July 09, 2016

A Harrowing Journey Through Codependency

By Beth Gibson

I graduated from law school in 1992 and went to work for an insurance defense law firm not far from my hometown. A couple of years later, I married another lawyer and we moved to my hometown and started a small general practice law firm.

In 1996, I found out that I was pregnant. I soon came to learn in small ways that my husband was an alcoholic. At first, I merely thought that he drank a bit too much. But then I found myself dealing with unexplained absences and erratic mood swings, as well as missing money. When I tried to discuss my concerns with him, I was faced with accusatory outbursts, anger, and guilt. I began covering his work product to make sure that the clients’ needs were being met.

When I was five months pregnant, my husband called me because he had been pulled over, of all places, at the state police post. I drove to the post and talked with my husband and the state troopers. One state trooper took me aside and told me that there are people and resources who could assist me and he would help me contact them. I didn’t understand what he was suggesting. What help did I need and who would help me? Despite all of the education and IQ I possessed, I did not understand what he could see as plain as day—that I was in an abusive and codependent relationship.

It wasn’t until after my son’s birth that I finally started understanding what the officer was saying.

My pregnancy was not easy. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. My doctor planned a C-section, but my water broke early. I had a hard time finding my husband to take me to the hospital. When I finally located him, I suspected he had been drinking. We drove the two hours to the hospital and on the way he decided to stop at a gas station. We didn’t need gas. Then he opted to pull someone out of a snowbank even though there were plenty of people around to help.

In the end, we arrived at the hospital. My son was born healthy, and all seemed to get better. I stayed home with my baby, and my husband promised to cover our clients. I would periodically go to the office and work on the bookkeeping. My husband seemed to keep his end of the bargain, working all hours.

Then I got a call from our secretary. She said I needed to come to the office and deal with the mess my drunk husband made—and she was quitting. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. How could there be a mess when he was devoting so much time to work? I packed up my son and went to the office. I couldn’t believe what I found. She was right. Almost every client had left angry messages about their dissatisfaction. I spent the day there and packed up what I could to continue working at home. That day, my husband never called or came to the office.

When he finally came home that night, he was drunk. He lied about his drinking until he figured out he was caught. Then he promised the moon. I struggled with this pattern for what seemed to be forever until I gave him the ultimatum to get treatment or I would leave. I left when my son was five weeks old.

I struggled to right the ship. I worked with clients and the courts to regain what my husband had lost in such a short time. The business turned around. I was running it and covering both caseloads. My husband, meanwhile, was happy and comfortable. His bills were being paid, and he had cash to buy alcohol and a place to live. Then he decided he was going to take my son. One day while I was carrying my baby into my house, he tried to run me down in the driveway with his car. Fortunately, I was able to duck behind my parked car in time. I used this incident to leverage his agreeing to treatment in exchange for my not reporting his actions to the police.

I agreed to drive him to treatment, but when I arrived, I found he had barricaded himself in. Frustrated, but determined to get him to treatment, I got into the house, where I found him with my grandfather’s .38. He was waiting for me, drunk, and he planned to shoot me. Fortunately, he did not succeed.

I managed to get him into the car and drove him to the treatment center. I realized then that I could not continue trying to fix this situation. I knew that my choice had to be my son, and I could not continue in a relationship with my husband if I were going to give my baby the best I could.

So my last act of codependency was to call my husband’s family and tell them he was in treatment and I no longer could take care of him. To their credit, they stepped in. Over time, he found his way through recovery. He is practicing law again and is happily remarried.