength that you were able to cut off contact!….I have felt the pain & rejection with my FOO, as you know. I haven’t had any direct contact with my FOO, for close to 6 months now, and I feel better emotionally & physically! :) I’m embracing my creativity & I’m inspired with my art. Along with healthier relationships with friends. I continue therapy to acknowledge & take responsibilty for my actions. Definitely, less reactive to abuse. I honestly can say I’m Stronger. Thanks for Sharing! This post hit home for me.

  6. This is where I am in recovery. Accepting my part in the sick dance that was my relationship spin cycle. It is not easy. It does require a lot of self-forgiveness. There have been times where I have almost completely shut down because the realizations are so hard to accept. Yet, each day things get better, by God’s grace.

    I am so glad that you are making your way, one day at a time, through recovery. I am so happy that you have your children, and are able to share in their lives. I appreciate all the personal work you’ve done to get to this place where you are able to encourage and inform others.

    I’m a fan, Kelli!



    I wanted to update you on the guy I have had my eye on. I asked a neutral party to find out if he’s single. He told the neutral party that he thinks I’m a sweetheart, but he is not available for a relationship.
    I’m good with that.:)


    • Mildred,

      As always SO great to see you here! That is the struggle it seems…integrating what we know logically, into something fathomable emotionally.

      I understand shutting down too. I still have my moments, and holidays are especially hard, not because of the ex so much as the family or origin. I think addressing our part in the dance is the hardest. At least for me it has been. It’s sooooo much easier to blame him or them, than it is to see me, but as I accept more of it, I also learn about self acceptance and forgiveness. I try to keep in mind that what I’m doing, they can never do. Conscience is invaludable, really.
      Mildred, I don’t know what expressions you’ve heard from survivors, but often there are statements such as, “I WISH I could just move on like he does!” I know it comes from a place of pain, but I relate to it because I have said the same thing to myself. I guess I could try to imagine what it would be like, not to feel. Not to have empathy or compassion for others, but would I want to be that way? I don’t think so. Not being able to love, and subsequently damaging others for my personal gain would not be something to be proud of! I think what is bothersome about those without conscience and that is the most challenging to accept, is not only are they without conscience and empathy/compassion, but they don’t care that they aren’t. It simply doesn’t matter. There isn’t justice because they will never FEEL it. Accepting that truly is unfathomable.

      Mildred, I’m glad you got an answer. And that it was an honest one. When it comes from a place of honesty, I’m good with that too.

      Thanks so much for sharing what you do. It helps me too. :)

  7. F says:

    I can’t even say how deeply touched I am after reading your story. I identify so much with your pain of having a psychopathic father and a mother in denial, and having dysfunctional relationships with people as a result. I have been severely abused emotionally in every relationship that I’ve had, and I have even attracted disturbing and untrue friendships that have made everything worse. I also have a psychopathic sister who abused me constantly and who I was only very recently able to cut off. I have been able to heal the past couple of years and for the first time in my life I have developed my self-esteem, only possible after isolating myself from nearly all people in my life. Very recently I had a past fling come back into my life, who is definitely a psychopath, love bombing me and playing mind games. But this time, since my self-esteem has been up, I never fully gave into it. He was irresistible at first, but I managed to cut him out before he could do any actual damage (for sure I wasn’t completely immune to his games, but I am nearly shocked at the difference this time). I still must work on stopping attracting these psychopaths, but this encounter has brought me to the awareness of what the problem actually was and its origins. Now the real challenge will be to start opening myself up to people again and forming healthy and trusting relationships. At least now I believe that I deserve to be happy.
    I wanted to tell you a little bit about my story because I was never able to share that with anyone. I am incredibly grateful that I have found your site and read your story, because up until now I couldn’t even name the problem, let alone find someone who actually relates. Your courage and your personal development are beyond inspirational to me and I will definitely think of you while I’m in my own journey searching for independence, real relationships and happiness.

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