The devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for. ~ Tucker Max
Letters to a Sociopath chronicles a period of demoralizing and debilitating emotional and physical trauma. My personal discovery reveals the confusion, sadness, and hopelessness I felt as I sought answers and fought desperately for understanding. I wrote the book during times when I truly believed I was losing my mind, when I worried I might die at the sociopath’s hands or maybe even my own. Letters to a Sociopath originated as a means of escape, self-discovery, and later, healing.
It is my hope that through sharing my journey you will be able to gain awareness, encouragement, and strength.
But for the grace of God, I am here today. I am of sound mind. I have peace, I have promise, and I have faith. I have found my way through the depths of despair. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and I would like you to know that there always will be. No matter how dark your road is and how desperate you feel, you are not alone.
As a survivor of domestic abuse, it is my hope that exposing my journey will help you unearth your inner strength and take command of your own spirit. Although this book reveals my deepest fall and loss of strength, it also portrays my greatest climb. And this, my friend, is a path I am honored and humbled to share with you.
Never give up. You are more powerful than you may believe.
With warmest love and regard,
P.S. I must disclose the fact that my abuser is still out there. Maintaining silence would be easier, but it also wouldn’t generate awareness. I have been silent long enough. Pressing forward courageously, I will no longer allow fear to dictate my life. However, to protect myself and my family, I have deliberately left out certain details, and all names have been changed to ensure nothing I reveal will lead him back to me.
Many emotions storm my brain, and they bring with them, uncertainty. I am not sure where I should begin; this is a difficult letter to write. I married your son believing that he stepped forward with transparency and was indeed the person he presented. Watching your family interact, I knew what I wanted was a full membership. There seemed to be so much love and acceptance, something I spent a lifetime trying to find in my own family. But as the year progressed, I picked up on the real truth. I just wish that you all would have been authentic from the start.
Over time you have expressed to me your concerns about Joe, but it was too late for me. I had already picked up those same concerns. I don’t agree with the way you have bailed him out of trouble over and over again in his life. He hasn’t learned to be accountable, and he has learned to believe he is above the law. The structure created in your family is failing. You’ve bailed him out of jail, helped him out of every financial crisis, and supported him financially after every fall. You’ve all enabled his behavior, and by doing so, a monster was born.
It is frustrating for me to watch you wring your hands and feel helpless every time you confess to me another secret from Joe’s past. I can only speculate on the extent of the things that you haven’t revealed yet. It is alarming enough to hear you laugh when you speak of the time he beat up a gang of men at the bar or busted out a windshield with a bat. Both incidents are serious and, in my opinion, should have been a large indicator of his monstrous behavior. It pains me that I did not know what I was walking into. I don’t blame you for not disclosing the stories sooner, yet it would have been quite an eye-opener for me, and I do prefer to make life-changing decisions with my eyes fully open.
The more I find out about Joe’s past, the easier it is to develop a clear picture of his future. I thank God I will no longer be a part of it.
I am aware that you have been searching for the reason why your son acts the way he does, and I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned. It is my hope that you will take me seriously and that your family will begin to hold him accountable for his actions. I realize it is simply much easier to blame me, but if you really think about it, you know his trouble happened long before me. I am not the one to blame. Joe is.
I have discovered that he has a secret life. Not only is he deceptive in the way he treats others, giving the impression that he is caring by charming the pants off of everyone he meets. But he quite literally charms the pants off of many. I found out the hard way, because there was no easy way to discover that my husband engaged in sexual encounters with well over one hundred people during our brief marriage. Just think of the heavy secrets and how twisted he must be to maintain that separate life. He created fake social media profiles, he purchased another phone, he took “trips,” all of which indicates to me that he was a busy man. Even more startling is that probably less than fifty percent of his sexual encounters were with women. But the most staggering discovery was that a number of them were under the age of consent. I’d say with certainty, he has some secrets he is trying desperately to keep.
Maybe I was getting too close to discovering the truth. Maybe that is why he abused me. I want you to know that he did, and that he enjoyed inflicting pain. It really doesn’t matter why, because I never deserved it. I didn’t deserve for him to present himself to me as anything other than himself. I would have made a different decision had I known who he really was. I would like you to know just how extensively his actions and behaviors have ruined lives and will continue to ruin other innocent lives if this behavior isn’t abolished. I am very aware of his attempt to ruin mine.
