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From the adult-child of 2 borderline parents to being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to recovering from BPD at the age of 38 to the non borderline role in a relationship with someone with BPD. I have extensive experience with the pain of both side of BPD. Six years after I had recovered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) myself, I ended up in a relationship with someone who had BPD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What a mess. Paradoxically a mess that would make sense and order in my life in ways that I could not have ever imagined.

As I have written about in my ebook, Full Circle – Lesson For Non Borderlines, I too have had a relationship with a partner with Borderline Personality Disorder. It taught me so much more about BPD generally. Specifically this relationship I had taught me a tremendous more about the reality of the need for non borderlines to overcome denial about borderline love. It taught me about the pain and agony of the non borderline and it also taught me a lot about Borderline Personality Disorder and the reality of addiction.

My borderline/narcissist ex-partner was also addicted to alcohol. She was an alcoholic. As if these types of relationship aren’t impossible enough already. Addiction only adds to the likelihood that the borderline will lack the necessary self-awareness (even in the absence of a known self) to be able to see just how much they need help.

Many a relationship partner of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (and those with BPD and NPD) get caught up in the codependent and enmeshed need to rescue those with BPD. I know I did. I got caught up in this feeling and desire to rescue my borderline/narcissist ex from herself because I loved and cared about her and also because her personality disorders and her alcohol addiction were so familiar to me since I had 2 parents with BPD who were also alcoholics. Even though I thought I was beyond it all back then, I had not worked out enough of the remaining issues with my parents in terms of how I couldn’t rescue them so I tried, I think, not only to rescue my borderline ex but to rescue my un-rescued parents through her.

It was a crazy-making situation of epic proportions to be sure. Not only can we not rescue a borderline and anyone with BPD that also has NPD has an even more complicated road to journey but when addiction sits in the middle of what is already a very toxic relational dynamic there can be no hope short of the person with BPD/NPD and the alcohol addiction getting treatment and sticking with it.

In my experience with my alcohol-addicted borderline/narcissist ex each individual problem within this formidable triad of pathology blocked my efforts, the efforts of therapists, and even her best efforts to attempt to gain awareness. If she would become partially aware of a borderline issue her narcissistic defenses and needs would often block that. If she would become temporarily partially aware of any combination of her borderline/narcissistic pathology she would run to the alcohol and literally obliterate any memory of any conversation we had or therapy session she had wherein there was a slight light of a new awareness or of the responsibility she needed to take for the way that she devastated her career, her relationships, and her physical and emotional health.

I tried to rescue her. I tried to help her. I tried to give her the benefit of my own experience from my own borderline years but nothing could permeate her triad of pathology and dysfunctional defense mechanisms in any lasting way. In fact, in the time I knew her, things only kept getting worse.

With each turn for the worse she took, I in my non borderline enmeshed glory, felt increasing guilt and increasing helplessness that sometimes led me to try even harder – way too hard to rescue her to the point where I was no doubt stepping into an over-controlling relational style out of sheer desperation. It was not only about our relationship or if it would or could work out. It was not only about my unresolved past of attempting to rescue my parents from BPD and addiction. It was about the fact that this person I had loved and did care for and about was slowly killing herself.

As someone who has recovered from BPD, my survivor guilt really went through the roof. I didn’t know how to cope with that for a while. My survivor guilt didn’t just apply to my relationship with my borderline/narcissist ex it stemmed all the way back to the reality that both my parents remained untreated and unrecovered borderlines. It took me really working to disengage the codependent enmeshment that had been so familiar in many relationship in my life for me to begin to get clarity about just how unhealthy, toxic, and impossible this relationship was and why.

Many with Borderline Personality Disorder also have addictions. Addictions only fuel the borderline false self in ways that keep the borderline investing in everything toxically borderline.

I learned first-hand, as a recovered borderline, who is now a non borderline, that it really isn’t healthy to try or even possible to rescue someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (especially with NPD and an addiction) from his or her self – or from his or her lack of self.

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I also learned that we can expect to find these types of relationship unless and until we actually resolved the issues from our own pasts (non borderline pasts as well). What we do not resolve from the past will continue to show itself in the here and now and will especially continue to show itself through the relationships and relationship partners we choose to be with.

I know that I have now figured out what my unresolved issues were that led, in part to this most abusive and toxic relationship. I say in part because it is a rather complicated story which I outline in my ebook, Full Circle – Lesson For Non Borderlines.

In my triad of experience with Borderline Personality Disorder, among all the many things I have been blessed to learn, is the reality that there truly is no way to take responsibility for the choices of another human being. There is nothing healthy about toxic relationship dynamics. The non borderline cannot change the borderline or the toxic nature of the relational dynamic, he or she can only work to make healthy changes for him or herself.

It is not possible to rescue someone with just Borderline Personality Disorder. It is even more unlikely one could ever rescue someone with both BPD and NPD. It is even more futile to try to rescue someone with BPD/NPD and addiction issues. The choice to bang your head on this wall of futility is really, for the non borderline, a choice to avoid your own pain. I know, I tried it, I live it, I avoided some of my remaining pain. The relief only came when I ended the relationship – went no contact – and faced my own issues and pain.

Non borderlines cannot change borderlines. Only those who have been diagnosed with BPD can take the personal responsibility that is central to even having a chance to get on the road to recovery. Only those with BPD can rescue themselves.

© A.J. Mahari, July 20, 2008 – All rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, among other things, specializes in working with those with BPD and non borderlines. A.J. has 5 years experience as a life coach and has worked with hundreds of clients from all over the world.

Addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder – It is Even More Futile for The Relationship Partner