I Don’t Want to Live That Life

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

Recently I found a book in a “junk book store” that caught my eye. Its title was I Don’t Want to Live This Life, and it was written by Deborah Spungen. The book is about her family trying to raise a “difficult child,” her first daughter, Nancy. Nancy was murdered by her boyfriend, a “rock star” named Sid Vicious, in the 1970s.

Nancy’s birth was problematic with the cord around her neck, and a rare blood disorder caused her to need a total blood exchange transfusion immediately after birth. From the day that she was brought home from the hospital, she screamed and fought her caregivers. By the time she was 14 she was out of control. By the time she was 17, her parents helped her set up an apartment in New York just to get her out of the house so that there could be some sort of peace for themselves and their other children.

Deborah was at the point of suicide at several times, but with much willpower, stayed to fight for the rest of her family and to try to find some way to reach Nancy. She tried to help Nancy get off drugs and out of the sordid life of prostitution and intermittent homelessness.


The book tore at my heart. Deborah and her family suffered terror, pain, confusion and guilt at Nancy’s self made hell-on-earth existence. I read with recognition the confusion Deborah felt in trying to decide how to both protect Nancy and her other children. I too have felt that tearing in trying to give something to one child by depriving the other child of what they also needed from me.

I also identified with Deborah’s frustration that nothing she did seemed to work, so she tried harder to do the same thing. A wise man once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Deborah and her husband Frank turned to the “experts” in medicine from the time that Nancy was a baby. They prescribed Phenobarbital to quite her screams as an infant. Did that drug as an infant set her up later to require drugs to “self medicate” her pain?

They put Nancy into a mental hospital at one point, and got her into methadone treatment multiple times. Gave her food, but not money, paid her rent, but didn’t give her cash. They did the best they knew how to protect their daughter from herself. It still didn’t help, and she stayed with a man who was as disordered as she was, and who was more violent, even after he had beaten her.

After the murder

After Nancy’s murder, and getting out on bail, Sid Vicious overdosed and died. Either accidentally or on purpose, who knows which? Before he died, he wrote letters and called Nancy’s mother vowing his love for Nancy and wanting to see the family and have them validate his love for Nancy, and to receive solace for her loss from them. I can’t even imagine how Deborah must have felt receiving these letters and calls.

The press hounded the family and after Vicious’ death, his mother even had the gall to call Deborah and want to bury him next to Nancy. The press hounded the family even more. The press vilified Nancy, one headline reading, “Nancy was a Witch!”

Deborah and her family eventually got into therapy and also saw a television show with Bob and Charlotte Hullinger, who were the founders of Parents of Murdered Children, to support other parents who had lost a child through murder. At last, Deborah and Frank and their two surviving children were no longer “alone” in their grief. Deborah and Frank became advocates of the group, forming a chapter in their hometown, and becoming very active in comforting others. No longer feeling the shame of their daughter’s life and her death, but finding new purpose in their own.

Grieving the loss

Anyone who has lived with a person who is disruptive, disorderly, and disordered can relate to Deborah and Frank’s pain in trying to deal with that person. When the person is no longer there, either through death or through no contact, there is a loss there that somehow must be filled.

We grieve over the loss of a person who is part of our “family” no matter what the relationship is, mother, daughter, father, son, lover, spouse, or how we lost them, either through death or no contact. What kind of relationship we had with that disruptive person, the person we cannot please, that we cannot save from themselves doesn’t matter. We grieve. We feel the different stages of grief; the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the sadness, and if we grieve appropriately, we eventually come to a state of acceptance of the loss of the person or the relationship. The deeper the love, the deeper the grief.

Shame about the situation

Sometimes, we also feel like Deborah did, the shame that comes when people in our community learn about the disordered behavior of the one we loved. In Deborah’s case, it was nationally public for her and her family. There was even a sketch on Saturday Night Live about Sid Vicious and Nasty Nancy that popped up when their son David was watching TV with friends. And when their daughter’s professor was doing roll call in class and he got to her name he said “Spurgen, no kin to that nasty Nancy Spungen who was murdered.” Their daughter left the class in shame and tears.

