The Scapegoat has resigned

Hello, I’m an early 40sish adult daughter of 2 alcoholics.  And it’s very likely my mother, who no longer drinks, is a narcissist or at least has narcissistic tendencies.  My brother is an alcoholic in recovery, as are my sister in law and my stepdad.  I’ve been reading ACOA literature since the mid 80s.  I would always skip over the scapegoat parts because scapegoats divert attention from the dysfunction  by acting as a lightening rod for criticism and punishment by acting out.  They get in trouble with the law, in school and the family focuses in on that instead of dealing with the alcoholism or other dysfunction.

As a child, I was actually afraid to take the tag off of the matress or pillow because I’d read the tag.  When I borrowed a cookbook from the library, I was afraid to copy the recipe (to keep from spilling or getting anything on a library book) because I read the copyright page.  So I wasn’t really the getting into trouble outside of the home type.  But there’s a different way you can earn the title of scapegoat.  By truth telling.  Truth tellers are scapegoated because even if we don’t directly name the problem, we ask questions that lead to it.

One common metaphor for alcoholism in families is the elephant in the room.  I didn’t directly ask, “hey what’s with the elephant in the living room?”  But if I was kept awake at night by the elephant noises (my parents fighting/the police showing up) or if I stepped in elephant poop (a living room disordered by things thrown in anger), I would ask things like:

Did anyone else hear the elephant noises last night?

Why is there elephant poop on the living room floor?

My father was an equal opportunity alcoholic.  He would lash out at anyone who crossed his path when he was drunk or hungover. My mother was a bit more selective.   It was mostly my father when they lived together.  But when he moved out shortly before I turned 13, it became me.  And my mother would encourage my brother to join in.  This would happen whether she was drunk or sober.

When I was 20, my dad tried to get sober for the first time.  It took a few tries.  But when he got involved in AA, his amends step included apologizing to me and my brother and acknowledging what the alcoholism had done to our family.  The problem behavior stopped and he made genuinine efforts to improve our relationship.

Even when my mother stopped drinking, the closest I ever got to an apology was “As the child of an alcoholic, I know how difficult it can be”.  I took the olive branch and tried to have a relationship with her.  But the scapegoating continued.

After being excluded from various parts of my brother’s wedding (e.g. the only family member not seated with the bride & groom while a friend of bro’s & his wife were, being left out of photos until after dinner was done), I didn’t want to rock the boat.  Oh & mom spent the day criticizing the fact that I bought yogurt for breakfast, apparently it rivals Tiffany’s jewelry for expense & for staying at a different hotel.  I lied & said I got a better deal, but the truth is I didn’t want to deal with her and have to worry about a blowup or meltdown affecting the happy couple’s big day.  I was polite and civil to her.  And even the idiot of a couple she insisted on inviting even though they didn’t know my brother or SIL or their last names.  And this was a wedding which was supposed to have a total of 22 people including the bride & groom before my mom insisted on inviting these 2.

The husband starts in with “so your mom wants to know when it’s going to be your turn.”  As a single woman in my 40s, I sometimes get this line of questioning.  Anyone with any manners or social skills whatsoever drops it when I say, “when I meet the right man”.  Not this idiot, he just kept going.  And guess who I got to sit next to at dinner?  The hairdresser for the bride who no one knew either was supposed to be sitting on the other side, but she declined to stay so they took that chair/place setting away.  The only other people besides this couple, were my bro’s friend who kept leaving the table, even during dinner, his AA sponsor & his wife and one of bro’s friends.  Bro’s friend is also in AA and got into a very deep kindred spirits conversation on AA which I didn’t want to interrupt.  The sponsor’s wife couldn’t hear me across the table.  After dinner was over, I excused myself from the table.

