I was never able to make my Mother-in-law Rita’s signature Coconut Haystacks work. I couldn’t make our relationship work either. Because I thought I was the problem, I tried harder, gave more, and said less. Finally, I realized she was a narcissist who was gaslighting me. Here’s how I’m getting over it.

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is difficult to explain and even more difficult to recognize. Basically, one person uses covert tactics to make another person question his or her sanity. Rita was in my life for 20 years, and every encounter with her had an “incident.” Each incident was just a little off, leaving me to wonder, “Did that really happen?” or “Am I being petty?” Gaslighters rarely engage in bold, red flag behaviors. They manipulate and intimidate in a way that keeps their victims silent and second guessing themselves.

Rita’s recipe for her haystacks is a perfect example of gaslighting. These chocolate cookies were my husband’s favorite. Since I love baking, I asked her for the recipe. Yet each time I made the cookies, they never turned out. They were too dry or too soft. They didn’t set or they cooked too fast. After each failure, I asked her what I did wrong. It was always something different. It was too humid outside, or too cold. I got the recipe again, and again. Still nothing worked for me. Sure, she claimed to have the same failures I did, but I never saw proof. For Rita, the recipe always worked. It was about much more than the recipe. Our whole relationship was based on her besting and hurting me, and my feeling it was my fault.

She Was The Cat And I Was The Mouse

In gaslighting, opposites attract. One person, who’s usually a narcissistic manipulator, uses various methods to control another person, who is usually timid, sensitive, and empathetic. Guess which one was me.

Codependent Overcomes

Rita died seven years ago, but I’m still traumatized. In order to recover, I had to throw away all the memories of Rita’s wrongs and hurts, as well as my own inability to stand up for myself. In recovery, I have been working on all the components that go along with being a Codependent. I now know I am not alone and now I also know I am not helpless. I can find other resources to answer my questions. And that’s that I did to create the perfect Haystack recipe. Thank You, Google.

Codependent’s New And Improved Haystacks

First, spray a cookie sheet with non-stick oil.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 3 cups of Quick Cook Oats
  • 1 cup of Coconut

Mix and set aside.

In a sauce pan, combine:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 ¾ cups of sugar
  • ½ cup of bittersweet cocoa
  • ½ cup of milk

Cook on medium-high heat, constantly stirring. When the sauce reaches a rolling boil, start a timer and continue cooking for 1 ½ minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in oats and coconut. Scoop onto cookie sheet and let cool.


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Pam Carver

Pam is the author of two books: Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps. She's also a contributing editor for Reach Out Recovery. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.

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