Based on the research I have done, I believe he is a sociopath. They are often very charming, and because of that, most people don’t immediately see them as a threat. If there are early warning signs, they are easily dismissed by the overwhelming charm, attention, and love that sociopaths exude. This enables them to appear very enticing and captivating. He is extremely impulsive, which in the beginning I took to be refreshing and exciting, but it soon became exhausting. Sociopaths also can change moods in an instant; and when they become upset, their first instinct is to act out physically. They can experience massive mood swings, going from kindness to madness over what appears to be nothing. This is a definitive description of Joe. I can’t tell you how many things of mine he destroyed in anger, and then acted as though it didn’t happen. And his lack of empathy was one of the most confusing things for me to deal with. His inability to experience compassion and consideration must make it so callously easy for him to deceive and hurt other people. Somehow, he is able to move on as if nothing ever happened. I would advise you to read about sociopaths. Read a lot about them, because I truly believe this is what defines Joe. He needs help. You can keep turning a blind eye, but I have a feeling that this is going to end badly for all involved.
Writing the letter to Joe’s mother was nothing more than an outlet, it released the emotion that was bottled up inside me. I knew that what I wanted to say and what she would be receptive to hearing were most likely two different things. The letter to my husband’s mother, along with the majority of the letters contained in this book, was never sent.
Six years ago, in the spring of 2005, Mark, my husband and father of our children, left me for the love of his life. She had already been my husband’s mistress for a number of years. I wish I could say she was a tall, beautiful blonde, years younger than me. It would have been more acceptable; but she came in liquid form, and he purchased her daily. She was all he needed or wanted, and she provided him an escape from reality. To this day, they are still an item, totally engrossed with one another—just him and his alcohol. Their pairing has deeply shaped my life and the lives of my children.
I didn’t envision divorce. It was never a part of my plan. Certainly, not after nine years and not with two children involved. We were only six months into the school year the day Mark left. I can still recall every detail.
My daughter and I had just returned to our home at Fort Benning, Georgia. We had been on a long-awaited shopping trip in which we purchased all the materials required to build a fish-filled pond, complete with a waterfall, in our front yard. It was a project we had been planning for quite some time. But shortly after we walked through the door to our house, Mark took me aside and confessed that he was no longer in love with me.
It probably took him twenty minutes to gather his clothing and leave, but it may have taken hours. Either way, he was gone before dinner.
The days and weeks that followed left me feeling numb and hollow. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that he was gone, that this was really happening to us. I remember trying to fool myself into believing it was a joke. Maybe he was going through a crisis and would come to his senses any day, I thought. I prayed it was true.
We continued living apart for months without filing for dissolution of our marriage, and I repeatedly found hope in that. My hope died when I realized Mark’s hesitation was based solely on a regulation. Once a divorce was initiated, we would have only thirty days to vacate our home. With that one important factor in mind, he agreed to wait until the school year ended.
I began to face the heavy realization that our days of living at Fort Benning were numbered. I had to leave the military life and the dear friends that had become my family. Over the years, I had acclimated to the lifestyle, the frequent moving, and the uncertainty. But this was different. I was alone at the age of thirty-one, with Paige, my nine-year-old daughter, and Conner, my four-year-old son. I was facing the most uncertain of futures, and I was scared to death.
The rug was being ripped out from under me and making decisions about our future created intense pressure that felt like a vise on my brain. When I couldn’t decide where to go, Mark kept insisting that it would be best for me and the children to move back to my home state of Wisconsin that summer. With no other alternative on the horizon, I took his advice and did just that. My family lived in Wisconsin, and I needed their support, so we temporarily moved in with my sister and her family. It was June 2005. By July, the divorce was finalized. Nine years of marriage dissolved quickly but amicably; I was awarded full custody and child support. All that was left for me to do, was start over. I spent the first month in Wisconsin finding a new home (apartment) for my children and myself. I also began the painstaking process of looking for a job, even though I didn’t have a degree or any recent work history. Obtaining a degree was a long-standing goal of mine, but the choice to focus on my children until they were established in school, was always more pressing. I had only returned to college a few months prior to the divorce, and I never imagined life would throw me a curve ball. With little to no employment prospects, I made the only other reasonable choice and continued my college education online. We lived on child support and student loan money.
The meager income we fought to survive on, was one thing, adjusting to living in a one-parent household was quite another. Mark’s struggle continued to center around his addiction. It became extremely obvious that his life was plummeting out of control when he received two driving while intoxicated (DUI) citations within six months. It wasn’t long after that when he was discharged from the military after eighteen years of service.
Consequently, the child support we had been living and depending on, came to a halt. Without the military to enforce payment, I received little, if anything. Over the next few years, my attempts to obtain support were dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction. I had neither the time nor the knowledge to attempt the process myself, and I couldn’t afford legal assistance.
In 2007, with a bachelor’s degree within reach, I reluctantly made the choice to quit school. To make a living, I chose to obtain a realtor’s license. What had looked to be an appealing career choice months earlier, suddenly became the most unappealing choice of all. The nationwide collapse of the housing market was moving in on me, and all the hope and enthusiasm I had in my heart wasn’t going to generate the money I needed to support my family. Reluctantly, I thrust myself once more into the search for meaningful employment.
