Hello, my name is __________, and I’m a narcaholic.

wood blocks on table with plant. Letters on blocks spell RECOVERY

Narcissistic addiction is the overwhelming need for the good opinion or acceptance of someone who neither knows empathy nor mercy yet is skilled at reading weaknesses and asserting control over your identity, replacing your inner voice with their own. Since that inner voice is the anchor for judging your safety and acting in your own best interest, this is an extreme emergency for your safety and well-being.
This is also referred to as trauma bonding, which is the process where the victim identifies with their victimizer due to the stress they’ve endured together, even though the victimizer was the source of the stress. This bond, however, is no ordinary trauma bond; the narcissist assumes complete control over your identity, making their opinion of you the central concern of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This may sound to some like it is a religious cult, I would agree but also say that it can be much worse. We are born with social attachment points through how our parents try and mold us in childhood. Seeking a hit of certain neurotransmitters (most likely oxytocin), children look for approval from their parents and will try to correlate their actions with positive responses. As adolescents, we replace parents with peers – oxytocin is released as a result of social belonging or validation. Typically, and fortunately, the hold of peers is weaker than that of our parent’s influence, but oxytocin remains a core mild addiction into adulthood.

We seek in-group status in our professional and personal ties throughout our lives. When you get accolades from your boss about the good job you did, or your spouse talks you up in front of their friends, or you get praise by a peer for something nice you did for them, there is a release of oxytocin. To quote the movie ‘Revolver’, “We’re approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch.”

Some people may think they can give themselves a big pat on the back because, whatever their ample flaws, addiction or alcoholism is not one of them. Uh-huh. Sure. The oxytocin port through which our parents dispense approval is as it turns out, a major security vulnerability. Cults infiltrate our heads through that port, making approval of the group or prophet the regulating valve for dispensing that sweet sweet neurotransmitter hit.

Cults are at their core just institutions, however malign; give the money and devotion, and they will validate you. It’s not to their advantage for you to deteriorate. Once you’ve given to them, they draw no joy from torturing you further. They need to keep you in good enough shape so that you will keep giving. Narcissists, however, are governed by no such boundary. They get off on torturing you – the destruction is the point. A narcissistic partner or parent is like a cult which believes in human sacrifice, and the sacrifice is you.

All over the internet you will see it in question after question:

“What will the narcissist do if I say this?”
“What will the narcissist think of that?”
“What will my narcissist ex think.”

These are people bereft of a supply of a feel-good neurotransmitter, barely clinging to day-to-day existence as they quit it cold turkey. These are people in the throes of addiction.

“Addictions are a dilemma of relational estrangement and spiritual bondage. They infect the body, mind, and soul. There is  popular misconception that people pursue addictions for pleasure: they “chase the high” of drugs or alcohol. Addiction is more like experiences of psychic pain and spiritual hopelessness. They are conditions of profound suffering.” Waters, Sonia E. Addiction and Pastoral Care, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019.

I have watched a recovering person’s head bead with sweat as they spoke of how he enjoyed his nightly cocktail, through he was over 20 years sober. When I started thinking about narcissism again recently – thanks to my job and the constant reminders of its plague on my clients and society – I thought about my father, and how I’m not so different.

After almost five years, I have no interest in my narcissist father, no respect for him personally, and no dependence on his opinion. I regard him as deeply disturbed and without humanity. When I am around my co-workers, or my friends, or family I feel no craving for oxytocin or whatever it is the narcissist blocked and then meted carefully out in order to control my addicted brain.

I will not lie and say that when I’m home alone, in solitude, it does come out of the blue. My inner voice says, “too bad you didn’t do exactly what he wanted you to do with your life so that he could tell you that he is so proud of the woman you’ve become!” then goes quiet a few seconds later, before I catch on to what has just happened. For some reason my old narcissist addiction still manifests like a phantom when I’m oxytocin-deprived. Hello, my name is Jessica, and I’m a narcaholic.

If you’re freshly freed of a narcissist, what I’m saying here may not inspire confidence. Please remember that addiction is a process that does not happen over night and recovery follows that same process.

I do fairly well in spite of this, and I am absolutely fine when I am not alone in my thoughts for days on end. It will not matter how many years I have “sober”; the narcissist made an impact that I, with the help of God, will fight most likely the rest of my life. I found a quote somewhere – I can no longer dig up the source – I had written it down in a notebook during my recovery,

“Nobody could understand the level of the terribly psychic takeover unless they have lived it personally. I have met people 30 years later after no physical contact who still feel like the narcissist moves through the daily like a black icy ink.”

*Please note: This is my personal view and experience after going no contact with a narcissist. Not all narcissists are the same and not all victims’ stories are the same. If you think that you are suffering from an addiction to a narcissist or that you may have one in your life and you are just not sure, please seek a professional counselor that can walk you through the signs and symptoms.

The Wizard of Oz and other Narcotics
by Virginia Lefler

Every day headlines are filled with examples of narcissistic individuals in positions of power who are nothing more than impostors plundering and wreaking havoc on the lives of others. From the financial barons of Wall Street to our elected officials in government, we are confronted daily with narcissists and the self-serving systems that enable them. Helping people reclaim their lives from this sinister exploitative force is the mission behind Payson’s book, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family. Using simple metaphors from the American classic, The Wizard of Oz, Payson illustrates how Dorothy’s journey captures all the seductive illusions and challenges that occur when we encounter the narcissist. Empowering the reader with the ABCs of unhealthy narcissism and the unique problems that occur when a person becomes involved with the narcissist, Payson gives step-by-step practical tools to identify, protect, and heal from these destructive relationships. Largely un-addressed in the psychology and self-help literature, this ground breaking book offers hope and help to those who have been drawn into these devastating relationships. She includes illuminating case studies that identify the problems that occur in the different types of relationships, from co-workers, to friends, to parents, to lovers. Readers employing these insights and skills will find new abilities to identify and protect against the narcissist’s manipulations and take back control of their lives.

Jessica Pottorff, MS, MA, T-LMHC, CADC

Woman with red hair wearing black dress with white polka-dots. She is wearing red glasses with white polka dots and leaning up against a brick wall smiling.

Jessica holds a Master of Arts degree in Christian Counseling of Substance Abuse and Addictive Disorders as well as a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is also a certified alcohol and drug counselor. Jessica is currently accepting new patients; please use the contact form if you would like to schedule a session with her.

Jessica is passionate about working through codependency issues, guilt and shame, and spiritual issues and allows God and Scripture to empower clients to see their potential and to find their identity in Christ. Jessica is authentic and builds rapport quickly with her clients by being personable, compassionate, and Christ-centered. She has a passion to help people develop a deeper relationship with God as they pursue wholeness in all areas of their lives.