Co-Dependency: Sitting in the Suck and Gratitude
What a difference a year can make. One year ago today, I was living with my husband of 10 years and our two children in a nice house. We had great neighbors, good careers and while our marriage was struggling, I thought we’d see it through. The first five years of our marriage were great, but the second five – things started spiraling. Addiction and alcoholism… he always said he wanted to get help. He’d go to counseling for awhile, but eventually, things would get busy and it would get pushed to the back burner, and then *shocking*, another relapse. I thought we could get back to where we were the first five years of our marriage. I always hoped that we would.
Until one day in the spring of 2018. Everything changed in an instant, and there was no fixing it – no more hope. I’d always said that domestic violence was my no-go. You don’t come back from that – put your hands on me once, and it’ll be the last time. I meant it.
Fast forward to today. The kids and I moved. I don’t think he knows where we are. I hope not, anyway. Through some investigations, I found out that he told some of his coworkers that he was going to put a tracking device on my car. I found pictures of other women on a flash drive. Did I mention that I was really sick for months, requiring hospitalization, a home health care nurse, specialists… and three specialists now believe that he was poisoning me? POISONING ME. After countless tests they all told me, “there’s no medical reason why you were so sick”, and have all come to the same conclusion. Looking back, it makes sense but boy, is that a bitter pill to swallow. (If The Lifetime Channel would like rights to my story, have them give me a call).
I’ve come to realize that I had no idea who he really was, or rather, who he became. Ten years of marriage. TEN YEARS.
At the time, I didn’t realize how bad things were. I didn’t realize how much I was walking on eggshells for fear of “triggering” him to drink. I took on all the responsibility of the household – bills, cooking, cleaning, shopping, working two jobs, pick up and drop off of the kids… all so he wasn’t stressed. I put my needs on the backburner. As though it was my fault when he drank… my responsibility to maintain his sobriety.
Amazingly, it’s actually easier being a single mom of two kids than being a single mom of two kids and one grown man-child. I don’t worry about holes being punched in the wall when he’s drunk, I don’t worry about having to clean up a bathroom floor covered in pee because he was too wasted to hit the toilet. I don’t have a near panic-attack when he doesn’t answer his phone and has the kids. It was so bad, but it got bad slowly, and like a frog in boiling water, I just hung in there. I trusted that if he just got to the right therapist… if he just got the right treatment, it would be okay. We’d be okay. The thing is though, that I wanted it more than him. He never wanted it. Our insurance would have covered treatment – inpatient and outpatient – 100%. I made the calls, the referrals. He never really wanted it… he’d go for a bit to appease me… I just didn’t see it.
Regardless, I have so much to be thankful for. I have a solid, amazing support system -my friends rushed from their workplaces to the scene that spring day, and have never left my side. They’ve attended court dates and hearings, they’ve cried with me and have sworn like sailors with me. They’ve given gift cards and wine and took my kids when I was exhausted. My extended and immediate family is incredible. The kids and I are in an apartment and the bills are a challenge, but I can pay them. I’m not getting child support and I don’t ever expect to, but for now – we’re safe. We’ve been protected, I’m sure of that. I had an incredible divorce attorney who kept me focused from his attacks against my integrity and character. The prosecutor and victim advocate in the criminal case were both phenomenal. I am so thankful.
Sitting in the suck is so important. Probably not the most eloquent term, but that’s sure what it felt like. Many nights I would literally sit on my couch and allow the waves of grief and loneliness to settle in. Grief over the loss of my marriage, the loss of my (our) future plans, the loss of my children growing up in a home with two parents. Grief over the loss of their innocence – they were so young, and they saw and heard way too much. In those moments, it would have been easier to just sit and scroll mindlessly on my phone, to drink a bunch of wine or to somehow occupy and distract myself. But… I knew I had to feel it. In order to get past it, I had to sit in the suck and feel the grief and pain, and allow processing to happen. This will not control my future, and the only way through the pain is the hard way – to feel it.
The kids and I have all benefitted enormously from counseling. EMDR therapy is incredible – I’ve been able to break through the co-dependency and see it for what it really is. I can relive the events that happened that awful spring day without the physiological symptoms welling up. The importance of a support system and the importance of therapy cannot be underscored. If you’ve been through trauma, if your kids have been through trauma – get to a good therapist. It might not be the first one you meet – my first therapist said I was “fine”… I just had “hope”, even though I told her I don’t feel “fine”. It wasn’t “fine” for someone to allow themselves to be controlled and shoulder every responsibility for the household. The second therapist agreed with me, and we delved deeper, and EMDR was a good option. It’s cliché, but truly, there is no shame in seeking help.
The past year has been incredibly hard, but I can see light now. The kids are doing great. I love our new town and the people. The divorce and criminal cases are both resolved, the protection order case will be soon. And while I don’t know if I’ll ever be with anyone again, I’m doing my best to heal, move forward, and set a good example for my kids. We’re going to thrive… there is no other option.