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Chapter 2

"Running": The theme of my life...

Running soon became the theme of my life. My parents would move us from state to state every couple of years. During my childhood I lived in Youngstown, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (at two different points in time). Unfortunately, moving so much as a child has made it so that as an adult I’ve moved every couple of years which perpetuated the pattern in my son’s life.


By moving so much I unknowingly learned that life wasn’t meant to be stable. This is what I thought because of the way I was raised. However, it’s caused problems for me now in that I have a hard time staying in place for very long or even maintaining long-term relationships. Somehow I’ve managed to become used to feeling unsettled, even though this isn’t something that should ever happen.


One of the main reasons that it’s important to have a stable, settled home as a child is that otherwise you never really learn how to form relationships. At a young age we started moving a lot even though my dad wasn’t in the military at that time. We moved at least a half dozen times while I was in school, including once right before my senior year in highschool. It was in third grade when I started clinging to adults more than trying to form friendships. The first time I remember doing this was with my 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Monroe (whom I mention in more detail later in this book).


Nevertheless, even to this day it’s hard for me to form relationships or be open to anyone. Instead, I’ve become very codependent - even with my own son. I believe that this happened because I was a single mother from the time he turned 2-years-old. It was he and I against the world I told myself (since I faced a lot of struggles when he was growing up). He was homeschooled for numerous reasons and to this day is mostly thankful that I chose this path for him. However, that meant that since I was on disability and he was being homeschooled we were together 24/7. I didn't think anything of this until now. 


Currently as I look at our situation I see many of the signs of codependency here. The typical signs showing that a parent is in a codependent relationship with their adult child include:

  • Addictive personality disorder: Other addictions (e.g. alcohol, drugs, etc.) can easily cross over into other types of addiction. In the case of being codependent you're very likely to become extremely passionate about, obsessed with, or fixated on the person with whom you're in a codependent relationship. For me, this was my son whom my entire world revolved around while he was growing up. Admittedly I lost myself because of this.

  • Dependency: Being afraid that your child will abandon or reject you is another sign. This is especially true if you allow your child to cross your boundaries, break your rules and become an alpha figure in the household instead of allowing yourself to maintain authority. When my son was growing up I let him be treated as an adult. I remember when he was 5-years-old I gave up on trying to make him sleep at night and let him stay up until he was tired. He shared in many decisions we made and for the most part was a good child but none of this should have happened anyway.

  • Caretaking: When you find yourself doing more for your child than what's age appropriate or healthy (e.g. reminding your young adult about showering, brushing their teeth) you have a big red flag. Many times you'll even find yourself putting your child's care ahead of your own even though you know that your child is old enough to be independent. Unfortunately, this is something that I’m still guilty of doing today even though he’s 21 it’s a hard pattern to break.

  • Painful emotions: You'll find yourself torn between doing that which feels right and placating your addiction to your child. The worst thing that you believe could happen is for your child to grow distant or angry with you so you don't exert healthy boundaries or rules - something that I mentioned above.

  • Low self-esteem: You may discover that you only feel happy about yourself when your child is happy with you. Otherwise you find yourself worrying and feeling like a failure. As I mentioned, my entire life revolved around him to the point that my abusive parents even pointed it out to me.

  • Denial: This happens when a person refuses to admit they're codependent on their child. It's probably the worst problem because it prevents you and your child from getting much needed help. Denial can take many forms but you'll notice it if anyone else has tried to point out the codependent relationship to you. When my parents pointed it out to me I simply ignored them and told them to mind their own business - which they never did.

  • Obsession: Codependency is being addicted to another person. It is just like any other addiction except for here you become obsessed or “married” to your child. When someone questions you in this regard you find yourself becoming offensive immediately. As I mentioned, pointing this out to me did nothing for my parents regardless of how frequently or hard they tried. They were so upset about this and I remember getting into numerous arguments, but nothing changed.

  • Poor Boundaries: Although you may choose to set rules, you also choose to allow these rules to be broken without any consequences. This is because you feel as though you're responsible for your child's feelings and any issues that are occurring in their life. I’m glad that my son wasn’t in school because his idea of pushing my boundaries was far from what they could be so he’s grown up to be a great person.