Bro & SIL were the ones who broached the exclusion topic, calling me to apologize the next day.  I accepted it and was willing to move on right there, but SIL wanted to have a “honest” conversation about it because she felt it was important to our SIL  relationship.  I didn’t really want to hear (I was literally leaving the hotel to go drop off my rental car at the airport & meet up with a good friend who I was visiting)  it, but I listened as she went on about how it was an oversight, etc.  Then bro got on the phone with the same routine.  I accepted the apologies, told them no hard feelings, have a great honeymoon.

Well, upon their return from their honeymoon, they call me again.  Turns out I was excluded from certain things because they were worried about tension with my mom.  So much for “honest” SIL communication huh?  Bro knows what went on with my mom & continues to go on.  SIL didn’t and I hadn’t said anything up to that point.  But she decides she knows enough about the situation (despite having met me all of 2x) to start in on the “Your mother loves you very much” routine.  My mom has told me explicitly that she will not change when I try to confront her on hurtful things.  Yet, she likes to play the victim/martyr and tells other family members that she loves me and wants a better relationship.  This has caused some serious tension in some of my other relationships.  My wonderful grand aunt and I had some tense talks over this.  Until I finally started telling her verbatim what my mom has said to me.  I didn’t want to drag her in the middle, but I had no choice.  It’s also caused tension with me and my brother.  Our previous blow up a few years back had been over her, so I’d been careful not to say negative things about her to him.  I decided to acknowledge we both had very different relationships with her and respect his.  All I wanted was for mine to be respected to and SIL had clearly crossed a boundary as she knew at least something of the issues.

So I told her some of the highlights such as:

  • when my dad was in the hospital for the last time before he died, I had to sign the DNR.  I told her this when I got home.  They were embroiled in a legal dispute and she said to me, “I hope the bastard dies” before the legal dispute was settled.  She got her wish btw.  Then she went to console my bro, because he was “losing his father”.  WTF?!! If it weren’t for the fact that I look so much like my dad and his side of the family, I’d be wondering if she wanted to have a chat about my paternity!
  • when my father passed away, my mother was living out of state.  She wanted to “comfort” her children, but could only afford to fly one to her & it would have to be bro because he needed it more.  Shortly thereafter, she found money to visit her boyfriend
  • when she had a mastectomy (she’s doing well as far as marker tests, etc. go now), I took off 2 weeks from work, paid for a plane ticket to where she lives.  She screamed at me whenever I asked the nurse questions about the care.  She was like that before she got sick, so it’s not like it was because she was scared of in pain.  The last time I’d seen her, I’d been at an all my all time high weight.  I had lost 25 pounds.  She lectured me on how I’d better lose more or I’d get breast cancer too.  Bro, who was in prison at the time, managed to get a friend to send her flowers for Mother’s Day.  I got to hear her gushing about what a wonderful son he was.

This was all dismissed by her as typical dysfunctional family stuff.  I got off the phone because I was getting angry.  I tried calling the next day to find out from bro who exactly had made the decision to seat me away from them and next to the idiot.  And I wanted to talk about boundaries re: the mom issue.  Even though we had just talked the day before & it was likely he knew something was up, he fit me in the few minutes he had between an AA meeting and dinner.  I felt dismissed.  I wrote an angry email about toxic families, which I apologized for a few hours later.  I followed it up with a longer one which explained where I was coming from.

The next day, I get a voice mail that he’s going to need days to process this, but I’m “not being punished”?  WTF?  But that night,  he sends a link to photos to my mom and not to me.  Even though we’d discussed sending on photos (as they wouldn’t be still long enough for me to get photos other than what I could get candidly) as a way of “making it right”.  I gave it a day.  When I still hadn’t heard anything, I called and he wasn’t taking my calls.  I sent/left some angry voice mail/email messages.  That Saturday, same drill.  He sends me an email telling me he won’t engage and he needs a break.

I’m willing to admit my anger wasn’t expressed appopriately and I need to own it, take responsibility for it and work on it.  But what about their treatement of me?  It seems they’re only willing to take the most facile, superficial responsibility for it.  And when they crossed boundaries and brought up uncomfortable issues, they ran like the piece of bleep, bleepin’ cowards they are.  At this point, I don’t care if they ever resume contact.  I’m not sure I want contact with them.

