I’m Pat, a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with codependency.
The day I was born, my mother suffered a mental breakdown. My dad left my sister and me with our grandparents, and then he left the state for the two years my mom was institutionalized. Fortunately, my grandparents loved us and took us to church, but God seemed distant like my parents.
When my mom was released, my dad came back, but our environment was depressing. No one talked about it, and I was confused. I knew my parents loved us, but I secretly attached everyone’s unhappiness to myself. I became a people-pleaser, stuffing my feelings. When I was 7 years old, my parents divorced, and my sister and I lived with our mom and saw our dad once a week.
At age 18, I fell in love with a charming young man. He drank and experimented with drugs. Because it was the ’60s, in my neediness, I overlooked it. I thought if I could just love him enough, he would change. I also experimented with drugs even though it scared me. But because of my low self-worth, I put this relationship ahead of everything else in my life.
We married while he continued using drugs and seeing other women. On our first anniversary, tired of our lives, we attended church—and our lives changed! My husband quit using drugs and alcohol cold turkey. We began doing studies with the minister. Both of us started teaching Sunday school and learning the basic Bible stories. We started a family. My husband then enrolled in seminary, wanting to become a minister.
The next five years were the happiest of our marriage. He became a respected and loved minister. During this time, he began having pain and started using prescription painkillers. He always took too many. I covered it up, believing I could never tell anyone at church.Through all of this, God seemed distant to me.
Over the next decade in ministry, we moved to five states, served in two mission fields, and had four children. I was increasingly codependent and submissive, constantly covering up and enabling. My self-image was dependent on my husband. In our 21-year marriage, we declared bankruptcy three times because of medical debts. My husband was in and out of rehab numerous times and had attempted suicide. I continued to keep our family secrets, feeling lonely and confused.
I was hired as a 911 police dispatcher and finally had a livable income. My husband stepped down from a 17-year ministry because he was unable to quit drugs. Then he switched to heroin and speed. He was unfaithful and soon left again for rehab.
In addition, I was hospitalized due to my OCD behavior of swallowing paper. I had substituted healthy food with paper, trying to lose weight. Feeling afraid, I finally faced my denial that my life was unmanageable and that I couldn’t fix it.
My children and I began the family program at Betty Ford Center. While there, I faced the fact that I was the parent who allowed drugs in our home when I should have set boundaries. I had also modeled enabling to my children to keep the peace. I began to make amends with them.
I also made the decision to divorce. Within a year, my ex-husband overdosed on heroin and cocaine. It was ruled a suicide. Confused and angry with God, I was now a single mother with four teenagers who’d lost their father.
In my neediness, I got involved with a married man. My oldest son, Jimmy, lovingly asked me to stop seeing that man. But I made excuses. Within a month, Jimmy was killed in a car accident. I then hit rock bottom, hoping I would die.
I confronted God: “If you took my son to punish me, I don’t want to know you. Why didn’t I die instead of Jimmy?” But God lovingly allowed me to process through my grief. I began to feel his closeness and felt that he cried with me. I knew Jimmy was home with God. Initially, I ended that adulterous relationship because I thought God was punishing me. I couldn’t risk losing another child. At the time, it helped me end that relationship. However, now I believe God doesn’t work that way. I finally surrendered my control to God and faced the awful truth that I had absolutely no control to save my son.
Step 1 says, “I admitted I was powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors, that my life had become unmanageable.”
I returned to my police dispatching job working with a team in major incidents. I was selected and trained to be on our department’s Peer Support Team. God grew me while using my painful lessons to help officers and dispatchers begin healing from critical incidents. I joined a new church and began counseling while continuing to process more of my pain and low self-worth.
Step 2 says, “I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” That power was Jesus!
My church supported me in becoming a Christian counselor, and I retired after 21 years in law enforcement. I have been a staff counselor at my church for seven years. Six years ago, I attended the Celebrate Recovery Summit, and we began the Celebrate Recovery Step Studies. God answered my long-time heart prayer of transparency at church. A year later we launched Celebrate Recovery in Palm Springs. Today, I am the Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader, and I lead several Step Studies. I am a Celebrate Recovery sponsor, accountability partner, and a California State Rep for Celebrate Recovery.
Praise God! I now use my Celebrate Recovery tools to deal with my codependency and eating issues. I continue to practice my daily inventory in new areas. I’ve made amends and processed forgiveness with my family and friends, including at the gravesites of my son and my ex-husband. Previously unhealthy love relationships changed into healthy relationships with Jesus, my children, and my five grandchildren.
As Joel 2:25 states, for me God continues to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (NKJV).
My name is Pat, and I’m beyond grateful for Jesus Christ.