  • People pleasing behavior: When you need to tell your child no you'll feel stressed by doing so. It's also a real struggle for you to be able to set boundaries and maintain consistent rules with your child. In fact, in our household there were basically no rules at all.

  • Control issues: You'll become both controlling and manipulative of other family members. This is because you're trying to change everyone else so they fit your dysfunction. Those who don't follow suit, you go out of your way to find fault with them. Obviously, coming from a dysfunctional family myself this wasn’t difficult to do.

  • Reactivity: Your defenses are high and when anyone questions you they leave you feeling as though you've been attacked. I remember being in tears numerous times by things my parents would say but honestly separating the truth from their narcissism was impossible for me at that time.

  • Dysfunctional communication: Although you may think that you're protecting your child, you're manipulating others to cover up or hide the truth. My parents were truly the only ones I communicated with during this time as my own relationship issues continued. Needless to say, communicating with them was always dysfunctional anyways so, again, this isn’t something I noticed.


All of this was because being abused as a child kept me from making friends. I never had any friends or know how real friendships worked. While I had people I’d talk to at school or sit with at lunch, there were lots of times when I was bullied. This left me feeling powerless both at home and at school. Even when I was in youth group and went to almost everything they offered I never fit in there either.


What many people fail to realize is the way we attach to others is the same way we attach to God. Being detached from both adults and children my own age also made it difficult for me to be close to God. I never learned how to develop bonds of trust because everywhere I went I was being hurt or abused by someone (e.g., parents, bullied at school). 


The worst time in my childhood was being told that we were going to move right before my senior year in highschool. I actually felt comfortable in the small highschool I was currently attending. The classes were so small that I knew everyone in my grade and a lot of people in the grade above me. Since my parents were moving in the middle of the year they left me  in Toledo, Ohio for 6 months on my own with my mom’s friend.


Being left alone wasn’t as bad as it might sound. After all, I wasn’t subjected to my parents’ abuse during this time, albeit neglect is also a type of abuse but in their minds, this wasn’t happening. My senior year of highschool was hell though. I didn’t know anybody and was bullied on the way to and from school. It came to the point that if I knew ahead of time that the bus driver wasn’t going to be there that day I’d make up an excuse to have my dad pick me up from school. Unfortunately, one day I didn’t know ahead of time and went home with gum stuck in my hair.


Seeing as I had no friends and my parents expected good grades from me or else I’d get in trouble, I became the kid with the good grades. I also became the kid who’d act out. Now it’s important to understand that “acting out” comes in many different forms. For me I’d do just enough not to get in trouble and if I did get in trouble I’d lie. In fact, lying became such a common part of my life that later in therapy I had to learn it’s OK to be myself and thus teach myself not to lie.


Although I got pretty good at sneaking around behind my parents’ backs, I wasn’t perfect at toeing the line. There were multiple times when I did get caught doing something wrong:

  • One time I got sent to the principal’s office and he made me stay after school for detention. Instead of telling my parents the truth and getting punished at home too I told them that I wanted to stay after school for something else.

  • Another time I had to write “I won’t talk in class.” It was over the course of a long weekend and so I had 3 days to write it like 100 times. I thought that I’d hide it under my bed and sneak away for a minute here and there to get it done. Well, we were getting ready for a picnic and I was trying to sneak in some writing when my Mom caught me somehow. That time she surprised me and actually told me that I didn’t have to do it and then told the teacher the very same thing.

  • There was also a time when I missed my bus. I freaked out because I thought my parents were going to get mad so I thought that I’d go to a friend’s house. Unfortunately, they lived in a totally different part of town so instead of somehow helping my parents I actually made them madder at me.


I believe that even children, such as myself, who grow up in an abusive home know deep down inside of them that something isn’t right. After all, there’s only so much that a person can take. For me that point came quite a while ago when I tried to choke my mom out. Things between her and I were never the same again. This whole ball of wax led me in search of a way out and, unfortunately, I felt like anything would be better than the way things were now. Oh the lies we tell ourselves and the places those lies will lead…

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