I started short term therapy as a way of coming to terms with all of this.  The work there led to the information about truth telling and scapegoating.   Now that I’m aware that I am the scapegoat, I’m resigning and there will be no 2 weeks notice.  It feels good not to be the scapegoat any more.

20 thoughts on “The Scapegoat has resigned

  1. Thanks for writing this and showing how the dynamic works. Good for you resigning from scapegoat. You’ve taken the first step. Now enforce it. From one scapegoat to another, there is no way to win with these people. They take very superficial responsibility for their attitude and behavior. They use current buzz words that have the subjective effect of making them seem like the responsible ones, the victims – instead of you. Refusing to engage, needing a break… hello?? You are the one who needs a permanent break from these people, your blood relatives (unfortunately). I’m rebuilding a life without these people (by the way, my issues are my brother and mother too). Do you need them to survive? Are you dependent upon them for anything you absolutely must have? If the answer is no, go NO CONTACT and stay that way. And don’t let information trickle back to them either. That’s easier said than done, but so far I’ve been able to do it. It’s so refreshing to feel good about myself instead of negative literally most of the time!

  2. I’m really looking forward to reading more of these blog entries. It’s unbelievable… my mother and brother too. Brother = golden child, mother = victim, even if it means manipulating to get there.

    Because I have a child who loves them and who is, for the most part, removed from the dynamics we speak of here, I’m hesitant to break off relations with them. But I fantasize about it, too. It’s only gotten worse with time. I thought they all would’ve mellowed with age, but I was wrong.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. I’m glad you’re finding these helpful. I know I’ve found it immensely helpful to read the stories of other people who have been through this. There are some really good sites out there. One Angry Daughter & Narcissists Suck are both written by daughters of Narcissists and it’s amazing how similar the behavior can be. Shrink4Men is geared more towards men’s relationships with women who are personality disordered, but it provides a lot of good information about personality disorders.

  3. Just saved my sanity….Thought I was the only one with these issues and having a family reunion comming up. Now I’m ready! Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful! I know reaching out to others in similar situations has been a life saver for me.

  4. LOL! I could have written your post myself! It was a family wedding last year where I, too, was publicly scorned and humiliated by my family, as I have been the scapegoat all my life. But until the wedding, I never knew anything about NPD or scapegoating. It was actually the turning point in my life when I showed up at the wedding to find my three my sisters and their children happily sitting together and enjoying themselves and realized my children were the only family members excluded from the wedding. It cut me so deep that the next day I started doing research on dysfuncitonal families to try to understand how a mother and sister (N mother and Golden Child, also N) could be so cold and calculating as to do something so cruel to one of their own. I stumbled upon NPD and BINGO! Everything suddenly fell into place! My mother was chronically ill (COPD, diabetes, arthritis, on oxygen 24/7) and I had taken on the role of caregiver after she had been kicked out of another sister’s house. I helped find her an apartment, and she even lived with me for 6 months after nearly losing her leg to an open wound sore she got from a fall while living with my other sister. Long story short, that was the thanks I got for helping keep her alive for two years. The golden child’s son was gettng married and she and my mom talked about the wedding everyday for months. The story I got from the Golden Girl was that it was going to be a small wedding and not *all* of the cousins are going to be invited. There are only eight cousins. Well, we arrive at the wedding and it was one of the most lavish weddings I have ever been to — with over a hundred people or more! And there I sat like a chump eating a shit sandwich in front of everyone. I left early. Nothing was ever the same between my mother and I after that — not that it was ever good anyway. My golden sister slithered on back up north and I never heard from her again — until my mother died four weeks ago. My three sisters went an cleaned out her apartment the very next day — never called me or included me in any way, of course. I found ahome for my mother’s cat, and went to the memorial service. The golden sister told me I would have to pony up $100 for a pizza party she planned for afterwards. I gave her the $100 and skipped the party. I’d had enough targeting at the wedding — there was no way I was going to set myself up for that again! Or endure anymore hostility from my N sister. And my two children didn’t go, either. They learned their place in the family years ago. I haven’t heard from any of my sisters since. It’s like my whole family died on the same day. But it makes “No Contact* that much easier. I have had to learn to accept the depths of my family’s dysfunciton. Thank God for sites like this that help make the process easier, and make me not feel so alone. Blessings to you, and to all scapegoat survivors.

