Excerpt: 'Getting It Through My Thick Skull'

* Glibness and superficial charm
* Grandiose self-worth
* Need for stimulation/prone to boredom
* Pathological lying
* Conning and manipulative
* Lack of remorse or guilt
* Shallow affect
* Callousness and lack of empathy
* Parasitic lifestyle
* Poor behavioral controls
* Promiscuous sexual behavior
* Early behavioral problems
* Lack of realistic, long-term goals
* Impulsivity
* Irresponsibility
* Failure to accept responsibility for actions
* Many short-term marital relationships
* Juvenile delinquency
* Revocation of condition release
* Criminal versatility

There he was: Joey Buttafuoco described to a T. And just like that, the lights went on. This information was the missing piece to an infuriating puzzle I'd been trying to solve for decades: What was wrong with Joey? Why couldn't I fix it? Why was our marriage in such constant turmoil? Why was I continually off-balance and bewildered? Suddenly, I saw my whole life through an entirely new prism. This knowledge was one of the most earthshaking revelations of my life—and, believe me, I've had quite a few surprises along the way.

My son's disclosure started me down a new and fascinating path. Since that night, I've done a great deal of reading, conducted lots of research, and talked to several experts on the subject. This type of personality disorder can manifest itself in a number of ways. Many sociopaths wreak so much havoc that their true underlying condition remains hidden for a very long time, if not a lifetime. Of course, people have affairs and cheat on their spouses every day. Lots of men and women struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. All kinds of adults are irresponsible, or liars, or manipulative, or charming enough to talk their way out of anything. None of these characteristics on their own mean anything other than what's there on the surface for all to see.

But twenty-two years of all of these behaviors in tandem established a pretty convincing pattern. There were plenty of warning signs along the way, if only I'd known what I was looking for. Living with a sociopath disrupts every part of normal life—sex, money, parenting, employment—and I scrambled around for twenty years trying to patch up all of those areas, never once realizing that there was a bigger problem. "Why can't you get it through that thick Irish skull of yours?" was my mother's constant refrain when I was defiant teenager. She bemoaned my thick Irish skull so often that it became a running family joke. My grandfather used to commiserate with my mother when she was at the end of her rope with me: "What's the sense of being Irish if you can't be thick?"

After years of grief and worry, not to mention a bullet to the head, I finally did get it through my thick skull. I'm quite clear about what was really going on with my ex-husband and former marriage. But I might have been saved all those years of doubting myself and hoping against all hope that things would change if I'd just been in possession of the knowledge and information I have now!

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