Disentangle emphasizes the need to face unhealthy delusions and set healthy boundaries. While Nancy’s advice is aimed towards romantic relationships, it could be applied to many situations. Her book reminds us that it is easy for to become entangled in many different aspects of our life, whether the entanglement involves romantic relationships, co-workers, family or addiction.
I arranged to meet Nancy in her office, just outside the historic town of Lexington, VA. Nancy’s office is orderly and peaceful. Her window looks into a patch of woods, where a small deer is grazing. Nancy tells me that she tries to be quiet so as not to scare the deer away, but this proves to be a difficult task. Every time she laughs, the deer looks up at us, and we sit in silence for a moment, hoping it won’t run off.
Nancy is full of energy and enthusiastic about explaining her book, her practice, and her passions. I came with a fixed set of questions, but the conversation flowed freely.
Nancy’s career was always psychology oriented. She studied psychology at an undergraduate level at William and Mary, then went on to graduate school knowing that what she wanted to do was work directly with people. That dream has come true.
“Even after all these years I’m still really interested in psychology. Everybody’s got a different story, so actually that’s part of it: that I’m with people and their stories all day, all the time. Stories that are mysteries to us in some cases.”
After finishing graduate school, Nancy went into the field of juvenile corrections, and realized that a majority of the legal charges she encountered in her clients’ histories were drug or alcohol related. This led her to explore the field of addictions further. However, in the professional world at the time, “addictions were always a step child to mental health.” Over time, though, more people began working towards integrating the two concepts. “Until we can help a person stop their addictive behaviors I can’t psychologically see what else is going on with them. I don’t know what their sleep problems are about or what their mood shifts are about.”
“In the process of doing all that I got very personally and professionally interested in the family of the addict, which is the whole field of codependence: How does the family member or other friends play into addiction?How do we enable it and what do we get out of doing that? A lot of that happened in 1990 and there was really excellent work going on with adult children of alcoholics. The topic of codependence was just emerging, and there was a great book called Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood that came out in the 80’s. People were really interested in these topics so I started running groups that worked with the issues of codependence.”