    1. Sorry you had to join the “club”, but glad you find the site helpful! Weddings really do seem to bring out the worst in people with PDs. As do funerals and any other occasion where they’re not the center of attention.

    2. Hi, I just found this blog today & I’m hooked. Just curious, did you receive anything from your mom’s estate or did she cut you out? I’m reading more & more that the scapegoat gets cut off in the estate.

      1. As of now, she’s alive, in good health and relatively young (60s) and we’re no contact. I know when we were in contact, the plan was if either she or my step-dad predeceased the other, the estate would go to the surving spouse. They had agreed between them that after the 2nd spouse’s death, any remaining estate would be split among his daughters and my brother & I equally. Though I don’t know how strictly that could be enforced if the surviving spouse remarried. If they both died at the same time, the plan was to equally distribute the estate among the children. I have no idea if I’m in the will or not. I’m guessing she cut me out. But that’s fine by me.

        After my experience taking care of her after her mastectomy (she screamed at and berated me constantly until it was time for me to leave for the airport, then I suddenly was an “angel”) , I realized there was no way I could be a caregiver if she needs it once she gets older. When I was going for civil, but distant, I was willing to visit a few times a year and over see care and contribute what I could financially. I often wonder if my SIL’s attempts to pressure a closer relationship had anything to do with her potentially needing to be cared for later and she & my bro were thinking as the only one of the kids/stepkids who’s unmarried/has no kids, I was going to take that on. Now, I wouldn’t even contribute financially or visit. I would oversee to the extent of getting a legal guardian in from the state/court if that ever became necessary, but that’s as much as I would do. Regardless of whether I’m in the estate or not.

        I’ve heard that some N parents will demand the scapegoat care for them, even asking them to relocate and quit or change jobs. They then will disnherit them or give them a less share than the golden children. To me, the sanity and serenity of not dealing with her in my life is worth far more than any inheritance. Though I wish there was some way to hold her responsible for my co-pay in therapy!

  5. Hi, I just came across this site & reading about the wedding & the other posts brought back flashbacks of my sister’s wedding 13 years ago. I had totally forgotten about it or blocked it out because it was such an awful setting to be at. Prior to my “GC’s” SECOND wedding, she had moved in with her now husband prior to the wedding. We were raised in a Christian home & this my mother’s eyes was unacceptable to her public. She asked me to talk to my sister about not doing it. I realize now that I was the scape goat of what her illness had made me. I honored her request because I was the abiding daughter & it blew up in my face. It turned into a huge fight between me my GC sister & then after my turned it into that it was all of my fault since I probably didn’t approach her in the correct way. BTW, there’s never been a correct way with my GC sister. She’s been moody & angry her whole life. The day of the wedding, I’m battling the flu but I made it to the wedding. I’m immediately shunned by all of my GC sister’s friends because of what I did & when the photographer was getting ready to take family photos, my mom say’s “here’s her sister” to him & he says, “oh she didn’t mention she had a sister”. My mom then goes, “okay, we’ll just go a head without her”. She walks off to the brides room to take photos, I look at my dad & he just looks at me like I don’t know what to do & walks off to the room not indicating that I should follow. I made up my mind that I would go home after the ceremony & I did. I now realize that because I have a narc mom & a GC sister why this madness & disgusting behavior took place. It all makes sense now. Thanks for posting & we’re all going to heal from this at some point. I’m getting stronger each day. We may never let go of all the sad memories of abuse but we are worthy to have a good life in the remainder of our life here on earth. May God Bless you!