Sometimes, we are involved with the justice system, either the criminal justice system, or the “family courts” where we may be raked over the coals by a system we believed would protect us. Or, others who are closer to us do not believe that the disordered person is the one at fault, but instead blame us, shame us, or desert us, leaving us to feel even more betrayed.

In my own case, for nearly twenty years I felt the shame of my son’s crimes, hid them from my extended family and friends, essentially lied to them when they would ask about where Patrick was living. “Oh, he lives in Texas and works for the State of Texas, and doesn’t get to Arkansas much.” While that is “technically true,” it is deceptive and essentially a lie to cover up my own shame at my son’s failure to be the kind of man he was raised to be.

Some kind of peace

I’m glad that Nancy’s family has finally come to some peace, and that her parents have found a cause that they can focus on to help other families who have violently lost children. For those of us on the “other side of the coin,” though, who are the parents of the murderers, we also have “lost” sons and daughters by the crimes they have committed. While Nancy was indeed a troubled soul, she did not deserve to die violently at the hands of her lover. Her parents suffered in a futile effort, trying to save her from herself, and they suffered again because of her murder.

Like Deborah, I too, do not want to live that life. I do not want to live in self doubt about why my son became what he is, or why he killed Jessica Witt. Though my son still breathes, he is as dead to me as Nancy is to Deborah and her family. As I work on protesting the next parole hearing for Patrick, I have reached out to the group Parents of Murdered Children to assist me with that protest. They have warmly received my request and have put me into contact with people who do understand even my position as the parent of the murderer, and are willing to help me.

While Deborah never gave up on her daughter Nancy, and spent 20 years in trying to deal with a person who was unable to attach normally to a family’s love, now that Nancy is gone, Deborah can move on.

We must disengage

Many former victims of people who are unable to attach normally, such as psychopaths, also spend decades trying to save that person from themselves, and to save themselves from more abuse. There comes a time, though, when we must disengage from those people in order to save ourselves and to save our children from those disordered persons. It isn’t easy. I’m not sure what would have become of Nancy’s family if she had not died that day, but in the end, Nancy’s death may actually have been the salvation of the rest of Nancy’s family because her disruptive presence was removed from the home. Though her family did not want to lose her, they couldn’t save her, but after her loss they were able to save themselves.

I didn’t want to “lose” Patrick either, and I held on to him with denial for many, many years even after Jessica’s murder. It was only his attempt to have me killed that shook me loose from that denial and made me face the truth that he is truly, as my attorney said, “a baaaad man.”

Comment on this article

35 Comments on "I Don’t Want to Live That Life"

Notify of

Congratulations, Dupey! I didn’t realize that it has been 6 months now….my how time flies when you are having fun! LOL

Thanks Ox!
Yah, what a time it’s been, let me tell ya.

So, I just start bragging a bit about how quiet it has been
and such and bam! – cyber stalking began again on the six
month anniversary date of my NC; imagine that. hahahaha

ERALYN: during the full blown height of all this for me,
I used to stop at the local Catholic Church and go in
when nobody was there and literally SPLASH that
Holy Water all over me as much as I possibly could.
I do not exaggerate, not one bit.

I used to chuckle to myself, being there on my knees,
at the altar: “I would take a bath in it if I could…” The
priest probably would have freaked out if he came into
the church and there I was, bathing in HOLY WATER!!!!

Yah, dead cats was “IT’s” thing….

“I thought of you today…as I strangled that cat and
watched it’s life slipping away until it’s little tongue
stuck out… it felt good having my hands around its
neck, choking it and choking it….”

Yah, wonder how many poor and innocent cats he has killed like that in his lifetime? Hm?
He hasn’t left a dead cat on my porch yet — he has left other CREEPY little ‘gifts’ on my doorstep,
from time to time though. Just really weird. COMPLETELY psycho, I tell ya. A very dangerous type person.