I maintained my licensure and worked real estate projects in my spare time and on the weekends. During the weekdays, I worked as a personal assistant/office manager. I loved the job. I just didn’t particularly love the two hours of travel time daily. I was still barely making ends meet financially, but I was a well-liked, dedicated go-getter, which served to be a good combination for someone ready to catch a break. I did consider it a lucky break, too, when I was selected to create and launch a new local magazine, a project that required a lot of time and creativity. For six months I tended to my magazine project in the evenings and late-night hours. Technically I had three jobs, all of which required my time. But the ever-elusive time, was not my friend. Time infringed on my children’s lives. It became frustrating to realize that no matter how hard I worked, life wasn’t really improving financially, there always seemed to be unexpected expenses. I had hoped to one day replace the beat-up, rusted car I was driving with something a bit more reliable. But as hope dwindled, I couldn’t see that happening. Worry plagued me, but I continued to push three hundred thousand miles on the poor beater, knowing I was not even close to obtaining a car loan.
That period of financial struggle was, I am sure, a difficult adjustment for my children. We had previously lived a life relatively free of financial woes. We had taken family vacations, driven new vehicles, wore nice clothing and shoes, and were blessed to have food on the table. In comparison, our new life fell far short of the old one.
The reality of my situation was at times, too much to bear. I found myself sucked into the abyss of self-pity, and sometimes I got lost in that place. The sight of a sparse cupboard in my kitchen or the look on my children’s faces as I dropped them off at school in our rusted-out car, far from the entrance to hide their shame, triggered those feelings. I could easily sit and compare my life to the lives of my siblings and to my nieces and nephews. While I couldn’t afford to buy my children a bike, they indulged their kids with motorcycles, go-carts, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, and horses.
Three weeks before Christmas in 2009, I hit an all-time low. With only $20 extra dollars to my name, I began agonizing over how to provide my children with a gift. Alone in my bedroom, I broke down and sobbed for quite some time. But having a defeated attitude wasn’t my style, and when I moved passed feeling pitiful, I picked myself up and began brainstorming. There were people out there in worse positions and I knew it. I had to change my attitude to reflect gratitude or we were never going to make it.
After a bit of research, I was able to find a family whose needs surpassed even our own. I spoke to my children about them, and together we decided to give. We ransacked our closets and parted with any unused toys, shoes, and clothing we could spare. With additional help from friends, we collected quite a few donations. On Christmas Eve, I loaded my car and delivered nearly six enormous bags full of goods to their front porch. It was a great Christmas! Our focus was not on ourselves but instead on the needs of others. That selfless act initiated a pattern of giving that has continued to this day.
In my pursuit of a brighter future, I continued distributing my resume to every job opening I was remotely qualified for. The beginning of 2010, presented me with a new opportunity. I applied for a management position with a large pharmaceutical-affiliated company, P.H.I. The competition was fierce, but with my work ethic, strong values, and great referrals, I was able to land the position.
Immediately, our lives began to change. I was suddenly making more money than I ever had. I enjoyed the challenge of managing employees. I enjoyed the prestige of the position, which required daily communication with professionals from all of the major pharmaceutical companies worldwide. I was home in the evenings with my fourteen-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son. We moved to a larger home on a lake. I finally bought a newer (very conservative) car. We indulged and took a family trip. With the start of the new school year, we even took in an exchange student. Life was good, but in my mind, still not complete.
I deeply longed for someone to share life experiences with us. I wanted a husband and a male role model for my children. This deep and natural longing led me to examine the online world of dating.
In March of that year, I signed up for an online dating site with an open heart, clear intent and strong boundaries. Months of experimenting helped me identify qualities I was attracted to and characteristics I should stay clear of. I had long dark hair and was extremely fit with a tall yet curvy frame. Typically, men flocked to me, so I learned to become very mindful about respecting the feelings and time of others; and I hoped for, and expected the same in return. Most of my experiences in the online dating world were extremely positive, because I was living with intention. I continue to recall that time in my life with fondness and gratitude to the many people I had a chance to know and learn from.
After fine-tuning my preferences and expectations for a partner, I took some time to make a list of all the things I wanted. This list would serve as a reminder of all the healthy qualities I was looking for in a partner. The list became a set of rules I would abide by it. I also wrote of my feelings, plans, dreams, and hopes in a letter to God. Afterward, I literally sat back and allowed the universe to align. I was full of hope and truly believed my prayers would be answered. At such a stable point in my life, I thought it only natural that I was going to receive the complete family I longed for. I was ready.
Excerpted from "Letters to a Sociopath: A Memoir" by Bekka Brooks. Copyright © 2017 by Bekka Brooks. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.