    1. Good for you on going home right after the ceremony. I seriously thought about leaving the reception, but I didn’t want to ruin things. Looking back, I should have just left and taken care of my feelings and what I needed. I’ve told other relatives that if there’s drama at Christmas, etc., I’m leaving. Life’s too short to put ourselves through misery.

      How awful of your mother to put you in the middle like that. I’ve learned the hard way to tell people to take things up directly with each other. And it does make a lot more sense to do it that way. But when you’re raised in the whole triangualtion drama, it’s hard to realize what’s going on.

      I’m glad you found the posts to be helpful. These types of parents do like their triangulation, don’t they? I think it’s a form of divide & conquer, so the siblings can’t compare notes/provide a united front. Plus I think they’re miserable when they see other people getting along.

      It’s such a contrast with other parents. My dad passed away when I was 24, but I remember he would do what he could to help us settle sibling disputes. One of my aunts (dad’s brother’s wife), has told me how her father used to instill that they were siblings and should stick together. His philospophy was “never leave a sibling behind”. Anytime my cousins have had disputes, she’s encouraged them to work it out. We talked about it and she realizes after she and my uncle are gone, her kids will have each other as family support, as well as of course, the families they’ve created through marriage, children & choice.

      In contrast, my mother had highly contentious relationships with both her sisters. She’s estranged from one and was estranged from the other at the time of her death. She encouraged a disagreement between my dad and my uncle (his brother) to become a full fledge estrangement. She even limited my dad’s visits to his mother because she was afraid he’d reconile with him at his mom’s home! They only reconciled when my grandmother requested it shortly before she died of cancer. Now, my dad had a role in this too, he should have been more assertive and told her he was seeing his mom. But he may have just been trying to keep the peace. He had a lot of guilt after my grandmother died and that’s when his drinking got really bad. My dad was the one ultimately responsible for his drinking, but my mother sure didn’t help things. She was standing there at the fire with a gas can instead of a hose.

      Not content with wrecking her own sibling relationships and doing some serious damage to the one between my dad and uncle, she had to meddle in the ones between my brother, my SIL & me. It’s like they can’t stand to see people get along because they’re so utterly incapable of it.

      If it weren’t for all of this damage, it would be a lot easier to have some sort of relationship with her (though it would be quite limited) and feel some pity for her for her illness. But this type of damage makes that difficult indeed. Not only has her illness affectd my relationship with her, it meant less time with my grandmother before she passed away and that I have no contact with my niece. She’s managed to do damage to 3 generations worth of family relationships.

      1. That is so sad…. I’m in therapy now & my therapist will probably be releasing me from treatment next week. I’m getting stronger & I’m applying the tools I’ve worked on. She did warn me that “episodic” reminders will surface as I heal more. Your wedding story reminded me of my sister’s second wedding. It’s painful to remember but I’m glad I did because now I see how my mom’s illness has played out in my life. I now see my role in that mess & why to this day I can never remember her anniversary date. It all makes sense to me now. As you pointed out, it makes sense why they don’t like seeing people get along. My husband & I both are social butterflies & outside of my sick family, people love us but they can’t understand why. My dad passed away 10 years ago, & I now see his role in this too. I’m not excusing his bad behavior for not protecting my sister & I but I do see the damage my mom created in his life which I now feel so sad for him. He provided for my mom & her family till the day he died & now I look at how terribly she treated him & her in-law family. So sick! However, it makes me stronger & this year the upcoming holidays will be different. I have yet to create my own traditions due to my mom always dictating what we do. Now it’s my turn. I look forward to your upcoming posts! Thanks for this site!

      2. And it will be the weirdest things that trigger it. I looked at my carpeting and it reminded me of an incident with her. I wrote about it yesterday in “You’re Too Good to Me, No Really!” I’m going to write about another one prompted by someone ringing the bus signal a bit too early.