Of course there would be a cyber stalking on the anniversary
date. hahahahaha “IT” is so predictable sometimes. I think
part of the shock of all this is that I know he is very sick and
I was just ignoring it because I was trying to ‘reach him’. In
the process, he almost killed ME. I KNEW I should have just
ignored him almost 13 years ago. No. Instead I had to try
being the savior. Tried to be the nice person…the helping
person. I don’t even really LIKE this being, actually…

That won’t ever be allowed back into my life.
Never again. I am sorry for him and his illness.
I can’t save him. He has to save himself, just like I have to.
Just like we all have to.

Hope things are well Ox…
Take care and thanks again.

Dupey, wonderful, dear heart!!!! Six months may not seem all that long, but it’s one HECK of an accomplishment! Congratulations and TOWANDA!!!

What we “knew” and what we chose to do doesn’t really matter, once it’s in the past, right? Just like my desire to nurture, encourage, and support someone who had been neglected goes, the exspath did endure a very dysfunctional childhood, but I’m not responsible for “fixing” that. Nor am I responsible for “fixing” anyone’s issues.

I believe that it’s “okay” to feel “pity” for someone who fits the profile of a sociopath – it’s a pitiful existence. Those people don’t really experience life, at all. They just exist. And, the only “feelings” that they DO experience are envy, greed, and the anticipation of end results.

Congratulations, Dupey. And you DO have some pretty strong “sea legs.”

Hugs and brightest blessings!

OxD, the exspath didn’t shed a tear when each of my parents passed. Whether I had known someone’s parent, or not, I would shed a tear for THEIR loss and the sadness that THEY must have felt – I still do get choked up when other people lose loved ones or their pets.

But, exspath never shed a single tear for their passings, or for the grief of my family. Not one single tear. And, no expression of sadness, whatsoever. I guess he didn’t have any reason to feel sad when there was money in the future as a result of their deaths.

Jeeeeeezuz, it’s so unseemly that people sit and rub their hands together and look about them to see who’s dying next and is leaving them money.

Thanks Truthspeak for the shoulder pat! lol
Well, the LAST and previous period of NC lasted
almost 9 months. Like I have said before, this is the

It has been very difficult.
Somewhere in between feeling bad
and hating his fricking guts. Know what I mean?

No, it all doesn’t really matter once you put it in the past.
Once you are all finished grieving and you finally realize
that all of your emotions, your soul, your life, has finally
had enough. It took almost losing my life to figure out
that I don’t want to live like that and I am not going to.

Hey, the ‘dysfunctional childhood’ excuse can only be that
for so long, the way I got it figured. “I” had an extremely
dysfunctional childhood but I stood up to that and CHOSE
something different for myself and my life. If anyone has
THE PROPENSITY to be a psychopath, it would certainly be
me after all of the abuse, trauma and nightmares I have seen.

We can only blame our upbringing and our parents for so long
and then at some point we must take responsibility for ourselves
and our own choices and actions. I don’t buy it that they can’t
change. If I were to believe that, I would have to give up
believing in myself. Period.

I do feel ‘pity’ for it. I think that is the one thing that
has made this all so hard for me. I noticed the dysfunction,
right in the beginning, and I was heartbroken right from the
very beginning. I will be very heartbroken about this, the
rest of my life, because I couldn’t save my friend. Or, what
I THOUGHT was my friend.

It still makes me sob and cry, sometimes.
He won’t even TRY to save himself.

No, they don’t really ‘experience’ life.
They never will because they are too busy
trying to scam someone out of something
for some reason. They completely miss the
whole big picture; don’t they? Plastic people,
living their selfish, greedy, self-centered lives.

Thanks, ((Truthspeak))
aye, matey —- arrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!!

Six YEARS sounds better than six months; don’t it?
I was thinking today that I can’t wait to say THAT instead.


Send this to a friend