        I’m trying to heed the advice of my therapist on this. He said it’s important to sit with the feelings which come up and don’t try and distract ourselves from feeling or stuff the feelings down. I find writing it out to be hugely helpful. I was inspired by the blogs One Angry Daughter and Narcissists Suck. WordPress is pretty easy to use and you can set it so that it’s private or only certain users or open.

        Music can help. I put together a playlist including Sinead O’Connor’s Fire on Babylon & Joan Jett’s World of Denial and I used to play them loud (on headphones so as not to disturbe the neighbors) and often in the beginning of the estrangement. I’m still dealing with some sadness from the estrangement, but more and more, I’m focusing on working through the feelings I have about being mistreated and forming my “family of choice”.

  6. Here”s another funny for you….My husband & I now say we have “our NarDar” on! You know, like radar! It helps to make light of the situation. His dad is also a narcissist!

  7. Oh my goodness… and a brother in prison too, whose poo always comes out smelling like roses!? Are we long lost siblings? Honestly, I just found this blog and you have inspired me to blog about my own experiences. I already have 2 blogs but it never dawned on me to blog about my most-likely NM and all the nonsense and craziness I’ve lived through for most of my 40 years! I haven’t actually blogged yet but I swear, I am going to, and I am so glad to have found your blog as well. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Welcome! Sorry you have to be part of the “club”, but I’m glad you find this helpful and I definitely encourage you to blog about it. It really helps me in coming to terms with things.

  8. I knew I wasn’t alone as far as having a mother that “hates me” I put it that way because thats how I figure she has done just so much unnessary damage to me. That I’ve spent the 10 years crying why does she hate me, why is she so mean and for what ? Then there are the two answers I come up with, my daughters. Yes mom would say at her bar always everyday drinking a functional drunk no consequences for drinking 84 years old. Well all I’ll say is between my 2 younger brothers and my mom I dont exist. I disinherted to the point where I’ll have a roof over my head my mom has told me she is spending some principle only to say nothing will be left but thats a joke a person who buys tax free bonds her whole life is just come up with sceams to hide her bonds by giving them a home. Even my older daughter whom for at least ten years were so close. But as soon as my health and business became real down Grandma stepped in , I thought for severl years because she was helping me, boy was I wrong on her 16th b-day I handed her a ccard with 100 bucks she practtlly threw it back in my face saying that wouldn,t even buy me a pair of jeans and when you shop you have to put outfits together and besides gma takes me to the mall whenever I need satuff I don’t even have to ask. Well ,I think if I went on I’d sound like I’m not over it, because I’m not . Yes I need money I’m disabled and no one cares not my mom my kids my brothers . Mom has turned it her way the cash in advance way. I’m rotting taking care of my sick wife who lives in an alf on meicaid and they including the kids only care about themself.

    1. Stephen, it sounds like your mother has turned your daughter into a selfish brat. What bad manners and lack of awareness to be so ungrateful toward yout gift. I hope in time she comes to regret her bad behavior, and appreciate her father. It sounds like you are a good man, caring for your ailing wife. I hope you’ll be able to find some distance from your toxic mother, and heal so you can be your own best friend and make the most of your time. Maybe you can tell your daughter that you love her and are there to support her emotionally if she needs you, and that you will help financially only when you can. And then add that you willhelp herfind a job if she wants, and that she is always free to keep relying on grandma for money, but you think that’s between them, and you will be there for her in other ways. She may not take you up on it, but it
      might help her understand the situation a bit better, and help develop her character. Good luck with everything.

  9. My family likes to scapegoat me. My partner is his family’s scapegoat, and interestingly, most of our friends are also the black sheep of their families. Of course, they’re FAB people!

    I have realised that there’s no point being truthful with my family – and I know I will never have an deal family life. Who does? As time goes on, we are drifting apart and I’m finding that works for me. I have to live my own life.

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